“No woman will be good enough for my son!” a friend once said. Our boys were climbing on the play structure in her backyard, halting for juice box breaks every now and then. I remember thinking, and might have even replied, that I was eager to see, reflected in this nameless fiancee-to-be, what qualities our son would grow to hold dear. Yet I knew what my friend meant. She didn’t have to recite the familiar maxim “A son is a son till he takes a wife; a daughter’s a daughter for life” for me to understand the fear that one day we would “lose” our sons to another woman.
Flash forward two dozen years and that fiancee now has a name: Elizabeth. She is not only good enough for our son, but perfect. She’s warm, smart, easy with people; our daughter considers her the sister she never had. She has a good sense of humor and is the only person I have ever met who knows how to fold a dinner napkin into a cradle containing twins, a suppertime trick my grandmother entertained me with throughout my childhood. In Yiddish we have an expression for such a match: it’s beshert, meant to be.
Yet there’s that other expression, the one about sons being sons until they take a wife. Elliot and I are closer than many mother-son dyads. We speak two to three times a week and email back and forth nearly daily. I send him quotes and articles I think he’ll enjoy; he reciprocates by keeping me in the loop about his life and calling for dinner party advice every now and then. Throughout his college days and now in his adulthood, my husband and I have maintained our family tradition of blessing him each Sabbath. We don’t plan on this ritual falling by the wayside, but I initially worried: would it come to be in an intrusion as my son and his future wife began to create their own Sabbath traditions? Would my phone calls interrupt the flow of their lives? Will she think I am overstepping?
They are beginning to plan a wedding. A wedding! Yesterday I was peeling little foil stickers from the tops of juice boxes; today I’m discussing cocktail hours. Another familiar maxim instructs me that I am to nod in quiet agreement and wear beige. But that’s not, and has never been, my style. The unspoken agreement my children and I have long shared is that on occasion, I reserve the right to offer my hard-earned wisdom which they, perfectly competent young adults, thank me for and then conduct their own lives as they see fit. As for beige, we’ll see.
In choosing Elizabeth our son has indeed chosen someone who reflects all he holds dear: family, laughter, financial prudence, adventure and so much more. The first Sabbath after their engagement, we called Elliot to bless him. Elizabeth had gotten on the phone to share in the conversation and before blessing him I asked, “So, just Elliot, or Elizabeth, may we bless you, too?” “Yes,” she replied. We recited to our son the words he has heard every Friday evening of his life. Then it was Elizabeth’s turn. We hung up soon after, but not before one last maxim came to me: I am not losing a son; but am gaining a daughter. A daughter for life.