It was late August, a seasonally warm time, but in the early hour, the dew chilled my feet—feet that only yesterday danced at my sister Rutka’s wedding. A beautiful and excited bride, Rutka was two years younger than me. She had met Yaacov at the tender age of five, in our mother’s vegetable garden. An unsuspecting Rutka received a blow to the back of the head from an auspiciously airborne carrot. The seven year old Yaacov, desperate to play the role of knight in shining armour, swooped in to pick her up. Rutka insisted it was the onions that made her cry. Yaacov explained that it was impossible for onions to work their magic while still in the ground—and it was in this moment that a relationship of possibility and protection was forged; a hesitant kiss on the cheek, a covenant, witnessed by rows of turnips and tomatoes.
It was customary to marry in the wedding dress of your mother, an honour that had been mine one year earlier. At fourteen Rutka still had the girlish figure I had lost with the birth of Miriam; only two years older, and we were worlds apart. Rutka’s veil was exquisite, and the one item that would be unique to her today. In time, mother’s wedding dress would be given to Faigie, our younger sister, but Rutka’s veil would always belong to her. The lace crochet was painstakingly looped and looped again to form a crown. Spun silk streamed out of the hindmost part of the crown and cascaded like an uninhibited waterfall down her back. Fine silver thread was embroidered temple to temple chaining a delicate row of daisies across her forehead.
I combed Rutka’s hair, patting down the wisps and coiling her long strands into a bun at the nape of her neck. My sister had such a long and elegant neck, inherited from our father’s side of the family; I couldn’t help but bend down to kiss it.
“Chana,” Rutka turned and grasped my hands. “I am afraid that when I stand my knees will give out. I will look like a little girl when I am meant to be a woman.”
“My dear sister, you and Yaacov were destined by God, and it is he who will lift you up and march with you down the aisle.”
Rutka turned back around and waited for me to fasten her veil. It took thirty-two hand beaded barrettes to circle the crown of her head and safely secure the mass of fabric—each snap breaking our silence and bringing her closer to her envisioned future.