We have been seeing each other under the quiet. Holding hands when no one is around. Kissing in a dark corner so no one could see us. Avoid going to restaurants or places where we might run into his friends or heaven forbid, his family. I haven’t been to his place since his mother showed up unexpectedly and I had to hide under the bed until she left. It was so humiliating. I asked myself many times how long I would put up with the way things were between us. Many times I wondered if he was engaged or in another relationship but he swore to me that he wasn’t.
My mother asked me how much longer I would put up with it. “There’s no future for you with this man,” she told me.
She was right, of course, but I wanted to believe that in spite of everything, he loved me and that things would change; that he would muster up the courage one day and tell his family about me. I wanted to believe that he would ask me to marry him. I wanted to believe so many things. Then, God opened my eyes and showed me that these things I wanted to believe were logical lies to keep me holding on to a relationship I wasn’t meant to be in. He reminded me that the thoughts that He had toward me were thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give me a future and a hope. There was no hope for me in what was obviously a dead-end relationship. It was time to face up to the truth.
God didn’t want me to be any man’s shameful secret nor did I, so, I broke up with Piers. He was devastated, claimed he loved me but I told him that if he truly loved me, he would be proud to be seen in public with me and not hide me from his friends and family. I deserve better than what I was getting from him. I don’t know if he ever told his family or friends that he was dating a black woman. Probably not.
That was three years ago. I’ve gotten over him. I’m currently not dating anyone. I’ve decided that I will let God find the next man for me. He knows the heart and He’s far better at choosing the right person than I am.
Tomorrow is my friend, Dinah’s son’s Bar Mitzvah. I was hesitant about attending and was tempted to turn down the invitation but my mother encouraged me to go. “Dinah wants you to be for what is a very special occasion for her family and will be very disappointed if you don’t go,” she said. “Don’t forget that when you became a born again Christian and was baptized, she came to your baptism.”
So, I listened to my mother and to my conscience and I went. Before going, I called Paula, my Jewish co-worker and asked her what to expect. “You aren’t expected to do anything except look proud and impressed. When the ceremony is over, congratulate the boy and say, ‘Mazel Tov!’ And at the reception, hold off eating or drinking until you know whether a blessing will be given first.”
“Should I take a gift?”
“You could take something, nothing big or fancy. Usually the family gives money.”
“Do you have any suggestions?”
“I have three. A Torah Pointer, a Star of David Mug or a siddur which is a Jewish prayer book with daily prayers.”
She gave me the name of a couple of Jewish shops where I could go. I was so grateful to her. I ended up buying the Torah pointer. Hopefully, no one else got that.
I googled what to wear to a Bar Mitzvah and between a modest dress and a formal pantsuit, I chose the tan colored pantsuit I’ve worn only once since I bought it. It accentuated my dark complexion and it fitted me nicely. I wore my hair in a French knot.
This was my first time in a synagogue. I was thrilled and honored to be there for Dinah and her family. The ceremony began with the master of ceremonies introducing the family. I watched Dinah beaming with pride and I smiled. Then, her son, Simon came in after the introduction of his family. It was a fun and formal way to kick off the festivities.
The candle lighting followed and Simon, called up his family. Candles are lit and placed on the cake. The first candle lit was in the memory of family members who have passed away. After that, Simon read a short statement about each member of his family. When he read the one for Dinah, I saw her dabbing at her eyes.
After the ceremony, we all went to the social hall where the celebration was to be held. Before we sat down to dinner, Uriel, Simon’s uncle recited the traditional prayer and blessing. Dinah’s father-in-law recited the prayer over challah bread, honoring God as well as Simon. Then the challah was sliced and passed around to be shared.
I was sitting at a table with other friends with whom I easily made friends. The dinner was amazing and afterwards, it was the tradition at a Bar Mitzvah for the child to have a special dance with his mother. It was a special part of the coming of age process and for the mother, a memory that will always be cherished. I sat there and watched Simon dance with his mother and tears sprang to my eyes. I could just imagine how much it meant to Dinah.
It was later in the evening when I finally got to congratulate Simon, his Dad, Paul and Dinah. I hugged Simon and told him how great he was. He smiled and thanked me. He was such a sweet guy. Tall and lanky like his Dad.
“Thank you for coming,” Paul said after we hugged.
“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” I said.
Dinah hugged me. “Thanks for being a part of a very special day for my family and me.”
“I’m truly blessed just being here.”
She dabbed at her eyes. “Come let me introduce you to the rest of the family and some other people.”
We made the rounds. I met her parents and Paul’s father who was a widower. Then, she led me over to Simon’s uncle who read the traditional prayer before we ate. He wasn’t wearing his tie and his shirt was open at the neck. He turned as we approached him.
“You remember my brother-in-law, Uriel, don’t you?” Dinah said.
I nodded. “Yes, I do.” I met him last year at her 30th birthday celebration. As I recall he was there with a very statuesque blonde.
He smiled at me. “It’s good to see you again. How are you doing?”
“I’m doing well, thanks. And you?”
“I’m doing great, thanks.”
“Uriel recently got a promotion,” Dinah interjected.
“Congratulations,” I said to him. I couldn’t help noticing what long eyelashes he had and that he had really nice eyes. He was very handsome too.
“Thank you,” he replied. There was a twinkle in his eye.
“I’ll leave you two to get reacquainted while I go and see about the hora.” She excused herself and walked away leaving us alone.
“Yes. It’s a traditional Jewish dance done in a circle. Paul and Dinah will welcome everyone, young and old, family, friends, Jewish and non-Jewish to join hands and participate. The Emcee calls out the steps and the mitzvah child is lifted in the chair to show respect to the mitzvah child. He or she is king or queen of the day. Trust me, it’s a lot of fun.”
I wasn’t too sure but when the time came, I, not wanting to be a stick in the mud, joined in the fun and was thankful that I had worn comfortable but dressy shoes. The men and the women danced separately. I was between Dinah and her sister, Elizabeth. It was frenetic at times and we were laughing like giddy little school girls. I never had so much fun in my life.
When it was over, I escaped to a chair in the corner and plopped down. I was feeling hot. Uriel joined me and to my surprise, he held out a tall glass of water. “You look like you need this.”
“Thank you.” I took it from him, gratefully.
“My pleasure,” he replied as he sat down in the empty chair beside me. “I don’t need to ask if you’re having a good time.”
I laughed. “It’s that obvious, huh.”
“So this is your first exposure to the Jewish culture?”
“Yes. I feel a deep connection to Dinah and her family and to your culture.”
“I wish everyone shared your enthusiasm for my culture.”
“Are you talking about the blonde I saw you with at Dinah’s birthday party?”
“Yes. When we met, I told her that I was Jewish and she didn’t seem to have a problem with it. She met my family for the first time at Dinah’s party. Things were going well between us until I invited her and her family to celebrate Hanukkah with my family and me. She start making excuses why she couldn’t come and she kept breaking our dates. Finally, I confronted her about it and she was frank with me. She told me that she didn’t want to have the futureless future which was what she would have with me because I was Jewish. As a Catholic, she was expected to marry a Catholic. We broke up then.”
“Most people don’t feel comfortable dating or marrying someone outside of their faith.”
“What about you? Would you date a Jewish man?”
I hesitated. I had never considered dating a Jewish man. Piers was Catholic and I was a non-practicing Christian at the time we were involved. “I’ve never thought about it,” I admitted. “All the men I have dated were Christian.”
“Would you have a problem dating me?”
His question startled me. Was he asking just out of curiosity or did he want to find out how I felt before he actually asked me out? “No, I wouldn’t have a problem dating you.” That was true. I found him very attractive and had often thought about him since we met. And now that we were both single…Maybe this was God’s doing.
“In that case, will you have dinner with me tomorrow evening?”
“Sure.” I gave him my number and address.
We spent the rest of the evening together, talking about other things. A couple of times, I saw Dinah watching us and she looked very pleased.