I debate my clothing options while my laptop waits for me. Normally, a Zoom get-together requires a decent-looking top—preferably one without stains—and some comfy leggings that no one can see, but this Zoom event will be more demanding. This particular gathering in June 2020 poses the question: What do I wear to my son Ben’s wedding when I’m not really there?
I’m annoyed. There would have been no clothing debate had the original wedding, scheduled for two weeks before, not been ravaged by COVID-19. I would have worn the long, glittery, form fitting silver gown I bought in December 2019, but it is now neglected and forlorn, residing in a garment bag in my closet, likely its permanent home. When I bought the dress, my only concern at the time was that it might be slightly too form fitting and reveal even the tiniest stomach bulge as I walked my son down the aisle. Oh well, I told myself, I just won’t eat for 24 hours before the wedding. Did I jinx the gown’s future by having doubts about it? And did I exacerbate the doubt by neglecting to remove the sales tags?
Ben and Yelena live in Boston. The wedding was to be held in May 2020 in Saratoga Springs, New York, the city where Yelena grew up. The ceremony was to be a traditional Jewish service. I would have sucked in my stomach as I escorted my son towards the chuppah. My daughters would have looked glorious in their bridesmaids’ gowns. As a groomsman, my other son would have been smartly dressed in a conservative well-tailored suit. Our guests would have shared our joy as Ben and Yelena joined together as a married couple. The ceremony would have been followed by a wonderful dinner, emotional speeches and lively dancing. It would have been a fabulous evening, providing fond memories for years to come.
But then our world changed. COVID-19 became a global pandemic. We were faced with restrictions on social gatherings and the Canada/U.S. border was closed to non-essential travel. We had no choice. We had to cancel the wedding.
I picture the wedding as it was supposed to be, with family and friends gathered together, smiling, shaking hands—even hugging! The reception would begin with the joyful first note of Hava Nagila, a clue for all to hold hands and circle round and round as they danced the Hora.
When we first realized the wedding couldn’t go on as planned, we were horrified that all the details discussed and re-discussed, all the lists made, and all the travel arrangements confirmed, would be out the window. But gradually, we realized that cancelling the wedding was a minor hiccup in the grand scheme of things during our new COVID-19 world.
So the wedding as we envisioned it is cancelled. The ceremony is held in a lovely park in Beverly, Massachusetts. There are no guests. A lone photographer is the only witness. The immediate families attend virtually.
The wedding is beautiful. I feel as if I am really there.
When the ceremony ends, I say goodbye to my family on Zoom. I realize that my clothing choice is perfect. I’m glad I decided to dress up a bit. My silk-like blouse looks lovely on screen and my chunky silver necklace is the perfect accessory. And as in all Zoom calls, my lower half doesn’t matter. No one knows whether I’m wearing leggings, sweatpants or pajama bottoms.
Phyllis Shragge is a local writer, mother of five, and grandmother of four.