By: Slovie Jungreis-Wolff
As a little girl, I loved the wedding scene in Fiddler on the Roof. I watched it over and over again — friends and family gathered together, their flickering candles light up the night as the white chuppah flutters over the young bride who circles her groom.
And Tevye, the bride’s father sings: “Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play? I don’t remember growing older, when did they?”
Sunrise. Sunset. Swiftly fly the years.
As my husband and I walked our youngest daughter to the chuppah this past week, I lived the words of this song. With God’s magnificent sunset as the backdrop, I held my daughter’s hand and a stream of emotion filled my heart.
All my life I had prayed for this very moment. And now that the moment has come, I am filled with wonder. Where did all the years go? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I held this little girl in my arms, cuddled with her, stroked her cheeks and wiped away her tears? When the others grew too old for bedtime stories and giggles with mommy, this was the child whose little hand fit perfectly into mine. I held onto childhood laughter, bike riding with the wind, and hot chocolate with marshmallows floating on snowy winter nights. Who else would sing with me on top of our lungs and dance around the house till we would fall down breathlessly together?
How I would smile when she would totter in my shoes, put on my ‘mommy’ things and make believe that she was me. Each Purim we would dig out the little bride costume, the veil and the crown, and look in the mirror together with dreamy eyes.
When she was a little girl we would read a story together called Love You Forever. At the end of the book my daughter would lean into the crevice of my neck and listen as I’d sing the last words on the page.
“Love you forever. Like you for always. As long as you’re living. My baby you’ll be”
I would kiss her silken curls, we would sing the Shema and say a prayer for all those we loved in our lives. I’d watch her eyelids slowly close, listen as her breaths deepened and think that these days would last forever.
The other night I took out a folder I’ve kept, tucked in the bottom of my closet. Stacked inside are all the cards my little girl ever gave me. Colorful pictures before she was able to really write. Big red hearts, a smiling sun and rainbows with the word MOMMY spread across the page. Happy feelings somehow fly out of the papers scattered across my floor. Then the letters begin. Each carefully written as my baby starts to string her words together and embrace life. “Dear Mommy”, they each open. “I love you so much.”
My heart melts as I see her childish scrawl. First grade. Second grade. Where did the time go?
Homemade Mother’s Day cards, birthday wishes and some just because.
I read and re-read. A little tear trickles down my cheek.
I love you so much and when I get married I will miss you soooooooooo much but now is not then and now I wish you 2 words-Happy Birthday. I love you mommy.
Well, then is now.
It is time to thank God for the gift of life that I have been given to watch over. For the joy of bringing children into this world. For the hugs, the kisses, the triumphs and yes, even the tears. For the privilege of carrying these souls inside of me and then trying oh so hard to create a path, despite it all, so that I know that my parents, Zaydies and Bubbies live on.
When I was a little girl one of my favorite places in the world to be was in my grandparents’ home. They had been deported to Bergen Belsen, lost an entire world, and were cut by the shards of pain and suffering that tragic time would bring. Yet despite the darkness of their lives, they gave me only love. When my Zayda would bless me his soft white beard would flow over my face. I felt safe even strong somehow. He would place his hands on my head, whisper the holy words and cry. I was named for my Zayda’s mother who was killed in Auschwitz. Perhaps the grief of the past and the hope of the future collided. Sunrise. Sunset.
I see my little girl now grown, beginning life anew.
I have hopes and dreams. I have prayers that soar.
It is hard as well, to know that those days of my little girl are memories now to be carefully taken out and gingerly revisit.
Sometimes we wish we could go back in life, but no. The caterpillar becomes a butterfly and it is time to spread your magnificent wings and fly.
I love you my little girl.
I pray that you build a home together with your wonderful groom filled with Torah, blessings, and joy. May the footsteps of your bubbies and zaydies create a path for you so that you always find your way. May their tears, their sacrifice for our people, their legacy, and their wisdom shine as a beacon of light for you always.