When I went to pick up the “shtick” for my best friend’s wedding, the shtick gemach lady asked me if I wanted the brooms. I had the arches, the basket, the umbrella, balloons I had blown up myself with confetti dropped inside them and a pin to pop them.
But I didn’t have brooms.
“What are the brooms for?”
“Is the chosson or kallah the youngest in their family? There is a custom to ‘sweep away’ the youngest child.”
I had a vague recollection of this custom.
“Yes. The chosson is the youngest. I guess I’ll take the brooms and see if the family wants to use them.”
I hefted the load of paraphernalia into the trunk of my brother’s car, buckled my baby back into the car seat and drove on to the hall, where it was all unloaded in preparation for the wedding that was only hours away.
Later that evening, bejeweled and dolled up, I danced until my body ached and my feet yelped in protest from inside the four-inch heels in which they were encased. But I was too happy and excited to give them much thought. My best friend is married! It’s my best friend’s wedding! There was a joy inside me bubbling up and flowing over my beaded floor-length gown, to envelop the very floor I was standing on, the people I elatedly danced with. Shining faces and broad smiles surrounded me and I knew my own face had a silly grin plastered on it all evening.
Every so often, I ran out of the hall to the bridal suite where the shtick was stashed. At the right moment, I brought out the umbrella, the basket with the candy almonds, the skipping rope. All were received with delight, the euphoria palpable as the night continued.
And then, as the last dance neared its end, a slow tune started playing. I did not recognize it and it was definitely unusual. There was a tempo, a beat to it, yet there was something timeless and solemn about it too. I heard some guests say something about the “Mezinka” dance.
I noticed the guests on the dance floor had started gravitating toward the mechitza. I followed the sea and through the crowd, I managed to see the chosson’s father sitting on a chair, a garland of leaves around his head. Next to him sat his son, the chosson, and on the other side was his mother, also wearing a garland.
(Reading up on this tradition at home, I later found out that the mezinka dance is an Ashkenazic Jewish tradition, where the parents of the chosson or kallah sit in the middle of a dancing circle consisting of their children. Eventually, the mother will take a broom and “sweep” the youngest child away.)
The chosson’s father, a sweet, charismatic man with a white beard, was tapping his foot to the music. His sons and daughters were whirling around the three family members sitting in the middle. At this point, I realized that this was it, the celebration of the youngest child leaving the nest! I ran out of the hall to get the brooms, only to come back and find the family members had no need for them – the official part of the ceremony was over and they had actually decided to make do with just the garlands.
Now, with my services not needed, I was free to observe and take in the scene. I watched as one by one, each child approached both parents, and danced with each one. There were no words said and no specific moves made; yet there was a feeling of love and a timeless epiphany.