Let’s just say that our respective reactions differed somewhat. And while I understood that my daughter was justifiably flattered, and I was certainly happy for her, part of me was moichel on the kavod, and the expense.
The first of my nineteen-year-old daughter’s classmates had surprised – no, shocked – us all by announcing that, unbeknownst to even her closest relatives, she had not only begun to date but was, incredibly, about to get engaged! Everyone rejoiced with the lovely young couple and their families. Their simcha marked the end of one era and the beginning of a new one, filled with exciting possibilities.
The newly minted kallah and my youngest had been best friends and close neighbors since our aliyah some nine years before. As she is the older of only two children in her family, it was not exactly a thunderbolt from the blue when she asked my daughter, a.k.a. her BFF, to wear a long gown for the chasunah.
As I mentioned earlier, my teenager was tickled pink at this obvious affirmation of a very deep, solid friendship. I, being the jaded, practical middle-aged Mom, was admittedly somewhat less enthusiastic at the prospect.
So began the quest for the perfect gown, but we ended up having to cancel our first gemach appointment and our second one – somehow – did not register on their schedule. The entire process seemed inexplicably doomed from the start; it was a proverbial comedy of errors if ever there was one.
Then a lovely woman volunteer offered to come especially for us, and we hopped into a cab to make it in time. She generously allowed us over an hour for my daughter to select and try on anything and everything in her size, in a veritable rainbow of color options.
Predictably, some dozen or more gowns later, we all agreed that the first one she had tried on was her best bet. Unfortunately, although the jewel-toned emerald green color brought out her beautiful grey-green eyes, the dress was too large and required numerous alterations, as well as a matching shell. And, although we were granted official permission to alter the gown extensively, it was only with the stipulation that all alterations would be undone after the wedding.
While the gemach did not specify a donation amount for borrowing a gown, their policy was to not allow the dress off their premises until two weeks prior to the wedding date and a 200-shekel deposit was required to put the selected item on reserve until then. After the simcha, the gown had to be brought to a certain local dry cleaner which would return the gown to the gemach. Upon ascertaining that everything was in order, the borrower could theoretically request that the deposit be returned, or the check torn up but, as a token of appreciation, many borrowers gave that or a lesser amount as a donation.
We called another taxi for the return trip to our neighborhood, discussing our experience en route. It had already cost us several hours and 44 shekel to visit the gemach. Retrieving the gown at the designated time would cost a double cab fare once again. Plus, given the limited time frame, the considerable alterations were a concern. Buying a shell, altering the dress, and de-altering it professionally would be both a hassle and a significant expense.
Under the circumstances, my daughter and I agreed that we should explore other options in the interim. I posted a notice on our local email list and spoke to neighbors and friends, but the gowns that were available were not the right color, style, and/or size for my daughter.
We had rented gowns from a local seamstress for my son’s wedding three years earlier, so my next course of action was to contact her again and book an appointment to see her current inventory.
Things had apparently changed somewhat in the interim, however. Instead of speaking to the woman directly, I found myself listening to a complex automated menu of business hours, directions, and other information. And then, the bombshell! She was holding a one-night sale, for a few hours only, selling off her past creations at radically discounted prices! And, as if that wasn’t enough, the date for that once-in-a-very-blue-moon sale was that very night!
We drove over there as soon as the sale began. My daughter tried on several very flattering possibilities, and ultimately settled on a lacy gown in maroon. Not only did it look lovely on her, it looked like it was made for her! The length was perfect, and the sleeves and neckline were exactly right – precisely as if it had been custom-made. In fact, because of its tiny size, it had only been worn once before!
The seamstress pressed the gown, cut some dangling threads, and stitched up a few minor imperfections. Then she bagged it and, smilingly, collected the “enormous” sum of 100 shekel!
So, for approximately a third of what it would have cost us to borrow and alter the gemach gown, my daughter was able to purchase a beautiful gown that needed absolutely no alterations and will, b’ezras Hashem, avail her for future simchas as well.
Incredible what a bit of hishtadlus and a fair dose of siyata dishmaya can accomplish!