Has It Really Been This Long?

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted, or written anything in general, which to me, for a long time, felt like the worst kind of self-destruction, but I have learned to forgive myself (with helpful encouragement from my wife). There’s no best way to excuse myself for 6+ months of not posting, but I will say that I’ve been experiencing life change after life change. In July of 2017, I uprooted my life as I knew it and moved across the country to start a new one. The next several months consisted of multiple job changes and settling in, saving up for our own place (we were living with my future in-laws, the millennial way…), creating new routines for new surroundings, taking on new hobbies and developing new habits (just a bunch of new), and caring for our cat, whose teeth and gums were, to put it attractively, rotting away.

In October 2018, I got married! Which means, of course, the months leading up to October were designated wedding planning months—consuming feels like a fitting adjective here, though of course now that it’s all over I find myself missing it. This recent life-changing event is mostly what this blog post will be about, but I feel like I must give some sort of exposition as to why I’m just now getting to this, nearly at the turn of the new year.

After the flurry of getting and being married, honeymooning with my new wife, relishing in the bright new light and warmth of marital happiness, we tumbled right into the holiday season. Not only did this mean preparing for Christmas—both at my Customer Service position at work, and at home—but it meant locking in on the early makings of new traditions, like hosting holiday dinners for family as a married couple, and seriously celebrating Chanukah. Between working overtime, restudying my religion so I can be a Real Jew™, and finding gifts for everyone on my list (though most of the gifts I bought ended up being for my wife), I’ve been a busy woman.

Here’s to moving forward, but looking back at the progress I’ve made. Commence true blog post.

For our wedding day, my wife built me a chuppah. It is a sacred symbol often taken on in Jewish weddings, and one of the traditions we chose to be part of our big day. Unable to track down the original chuppah my parents were married under, I was heartsick for a long while, scrolling through chuppah rental sites. It felt like the end of a dream of mine that I’d had for a while. Yet Kelsey determined that she would purchase the raw materials and build us a chuppah herself. She spent the next weekend creating our sacred space, with the help of her father and some handy power tools. She created a sacred space that we can now pass down to our children, should they choose to follow a similar path. Yes, I’ve married a dreamboat.

In fact, it is because of Kelsey’s encouragement that I decided to explore Judaism, and what spirituality and religion meant to me. I was born Jewish, born from my Jewish mother, and raised through all the token Jewish holidays—Chanukah and Passover being the most noteworthy. I remember reading from the Haggadah as early as I could make out the sounds, and wanting to wear a yamaka so effortlessly gifted to my brothers; tearing apart the house looking for the afikomen with cousins; mumbling through the candle lighting prayer on the first night of Chanukah, while my grandmother belted it on behalf of all of us. But, unlike my mother, I never learned Hebrew, I never had a Bat Mitzvah, I never went to temple. In fact, I hadn’t known that girls become the Bat Mitzvah, like one becomes a judge or a nurse, until I started working at a custom print shop. I kept seeing that phrase appear in our guest books and invitations, Celebrate Leah as she is called to the Torah as a Bat Mitzvah. The most proper of nouns.

But that’s okay. The religious experiences of my childhood only make up the first layer of my learning, like the first slathering of peanut butter on a complete pb&j, or the first leg of a race, or, I guess, to be truly literal, the first years of a developing human being. I have now begun the second layer, or condiment, or leg, of my learning, and I’m thankful to have a partner beside me while doing so. It’s technically her first Jewish leg (as if we must earn each body part of Judaism), but because she’s a history buff and has background in other religions and overall just loves to learn, I feel like she’s already surpassing me in some ways. But, she can’t quite pronounce the Hebrew words yet, and I pride myself in having that down. Even if I don’t know what the Hebrew words mean yet.

So my wife built me a chuppah. And for the ceremony, we wrapped each of its four poles with baby’s breath garland, stationed potted wildflowers at its base, and draped the lace veil of Kelsey’s nan and lace table cloth of Kelsey’s great nan—whom my engagement ring originally belonged to—over the “roof”. A chuppah is supposed to simultaneously symbolize an open space for all of the guests you have invited to your wedding, yet also embody a closed, intimate space for the couple beneath it. It’s meant to signify the couple’s new home—both welcoming and private.

The other Jewish tradition we agreed to was the symbolic breaking of the glass. Rather than asking my parents about how to execute this iconic moment, we googled “Ceremonial Jewish Breaking Glass” and bought the highest rated product off Amazon. It was a small goblet neatly packed inside a blue velvet bag. When it arrived, Kelsey and I were both impressed by how good quality and thick the glass was—something that we later learned probably wasn’t the best descriptor for a breaking glass, and that we should have consulted my parents.

Kelsey’s episcopal grandfather officiated the ceremony. Kelsey and I standing with Grandad underneath our handmade Chuppah made for a gorgeous and unique mixture of religions and spiritual themes. Kelsey and I still wanted the service to feel holy and mention God. Grandad wrote us the perfect sermon, the only change being that “spouse” be replaced with “wife”. I wanted to marry a wife. Be a wife.

Kelsey had decided that she would declare her vows first. What stood out the most to me, as she was speaking, was her appreciation for me. We’ve had a lot of discussions about the different ways people show love. My love is a very service-based type of love. I like doing things for her. Making sure the kitchen is clean and dishes are washed, brewing her coffee every morning, cooking her dinner. I did a lot of the coordinating for our wedding, like talking to the caterers, setting up appointments, tracking our guest list, making sure everything was squared away. So the fact that Kelsey expressed her appreciation for me and everything I do for our little family, during the biggest speech she would ever make to me—it made me knew that I was marrying the right person. Another thing that stood out during her vows was how thankful she was that we live during a time period where we can get married, openly and proudly. I think if she had the chance, she would have spent a couple more minutes during her vows outlining a brief history of same sex marriage, which is a thought that makes me giggle—it’s what I love about her. My historian.

For my vows, I wrote Kelsey a poem. It’s not a publishable poem by any means, but it was a poem for my wife. In this sense, it was one of the most important poems I have ever written. That’s all I will say about that.

After the vows came the time to break our ceremonial glass. Granddad reached for the blue velvet bag containing our breaking glass and placed it on the floor in front of me. When he gave the prompt, I hiked up my wedding dress, lifted my two-inch heel, and positioned it in line with my target. And then I stomped.

I swear the glass was bullet proof. Because I stomped three more times. I remember looking at Kelsey, mortified, eyes wide with fear, asking her to please try. She did, and alas, it would not break!

Kelsey jokingly suggested to throw it against the ground. Panicking, I scooped up the blue velvet bag, and, with all my might, hurled it against the ground. The carpeted floor did not cooperate, and sent the velvet bag flying back up, into the gut of Kelsey’s Man of Honor, my future brother-in-law. By now, our audience, who was once tear-soaked at our endearing vows, was now collapsing into uproarious laughter.

Kelsey and I both threw our hands up, in a very “fuck it” like manner, and Kelsey pulled me close, held my face, and kissed her bride.

I later discovered from my family that the reason I simply could not break the glass was simply because of my equipment. Every time I stomped down on the glass, it would get lodged in between the heel and sole of my shoe. Because I was not the traditional male groom wearing a traditional male, flat-footed shoe, the glass would not break easily under my stomp. I’m sure the thickness of the glass also had something to do with it—after the wedding I actually revisited the product’s amazon webpage, and read countless other reviews about the difficulty of breaking this glass—but the concept of not wearing the appropriate shoe kind of opened the room to a lot of critique on marriage, religion, and tradition.

Kelsey and I are a Jewish Queer couple. I like to think that this statement paves the way for future generations to come, generations comprised of such bright and beautiful differences which stray from those restricting societal norms and “rules to live by” of the past. Generations that are queer, that are interracial, that are multilingual, that have two moms, or two dads, that are nonbinary, gender fluid—not chained to the constructs that limit us, but overflowing with opportunities for more colorful and inclusive cultures. Think of all the knowledge that will come from this beauty! All these new experiences and opportunities to learn from those who are different from us! The opportunities to reconstruct religions and practices as times change, as humanity develops and grows. Adding an orange to the Sedar plate to represent the Jewish LGBTQ community. Wearing a yamaka as a female, becoming a female Rabbi. Stomping on a ceremonial Jewish breaking glass with a two-inch heel. Stomping on the breaking glass as a bride, not a groom.

Our wedding was definitely our wedding. I know this statement means virtually nothing on the surface, but I think that weddings can often be held up by strict and stuffy ceremonial traditions, not really leaving any room for improvisation, and therefore unplanned instances of humor, of love, of emotion. And really, to drive my point home, this can relate to the big picture, to society as a whole. A society that is tied down by socially-constructed “rules” does not leave any room for improvisation, and therefore unplanned instances of humor, of love, of emotion.

I don’t know. I can only speak from the ground on which I stand. Take it with a grain of salt.

The real point to all this is a point that my parents kept bringing up, after the ceremony. You’re supposed to use a light bulb in place of an actual “breaking glass.” A light bulb breaks easily, but breaks in the same sound as any ceremonial glass. A light bulb is the ultimate symbol of Jewish sanctity.

The day ended up being perfectly imperfect, which is a compliment Kelsey and I give each other and our relationship quite often. The ceremony was perfectly balanced, was both sweetly endearing and dangerously hilarious—which is something I like to think doesn’t happen at every wedding ceremony. We spent the night conversing and laughing and dancing with our closest loved ones—entertaining guests from across the country, who all put so much time, money, and effort in just to be there to celebrate with us. Both our brothers were our “Men of Honor”, and they encapsulated this responsibility with pride and grace. Even the sun was shining, which is rare for October in Washington, and we could see the mountains in the distance, behind rolling hills, and a rickety set of train tracks, which made us think back to our previous little life in Galesburg, Illinois. As it should be, it was the best day of my life.

It feels nice writing again. I was feeling pretty bad about not writing lately, so much so that I confided in one of my closest writing friends, Savannah. She’s a marvelously intelligent and creative woman, that one. Majored in Neuroscience but discovered her love for writing poetry in the last couple of years of college, and she’s now pursuing an MFA, her latest project being a video essay, where she explores her identity in poetic verse, but using a deliciously visual platform, accompanying her words with art from children’s books. Anyways, I had expressed that I was afraid I’d lose my writing capabilities altogether, simply because I haven’t been practicing every day, like I used to, in college. She reminded me, first, that I have a lifetime, and that I’m on a journey that “most of us cannot imagine.” She says, maybe I’ll be the poet who starts a family and finds security first, and then goes back to school. A lot of writers who made it, are making it, have traveled this same path, too. It doesn’t all have to be linear.

Savannah’s right, and I’m stubborn. But I’m working on becoming less stubborn.

I’m going to think of this space as a safe one—one where I can explore things on my mind, without the worry of sounding intellectual or being masterful on the subject. Simply writing about something because I enjoy it. I’ve been thinking a lot about my amateur love for food, for cooking, and maybe a not-so-amateur love for eating. I’d like to write some posts about life-changing restaurants I’ve eaten at in the Seattle area, or cooking experiments I’ve done in my kitchen with just the available ingredients in my pantry (think of a Chopped episode, but without the pressure of the clock, and without tough ingredients like Rocky Mountain Oysters, so, the Recruit setting of Chopped).

I’ve also been really interested in budgeting, because you have to live on a budget when you live somewhere with a higher cost of living. I’ve learned to practice budgeting until it becomes fun (it takes a lot of wallowing and pitying thyself to get to this point). I’d love to do some opinion posts about how and where to grocery shop, and treasures I’ve found at Trader Joes—things like that.

So from this point on, you’ll see posts about writing, about reading and literature, about poetry, of course, but you’ll also probably see posts about the random junk detailed above, about things that interest me, no matter how stinky I am at doing these things.

I also promise that my blog posts will be shorter from now on. Maybe. Thanks for reading.

First kiss as wife and wife, under a handmade Chuppah. Our brothers, our “Men of Honor,” to the left and right. Photo credit Jamie Buckley Photography.

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