A Word From The Weiss
As you may have noticed, I didn't post a word last week. I didn't even post a note stating
that I wasn't going to post a word. I mean, who had the time? Certainly not me... the Mother of the Groom!
Yes, that's what I said. "Groom." As in my son. Aidan. Who got married. Last Saturday night!
I wish I had the time to tell you all about it. Or almost anything about it. Never mind having
the time. Now that it's over, for the first time in a long time, I finally do have some time on my hands.
What I really don't have is one iota of energy. After all, five days later, I'm still the Mother of the Groom.
Make that recovering Mother of the Groom.
People are said to be newlyweds for the first two years of their married life. Well, after all the effort
that went into the Big Day, I suspect that for the first two years of their marriage I may remain a recovering Mother of the
And until I finish recovering, and am able to converse again in complete sentences,
you will have to settle for the small bone or two that I'm prepared to throw you (although I hesitate to use the word "bone,"
since the dinner at this particular wedding, by decree of the vegetarian bride, included no meat whatsoever).
The items that I have to throw you, boneless though they may be, are the only ones already cast in complete
sentences. I'm referring to the two toasts that I gave on behalf of the Happy Couple this past weekend -- one at the rehearsal
dinner and a completely different one at the start of the reception.
As for the photos you see here, at this point I have only a small collection of unofficial ones snapped on my
phone or those of assorted guests who have been kind enough to fork them over. It will probably be some time before I get
to see the real ones. No matter. I think these are beautiful. After all, the bride was beautiful. And if you ask me, my son
and the rest of the bridal party all looked pretty beautiful, too. Cheers -- or should I say l'chaim? -- to them
My Toast at The Rehearsal Dinner
People sometimes ask how it was that Aidan, soon followed by Allegra, got so deeply into jazz.
Part of it was that he took up the saxophone at around age
9, and as with everything else that he sets his mind to, he put in the time. He also proved to be talented and supremely capable, not to mentioned focused, hard-working,and committed… so committed that there were nights when I asked him to please STOP practicing because Mommy was getting a headache. Sorry, Aid!
The other part of the jazz equation, though, was that we live in a town where the school jazz band is nationally known, so that when he was applying to colleges, all we had to do was
call up the heads of the music departments, and they would want to meet
him and audition him personally.
One school that
he applied to was Tufts University, in Massachusetts, near
Boston. We set off to meet the rather temperamental and demanding head
of their jazz program on a memorably dark and stormy fall day. After we’d driven the two hours to the school, I said to Aidan, “I’m going
to drop you off with your saxophone in front of the music building, so you don’t get all wet.”
“No,” he said, “you can’t.”
Aidan has always been modest and unassuming to the max, and he never wants anyone to go out of his way for him. But now I thought he was being ridiculous.
are you talking about?” I said. “Of course I can!”
“No,” he maintained, “you can’t. You can’t… because I forgot to bring my saxophone!”
Oops! It was the one single time in his life that
he wasn’t quite so capable and focused.
Maybe the chaos of leaving in the storm had made him a little fedrayt. (That means “forgetful” in Yiddish.)
NOW what were we going to do?
Well, I’ll tell you what we DID. I looked at him. He looked at me. And the two of us began laughing so hard that I began to cry until
I nearly peed my pants.
Then I called the temperamental, demanding director of the jazz department, and we went to face the music together.
This story has a happy ending: After berating us, the tyrant phoned another student and told him to bring a saxophone to his office right away. Aidan auditioned. The
guy was blown away. He said there was no question he wanted Aidan at Tufts. Aidan, though, elected to go to Brown!
The fact is, however, that
life is full of such episodes and errors. Some, like that one, are just minor “oops” moments, but others, as too many of us here know, turn
out to be true tragedies.
The key is to have the right person by your side – someone who knows to laugh when there’s nothing more you can do, and will cry with you when there’s nothing
more you can do. And I know Aidan has found that person in the Kaitlin because she’s Kaitlin. No one could be better. For him. Or as a person. Anywhere.
I am so proud to be his mom, and so happy to have Kaitlin join our family. This
is a moment to both laugh and cry. Because I am so overwhelmed with joy that there’s
nothing more I can do.
OK, that's what I said at the rehearsal dinner. But the rehearsal dinner was a tiny affair, with just the bridal
party, immediate family, and a very few out-of-towners, including some good friends who had come all the way from London.
felt compelled, or obliged even, to give another toast at the main event, if only to welcome all of our friends.
Unfortunately, this wedding
featured two maids of honor, including my daughter, and also two best men, and all four of them wanted to get into the toasting
unfortunately, the band leader, who introduced all of the various and sundry speakers, didn't get the memo noting that my
husband and I intended to put in our two cents worth too. So after the four members of the bridal party had each had their
very heartfelt, amusing, and rather extensive say, all eight musicians in his group abruptly assembled behind him and he prepared
to strike up the band.
Now what was I going to do? Well, I'll tell you what I did. I jumped to my feet and began to rush toward him.
My daughter, Allegra, meanwhile, shot me a horrified glance. The wait staff had already finished serving the pasta course,
which was rapidly getting cold. And our guests had already sat quietly through a good 15 to 20 minutes of oratory and banter.
Wasn't it time to give it a rest?
my daughter decisively shake her head and mouth the words "Do it later," I began to slink dejectedly back to my
seat. Then I thought, "Later? There won't be any 'later'!" Many people were bound to leave early. Others would be
ready to dance. Or schmooze. There was no other time when everyone would be willing to pay attention. It was now
or never. I preferred now. So I dashed up to the mic, took a big gulp, and as everyone dug into their pasta, said this...
like this. The other unfortunate thing was that, although I had slipped not one but two pairs of reading glasses into my teeny-weeny
evening bag that morning, I had somehow managed to misplace both of them during the course of this eventful day. Without them,
and in the heat of the moment, I could barely make out one word on the page I clutched in my hand. So I simply had to wing
My Wedding Toast for Aidan and Kaitlin
Despite the hilarious and heartfelt words we heard him utter tonite, including six very profound and life-changing ones – “With this ring, I thee wed!” -- Aidan has always
been on the soft-spoken side. In the words of Jerry Seinfeld, well, he's kind
of a low talker. But he has always had a lot to say, and a way with the words, almost
from the moment he emerged from
the womb nearly three decades ago.
I still vividly recall him running around the back
yard when he was only about 18 months
old, hitting a tennis ball straight
up into the air with a racket and yelling
over and over again, "UnbeliEEEvable!" "UnbeliEEEvable!"
Of course, because he was only about 18 months old, what he actually yelled
was probably more like "un-be-WEAVEable!"
What is unbelievable to
me is that 28 years have passed since that time, during which I have watched my little boy grow into a brilliant, capable, kind, insightful, and otherwise wonderful man, and we are standing before you today celebrating his marriage.
Also unbelievable? That he somehow managed to find someone brilliant, kind, beautiful and otherwise wonderful enough for him. Let’s face it. I'm a nice Jewish mom, and I never believed ANYONE would be good enough for
him... until he brought home Kaitlin.
I only wish my own mom, Bunnie, and my Dad, Stuie, could have lived to see this day, as well as Harlan’s mother, whom
the kids called Nanny Harriet. I know that they would have loved Kaitlin as much as
we do, and they would also be so very proud of Aidan. Otherwise known as "The Aidman." Or "Computer Aid." Our boy!!!
I hope the Happy Couple
will not mind if I divulge that there were moments along their journey of love
when they considered having a small, low-key wedding. Face it, almost everyone would kind
of prefer a small, low-key wedding. Correction: every groom would. Brides? Not so much.
The problem with that scenario, we
quickly realized, was that not each and
every one of YOU would have been here
today. And we just could not imagine doing
this without each and every one of you -- the most important people in our lives. Besides, getting married is not about keeping it
small and to yourself. It's about standing up
in front of the whole world -- or, at the very least, the people most important in our lives -- and saying proudly, and loudly, I have found him! Or her! I have found the one! The one I prize above all else and in whom my soul delights!
The ones whom I prize above
all else and in whom my soul delights are
my children -- and OK, yes, I guess, that
guy over there -- so I cannot tell you how delighted I am that Aidan, my beloved son,
has found HIS One.
And that his one is someone we love too!
To love! To the sons we love
and the ones they love!
To Aidan and Kaitlin!
A Word From the Weiss
Early on our first night at my husband’s
50th college reunion, late last month, I was approached by a pretty young Princeton coed exuberantly proffering her cell phone.
“Would you mind taking a picture of my squad?”
she asked, indicating a group of giggling girls posed in front of our friend Jay’s sculpture of a tiger, the school’s official mascot.
problem at all,” I replied, wondering
how, in the huge crowd of passing revelers, this young woman had managed to choose me, the one unequivocal nice Jewish mom in sight. As I obliged her request, I also wondered aloud what sport it was they played, having assumed
that the word “squad” signaled they were part of some athletic team.
the contrary, she and her comely companions hastened to explain, laughing with abandon at my adult naiveté, “squad” was simply a popular term in current college lingo. All it meant, as far as I could tell, was a group of friends who often hung out together. Then, as though in a spelling bee, one of them used the word for me in a sentence.
“Squad rolling through!” she declared, as though
this made it significantly clearer.
Nodding gratefully, I asked if there were any more such terms I might need to know.
“Lit,” another girl replied. She was not referring to the customary abbreviation for literature. To explain, she proceeded to use the word in not just one sentence, but a whole series of
them, as though conjugating a verb. “Squad’s lit. The party’s lit. I’m feeling lit. You’re lit.”
This didn’t mean drunk or high (a common usage back in my ancient day), however. “It means you’re having fun.”
It was a useful language lesson that would set the tone for the entire raucous weekend and later help present me with an epiphany about my entire post-college life.
But first, let me tell you about that weekend before I forget just how raucous it was.
For many people, any reference to the Ivy League conjures up images of a refined atmosphere that is both elite and competitive. Princeton, after all, now accepts just over 6 percent of its undergraduate applicants. So let me assure you that there was nothing remotely dignified
about these proceedings. We would spend the weekend wandering from one wild event to another sweating profusely and quaffing beer, wine and other libations.
As for competition, the only source of
rivalry related to which class could come up with the most ridiculous costume – a contest that my husband’s group, the class of ’66, easily won, hands-down among the thousands of people present. No, make that tens of thousands. Princeton
is known to have the best attended college reunions in the world.
At least I came fully prepared
for this sartorial display of idiocy. Having attended reunions at my husband’s alma mater three times before, I had packed a hefty arsenal of clothing in orange and black, the school’s official colors – hefty enough to dress in Halloween hues, from undergarments to outerwear, ’round the
clock for a week.
That is considered de
rigueur there, although the underwear was merely to help me get into the Princeton spirit (the one thing that I long ago learned is absolutely de rigueur there).
The first time I had gone had been the 20th, way back in 1986, a couple of years after we were married and
a couple of months before I gave birth to our first-born, Aidan. As usual, the
event had been held in Princeton, NJ, over Memorial Day weekend. That is to
say, I was dragged on a four-hour car trip to a three-day beer party in oppressive heat while I was seven months
pregnant and couldn’t drink anything stronger than ginger ale.
The only saving grace was that we went with some good friends, my husband’s classmate
Dial and his wife Sally, who just happened to be seven months pregnant too.
Yet even their companionship failed to make the experience remotely tolerable.
Rather than booking a hotel, our frugal husbands had chosen to lodge us in a college dorm, featuring bunk beds, communal bathrooms, and
no a/c. To this day, Sally and I still recall the sounds of the retro band that continued wailing rock tunes
well into the night.
“A little bit louder now! A little bit louder now!”
My decisive verdict
as we drove away: Never again!
I held firmly and irrevocably to that stance for a full 25 years, until my husband miraculously convinced me to attend
his 45th, five years ago. By then, I was not only no longer pregnant, but both of our
children were already grown and living on their own.
I could drink whatever I wished to my heart’s content.
I could stay in an actual air-conditioned and civilized (albeit overpriced) hotel.
And with live music blaring all over campus till dawn, I could have danced all night.
To my surprise, I had so much fun this time around that I
agreed to return two years later.
The only problem with
this was that a 47th reunion is not exactly
a milestone year. There were barely 47 people there from his class. The 50th would
Last month, out of a
graduating class of about 750, there would be 334 attending. There was no question
that my husband wanted to be one of them.
Fortunately, Dial would be another, so Sally would once again be on hand to commiserate with me, come what may. The fact is, though, that they
live nearby, so we get to see the two of them as often as we like. This would
be a rare chance for my husband to reconnect with classmates he hadn’t
laid eyes on in half a century.
Along with seeing long-lost friends,
he had three other major goals on his agenda:
To appear in his official class picture, which would be snapped Saturday morning.
To attend the weekend’s main event, a campus-wide
parade in which every class marches past the others dressed in the afore-mentioned horridly
And to attend a class of ’66 luncheon held by his former eating club (basically, a fraternity at which one consumes all of one’s meals, but doesn’t actually
He was especially keen on
participating in the last of these because a new official club tie would be bestowed upon everyone present. Never mind that this required us to go down a day early, on Thursday night, and spend an extra night in a civilized,
albeit overpriced hotel. He wanted to make sure that he arrived in time to get that tie.
So imagine my surprise when we pulled up right on time on Friday morning only to discover that this invaluable offering was an
ordinary rep tie featuring red and green diagonal stripes.
Never mind that my husband had belonged to Terrace Club, which essentially had been the unofficial Jewish fraternity back when Princeton had admitted few Jews. Its official tie evoked Christmas.
"That is one
of the ugliest ties I’ve ever seen,” he reluctantly allowed. “But I’ll wear it anyway.”
Speaking of ugly, after my husband had posed in the Terrace
Club class photo – which bore very little resemblance to his club’s class photo from 1966, which we found framed on an upstairs
wall – it was time to go pick up our
new official class costumes.
turned out to be white pants and loud blazers featuring goofy tiger cartoons for the men.
We spouses were issued matching vests, meant to be paired with our own white pants and t-shirt.
I thought the tiger jackets were almost cute. My vest, though? Just shoot me now.
Still, you can’t imagine my frustration when later that evening, after the huge class dinner held in a giant
tent, my husband discovered that his tiger blazer was missing.
left it draped on a chair while chatting with someone, and it had simply disappeared.
“The problem is, it’s impossible to find someone
who’s in charge to ask,” said Dial, who had joined us for the dinner, along with Sally and several other
No, I said. “The
problem is that everyone here is wearing the exact same jacket!”
Same ugly jacket, I might have added, had I been eager to state the painfully obvious.
“You’re right,” he conceded. But that fact made the loss
more of a mystery. “Everyone here already has one, and nobody would want two of them," he said. "I mean, if there’s
somebody who wants two of these things, well, we should
do an intervention.”
He was right, although I think the correct term at a reunion might be “interfriendtion.”
After reporting the loss to our class headquarters, manned
by a squad of Princeton undergrads, we had no choice
but to hope for the best and continue to enjoy ourselves.
Fortunately, there was plenty of entertainment, including a performance by an cappella singing group and assorted live bands playing all over campus. There was even a rumor circulating that one or two of The Beach Boys were playing in one of these bands.
But given the 50 years that had now gone by, my husband was more inclined
to sit around reminiscing with old friends than to let me go track down one of the Beach
After all, as our scuptor friend Jay noted, even people who had never
exchanged one word before were now best buddies.
“We’re happy to just see each
other still alive,” he said. “For all I know, we hated each other 50 years ago.
But old resentments don’t matter anymore.”
“Yes,” agreed Bob Chester, another classmate, noting that someone very wise had recently divulged to him the secret of happiness: “Good health and a bad memory.”
To my dismay, it appeared that most of my husband’s former classmates possess only one out
of the two of these invaluable commodities. That is
to say, at 70-plus years of age, most of his peer group had elected to turn in early. His class had hired a terrific band, but by 9 p.m. we practically had the dance floor to ourselves.
No matter. We boogied a bit and spent the bulk of our time chatting with his old friend Tom, a
cardiologist from Durham, NC, whom he hadn’t seen since graduation. Then Tom danced with us too. By the time we left, I felt like I'd known him for 50 years myself.
Plus, my husband’s new jacket had now resurfaced. Whoever had acidentally walked off with it had been nice enough to turn it
So imagine my renewed frustration when
we returned to our hotel only to discover that the white pants my husband had been
issued were now missing instead.
The next morning, I had something on my own agenda. I wanted to attend a book lecture that I'd learned a certain author was giving at a bookstore
in downtown Princeton.
My interest, actually, was not really in this particular author.
It was in her mother.
Unless you live under a rock – that is, you have no access to TV or social media – you
have probably heard of Crazy Jewish Mom.
I should note that I've never met this woman, nor read either of her daughter’s
books. But my impression from seeing them both
on talk shows is that Crazy Jewish Mom is exactly what Nice Jewish Mom goes out of her way not to be. Although I do write often about my kids, who are in their 20s, I do my best not to be intrusive in
She, on the other hand, prides herself on publicly berating her own 20-something daughter for having
a long-term live-in boyfriend who has yet to put a ring on her finger.
And other such
maternal behavior that far exceeds the boundaries of normal. Or nice.
that’s why she has gained world-wide fame (OK, call it what it is, notoriety) and I… well, let’s just say
that I content myself with having a good, healthy relationship with both of my grown children, and also a whole lot less public
attention for my blog.
I was hoping to leave our civilized (albeit overpriced) hotel in time to hear the daughter and maybe also meet the mother. But by
the time we had put on our costumes (minus my husband’s missing white pants) and found parking at school, it was too
It was already time for my husband’s class picture. The one that was on his agenda. And being
a nice Jewish mom (and not a crazy one), I realized that this weekend was really all about him and his agenda. Not mine. So
his being in his class picture (and my being there to take a picture of him in it) easily trumped my meeting Crazy Jewish
Mom. I guess the meeting of the moms, nice, crazy, and
otherwise, would simply have to wait.
photo was followed by lunch, and to our delight we got to sit with the same folks who had
joined us for dinner the night before – not just Dial and Sally, but our new-old friend Tom
and two of my husband’s other old chums, Mark
Also, to our relief, my husband was issued a new pair of
white pants. He happily changed into these –
well, as happily as you could do anything in
the grueling 90-degree heat. But soon after, he discovered that his money clip, which
had held a healthy wad of bills, was now mysteriously missing instead.
Tell me, is it just me, or are you beginning to notice
a pattern here?
No matter. There was little time to look for it. It was time to line
up for the parade.
Better known as the P-rade!
There are colleges
all over America – no, the world, I guess – that hold annual reunions.
But I would wager that there is nowhere on earth that does it like Princeton. As I said,
best-attended college reunion in the world.
Mostly because of the P-rade.
Spectators and participants alike, thousands of them – no, tens of
thousands – line the parade route, nearly all dressed in their own outlandish class costumes. Some of these might be vaguely natty, but most are overtly
tacky. Some are downright tawdry. The only common element is that they’re all in those school colors,
orange and black.
The parade is always led by the class celebrating its 25th reunion because this group tends to be the largest one still willing and able to attend. (Indeed, by the 50th reunion, a reported 200 or so of my husband’s classmates were no longer alive.)
As hundreds of these grads and their families strode past, everyone paid their respects to them by chanting the age-old Princeton cheer, which goes something like this:
“Hip! Hip! Rah! Rah!
Rah! Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! Sis! Sis! Sis! Boom! Boom! Boom! Bah!” Followed by the number of the class in question, in this case, “’91! ’91! ’91!”
After the alumni from 1991,
the so-called Palindrome Class, had passed, the rest of the marchers fell in line in consecutive order, beginning with the oldest graduates in attendance, the class of 1938, whose members were presumably now 99 or closing in on 100.
Many of these fellows (until 1969, I believe, all Princeton
students were men) were no longer capable
of negotiating the entire route on foot and were riding in golf carts.
So were the majority of the white-haired gentlemen who directly succeeded them.
But nothing – including an inability to walk,
let alone march for a mile or so -- could keep them away. Many held up signs celebrating the fact that they were veterans of many a P-rade past.
“This is my 69th consecutive year,” said a placard carried
by one such wizened cart passenger.
And when I called out to compliment the faded orange-striped seersucker jacket worn
by another old-timer, he grinned proudly and
said, “I’ve had this jacket
for 65 years.”
“It’s held up well,” I replied before he’d disappeared from earshot. “And so have you!”
Finally, after an hour in the sun, which felt like 50 years, it
was our turn to line up. Our squad
– including Sally, Dial, Tom, Dick, and Seymour – fell into place and strode along the lengthy route, pausing periodically to take pictures of ourselves and each other (and accept an occasional offer of a beer) to the sounds of that now-all-too-familiar cheer.
“Hip! Hip! Rah! Rah! Rah! Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! Sis!
Sis! Sis! Boom! Boom! Boom! Bah! ’66! ‘66! ‘66!”
was ready to collapse by the time we were done. But the night was still young. Very
young. (According to the schedule, the last band at Terrace Club that night would play “from 1 a.m. until late.”)
At that evening’s dinner, I assured our old friends that we wouldn’t be offended if
they preferred to sit with someone else. Surely, there were others they wanted to fraternize with after all these years. But the entire group demurred. Our squad wanted to sit with us and only us.
All for one and one for all. '66! '66! '66!
Then it was time to dance again. Poor Dial, beyond beat, decided to beat an early retreat. But
the rest of us made quite an impressive showing on the dance floor, if you ask me. Sally took turns dancing with both Tom
and Seymour, who had chosen to come for the weekend solo. My husband and I, meanwhile, also cut quite a rug. But most of the
time, we all just boogied together.
What could have been better? I was lit. No, make that WE were lit.
I’m talking about
We were having so much fun that we never managed to find a Beach Boy that night, either.
We all felt like we were pretty cool -- too cool for school, as our friend Kristin (the daughter of a
dear departed alum) says -- until on our way home, sometime past midnight, we passed the youngest group of revelers, the classes of 2010 to '15, and saw
that they were out by the thousands, clearly prepared to party from 1 a.m. until late.
But my spirits soared once more when we returned to our civilized, albeit overpriced hotel and I managed to find my husband’s missing
money clip at the bottom of a bag.
Hip! Hip! Rah! Rah! Rah! Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! Sis! Sis! Sis! Boom! Boom! Boom! Bah!
Nice Jewish Mom!
Nice Jewish Mom!
Nice Jewish Mom!
“I guess I can wear my orange Princeton shirt today,” my husband called the next morning,
indicating the loud tiger print Hawaiian shirt that had been issued at the 45th reunion. “It’s not a bad shirt. What do you
I looked at the hideous orange and black thing and winced.
“It’s a bad shirt,” I said.
No matter. He was now totally in the spirit of things. So he put it on anyway.
“I’m really glad
I came,” Dial declared at brunch later that morning just before we left
for home. “It was great walking into Mathey College and seeing people I hadn’t seen in 30 years, or in some cases 50 years.”
Ugly costumes or not, I must admit that I’m really glad
we went, too. But it wasn’t until a day or two later that I realized exactly why.
just that we had incredible fun there (although I will allow that we did).
It wasn’t just that we got a taste of days gone by and what it felt like to be young again (or
at least act like it).
And it certainly wasn’t that we got to parade (or P-rade) around in some of the most grotesque garments I’ve ever been caught alive in (and wouldn’t
be caught dead in).
It was that for the first time in 50 years (for my husband) and 40 years (for me), we once again had experienced the incomparable pleasure of having our own squad.
For one wild weekend, we got to remember what it was like to be part of a group of friends who hung out together
and looked out for each other; who saved seats for us and wanted to be with us. At every meal, every event, and any time of day (from 1 a.m. until late).
Although it had once probably been hard to leave the safety
of home for college (who can really remember after 40 or 50 years?), perhaps the hardest
transition we had ever undergone was having to leave college four years later for the real world
– a world in which we were truly on my own.
No family. No eating club.
After we'd gotten married, it had been a welcome relief to be a squad of two. Then the kids came
along, and Nice Jewish Dad and I were suddenly a squad of four.
Then the kids grew up and left for college. That was an awfully hard adjustment, too.
But since then, we've resigned ourselves to being back to two again. OK, make that three. Our squad now includes the dog.
But there's nothing quite like being part of a bigger yet
exclusive little community. And I’m not just
talking about the Jewish community, although that certainly helps. There’s simply nothing like having your own gang.
Does that mean
it’s time for a retirement home? Or “assisted living?”
Sadly, we are a little old to return to college. Or return to it more than once
So I’m now looking forward to the next reunion, whether it be a year from now or
Hopefully, we and our old
and newfound friends will all still be alive and well for that.
if by then we’re all ready to ride in those golf carts. Or even if we're in wheelchairs. I, for one, plan to go back, for then we’ll literally be able to say it.
Squad rolling through!