It’s the wee hours back here in Mayberry. We returned yesterday from Miami Beach and still wrapped in cozy memories of all the cousins, sister and grandparent time we’ve had. While I was there I revisited one of my first ketubahs and thought I would share the romantic story of its owners with you.
My sister lives in Miami now after years in Brooklyn. It didn’t occur to me until we were down there that in a way she’s come full circle, living there. H has been married for 17 years to the love of her life, Z. I have always been happy to say I was there at the beginning. It started this way:
In the winter of 1994 I was living in NYC with two of my sisters in an apartment on the west side of Manhattan. H was in college still but didn’t care for her dorm and stayed on our couch so often that she eventually just migrated there permanently. When I noticed one day that all of her things were piled in our living room she casually mentioned that yes, she’d moved in with us. Oh. She was and is lovely company so it just made the place happier and we were glad to have her. That winter was snowy and cold and we’d had enough so we got ourselves a drive-away car- it’s a deal where you drive someone else’s car to where they need it. It was a cheap way to get down to Miami, where our grandparents stayed for the winter and were willing to put us up for a few days. There was the sketchy car owner and his creepy admonishments not to look in the trunk and adventures along the way and we arrived five days later tired, not terribly clean and looking for some fun. My grandmother insisted on covering the bed with a towel before allowing us to nap on it, we were so gross. The one sister who drove with us got right on a plane back to NY, leaving me and H to entertain ourselves. We borrowed our grandfathers car and trolled the strip to look around. We had not gotten too far when H said- I know that guy! It was a cute boy with bright red hair I’d never seen before. It turned out he was the brother of one of her high school friends and coincidentally was there with someone I knew from childhood. Small world! We stopped and chatted and ended up at Wolfies, a Miami Beach institution where Lou and I caught up and talked and H and the boy sat mutely staring at each other. What was wrong with her? I barely noticed, even when we continued with the boys to the beach and the two of them lagged behind. It wasn’t until we were back home in NY that it finally dawned on me that this boy was special and something had happened that night. They were instantly a couple and H was crazy in love (still is).
H is the 4th sister of our 5 but was the first to marry and about a year after that night she did. Both families are enormous and the wedding was packed with relatives. It was a huge and delirious and exciting event and we partied to the wee hours. I had just begun to play with creating ketubahs and I put special care into making hers. The design references the old city of Jerusalem, where both had spent time, and is hand painted and meticulously detailed. What I like about it and why it’s so resonant with me even after all these years is that it has a very loose, lively bright painting as a base and then has an intricate, highly detailed overlying structure. I wish I could say I intended that metaphor all along, but that wouldn’t be true.
This week as I looked at the framed ketubah on the living room wall of her beautiful home in Miami, it occurred to me that it’s a true reflection of her life as she’s built it in the years since I painted it. Energetic, bright and colorful, with a structure and pulls it all together beautifully. She’s my little sister but in so many ways has been a mentor and model for me my whole adult life.