Mother of the Bride

A memoir by Ivy Berchuck

There are non-verbal messages that pass between my mother and myself, so I watch her carefully. Her face registers no more than the blue milkiness of her blind eyes.    Nothing is said. We just sit there in her kitchen, waiting.

I had been trying to tell her about the wedding. I try again. “I thought that you liked him, mother. I thought that you were happy for me, or at least relieved that I’m getting married again.” She clears her throat, a preamble to serious talk. Our small wedding is two weeks away. His children, my children coming in from colleges, even the one in London, flying home. Just family, champagne in the garden, a simple supper to follow.

She speaks. “I’m surprised at your lack of consideration.” I’m stunned. Where is this coming from? “Yes?” I say, so she will know that I am listening. She continues, “It does not matter that you are now middle-aged. You are still a bride, and I have never been introduced to his father. It’s not appropriate behavior, not the way things should be done” I don’t believe I’m hearing this. I’m almost in my fifties. Irving is a fifty-five year old widower. His father lives in a senior residence where half the people are in wheelchairs. “Mother”, I reply as calmly as I can, “I’ll talk it over with Irving and we’ll see what we can do.”

He is already home when I walk in the door. “I have a problem with my mother”. He looks up from his newspaper. ”What’s the matter? Is she sick?” “No, nothing like that” I respond. “She’s upset because I’m marrying you and she hasn’t met your father before the wedding” He looks at me incredulously.  After a moment of reflection he says, “You know something, she feels overlooked. I can understand that. Let me call Pop and tell him we’re bringing her over on Sunday to meet him.” Then he laughs. “Actually, this makes me feel young and groom-like.”

Now he’s into the spirit of it. He tells me later that that Jake really liked and understood the idea. “But,” I say, “What about her blindness? Does Jake know? How well can he handle it?” Irving reassures me Jake understands. “ He thinks it is great that she hasn’t given up because of it. He likes her already.”

I call my mother. Her mood is conciliatory now that I’ve remedied the lapse in etiquette.  She’ll be ready at 11:00 on Sunday morning. When we arrive she’s sitting in the kitchen, coat on, handbag in her lap.  Irving takes her arm. “I see that you’re ready, Jeannette. You look wonderful.” Her smile radiates happiness.


The senior residence is affiliated with a hospital. The grey façade communicates hospital more than residence. She can’t see that, but her nose registers disdain as we enter the lobby. We take the elevator to the fourth floor lounge where ambulatory clients visit with their guests. Jake is what Irving will look like in thirty years. He holds himself straight and has a winsome, crooked smile. Introductions take place. Jake takes my mother’s hand , gives her a hug and mumbles some endearments in Yiddish.  She laughs and is charmed. We all sit down and Irving tries to extend the conversation, but Jake is in no mood to lose control.

“Jeannette”, he says, “How would you like to see our dining room?” “Why, that would be wonderful Jake” she says. For a moment I think he doesn’t understand about the blindness. I tap her shoulder, our code for standing up. She rises and Jake takes her arm and puts it through his. They take off down the hallway. She is the coquette, laughing at whatever he says. Irving whispers to me. “I’m sorry this wasn’t our idea. It was the right thing to do.”


I’m thinking . On trips with my mother to art museums she makes you describe every detail of every painting. She’ll drive that old man crazy. They are gone for a long time. When they return he is telling her stories about Irving always being the smartest boy in the class. She responds with a catalogue of my awards from PS206 onwards.  He walks her to a chair and I touch her arm to indicate that the seat is directly behind her. She sits and starts to describe the dining room. “What a place.” she says,  “Like an elegant hotel. Perfect taste, with long drapes in a floral pattern against an ivory background. And the tablecloths echo the colors of the flowers. A restful, beautiful room.”

On Jake’s face I read confusion. He doesn’t know my mother. How she asks leading questions and remembers everything you’ve said. How she embellishes your words and makes them her own. How she once gave a lecture to her blind elderly group on a Picasso exhibit, bringing tears to the eyes of the social workers.

Finally, Jake can’t control himself. “Irving,” he blurts out, “I thought you said she was blind.” I shrivel in pain. Irving looks embarrassed, but not mother. Her face is illuminated by triumph. Once again, she has vanquished the blindness. Sitting upright and proud in the chair, she smiles. The mother of the bride.


Ivy Berchuck wrote stories in high school and college and forgot to continue until she rediscovered the joy of writing in the IRP. The support of participants in the Memoir study group has encouraged her to forge ahead.