In twelve more days, our blended family will travel from many different locations all around Texas, and land in Orlando, Florida. Destination: Walt Disney World. All sixteen of us. Not a typo. Sixteen. Barry has two kids and I have three, with spouses and grandchildren and one boyfriend coming, too. Now, if you’re of a certain age, you might be conjuring up images of the Brady Bunch. Remember Carol and Mike Brady?
Barry and I have purchased each of our four grandbabies a small, rolling piece of Disney- branded luggage for the occasion, and that’s only the beginning. Our girls, and I’m not only talking about the toddlers, are excited to have lunch in Cinderella’s castle. The attire for the luncheon, with Cinderella herself, is “Ball Gown Casual.” Our toddlers will be in these story tale frocks gazing around the castle, and the theme of the day is all about meeting your Prince Charming. Oy vey.
A Jewish girl growing up in the seventies, I, myself, relate more to Fiddler On the Roof. I love the drama of it, the music, and I wouldn’t mind being Golde even though they refer to her as “sharp-tongued” because, well, I’m Jewish, and I know behind the curtains there can be many more delightful moments than we, the audience, are led to believe. I wouldn’t mind my own Tevye one bit. Just imagine the fun of the Passover Seders!!
Fast forward to today. Perhaps it’s my birthday, or the anniversary of our first date (May 4), or a trip for two…Selfie pose, snap, and post. Fun. Happy times. I’ll run in to an acquaintance at the JCC, and they’ll say something about the perfect marriage and family they assume Barry and I enjoy. Feels all Prince-Charming, Brady-Bunch-ish, or Fiddler-esque, doesn’t it? So I thought this month’s issue might be a good opportunity for me to distort that Facebook persona, to confide some vulnerabilities, to share some honest, and candid words about Barry and I. This doesn’t mean it will be negative, but it won’t be Facebook glossy either. Like all of us, it’s our everyday journey.
Barry and I did have a matchmaker. Debbie Lacher, a mutual friend, who lovingly set us up on a blind date. It was a little bumpy at first. Barry is ten years older, and I thought the gap might be too large. He thought I was one of my students on the Facebook picture he saw before our date. He asked me out for a drink, which would be silly for me, because I’m always hungry after yoga, so we met at Houston’s and we both enjoyed the salmon. I asked which astrological sign he identified with, and he told me he was a Capricorn. I was content knowing we could be great friends, with that information in mind. Scorps and Capricorns are not always a good pairing. But one thing you should know about Capricorns is that they will persevere, and to my great advantage, he did.
One of our most beneficial attributes as a couple is that we enjoy each other’s company. We like to practice Yoga together, take walks together, run errands together, and worship together. It felt to Barry and I, that we had found our person, our “beshert.” It felt that way in a short amount of time. Perhaps our hearts had been longing for this kind of a connection for longer than we realized. Perhaps we had a little bit of mazel. If you know Barry, you know he dazzled me with his handsome smile, and every morning when I woke up he e mailed me a little bit about “Today in history.” I, in turn, showed him the ropes of the zodiac, crystals, and, of course, Yoga. I know today that Barry’s favorite president is Abraham Lincoln and Barry knows that the Eagles song “Desperado” is one way to my heart.
Time to meet the family, don’t you think? Caroline is the baby of our family, so she ended up on our fifth date with us, unexpectedly, eating calamari at Del Frisco’s (don’t you miss the old location?). She was still in high school when we met, and had to endure the two of us acting like two teenagers in love. Which we were. Or so we thought. Very shortly after that, I held a few weeks old Baby Miles in my arms at Barry’s daughter Liz’s house. A couple weeks later still, we flew to New York to meet my middle son Greg, and his fiancé Kori, who lived in DC at the time, and my baby, Eli, who had just completed his masters at U Penn, and was living and working in Philly. We all stayed in the same New York hotel, and enjoyed great restaurants, MOMA, and a special treat- Barry secured tickets to the U. S. Open and we got to go. Greg met Barry for the first time in New York at historical Keene’s Steakhouse, where old tobacco pipes hang from the ceiling and historical artifacts live in display cases.
I started the conversation off by asking the two of them, “if you could sit down with anyone in history on a park bench, who would it be?” and they were off… Greg was a history major. One more to go, my oldest, Jeremy. We hit his soft underbelly. We flew him to Dallas and took him to his favorite, the State Fair of Texas. By the time we got our Fletcher’s corny dogs, things were more comfortable. That very day, we took Jeremy to meet Liz and her husband, Daniel, Baby Miles, and Caroline, at El Fenix. Jeremy’s wife, Lauren, and Liz, have many mutual friends, and the two of them had already “primed the pump” for this meeting, as they say. Liz is the record-keeper of the family, so she got her camera ready and said, “Let’s all take a “sibling” picture!” Did I forget to tell you we had just gotten engaged?
You see, on the way home from New York, Barry Rothschild unlatched his seatbelt on the airplane, and I thought he had dropped an ice cube from his Johnny Walker Black, but no, he was, in fact, going down on his knee, which was curious, until it dawned on me, and then I realized, and got down on the ground with him. I said “What?” because it felt fuzzy, and then he got emphatic: “Do you want me to ask you again?”
I said “yes.”
The ring came a few days later with the help of Barry’s friend, Mike, to the rescue. The next day, Barry and I went to my dad and Carol’s house to report the news. Barry told Dad and Carol, and Dad said, “What???” and Barry said, “Maury we were in First Class…” and Dad said, “What the [expletive] took you so long?” So all’s well that ends well.
The four boys (men) in our family carried in the chuppah. Each of them held onto one pole and walked that chuppah down the aisle for the parents. When it isn’t your first wedding, you care a lot less about the decorations and staging, and more about uniting the families. Carol and Dad walked me down, and Liz and Caroline walked Barry down. I walked the seven circles around Barry with great joy, and during the ceremony we were wrapped in his father’s tallit.
Waiting in the temporary Bride’s room as it was back then, Lauren and Kori came to tell me that Barry and Rabbi Stern were ready to go. We were having a Havdalah service first. I asked those precious girls to link arms with me and walk, and that was Barry’s “first look’” as the bride, and bridegrooms, of today refer to that moment. As I looked around, shaking but trying to take it in, and remain calm nonetheless, I was content with our decision to only have family at the Havdalah and wedding ceremony. My mom always advised, “When things do not feel normal, do something normal.” A Havdalah at that moment felt normal, and held me together. The flame, the smell of the spices, the familiar melody. I felt so normal, in fact, that without thinking, I rose up on my tiptoes and kissed my Bridegroom. Big oops.
Rabbi Stern saved the day. He said, “Well at least we got that out of the way!”
That moment pretty much sums up how I feel about Barry.
Are you tired of wedding details? Just a couple more, I can’t help it. The reception was at the Hilton across the street from our apartment. A limo took Barry and I straight from our secluded moments together, the Yichud, to the front door of the hotel. I tripped over my gold lame wedding dress getting out of the car, and Barry picked me and my golden dress back up, and we gracefully went to the door to our reception. We opened the door, and Lauren and Liz grimaced at the two of us. They motioned for Barry and I to close the door until they announced us. Kids. We walked in a few minutes later to the best party either of us has ever thrown.
Our wedding took place on January 17, and we had all the way from January to September to settle in before we were faced with planning the holidays.
“Which one?” you may ask. “All of them.”
Rosh Hashana, Labor Day, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and New Years. There are rituals that have been set in stone for some families for decades, and other rituals only underway for a few short years. Barry and I owned none of them. I can help my Yoga students create a new neuro pathway by teaching them how to meditate, or deconstruct a complicated pose in a New York minute, but budging a holiday tradition to make room for new participants and the accompanying new food (we’re Jewish) was seriously challenging. The resolution, we are learning, is for Barry and I to be the foundation, offer up whatever we can plan and execute, and allow our kids and family the room to join in, or decline gracefully. We rarely have a holiday where each and every one of us is in attendance, and this is simply an opportunity for us to try to practice acceptance. Would it be different if Barry and I had been married decades? Perhaps, but over time, in-laws, babies, and new jobs change the course of traditions regardless. So we began the process of creating and weaving in family occasions.
Life is life. The only constant is that it never stays the same, and like everyone, Barry and I were faced with illnesses within the circle of our family and friends, and even with our former spouses. In July of 2016, Caroline’s mother, Mary, passed away. I cannot begin to convey the pain here. So, I will only mention the gratitude we felt for all of the people in our support system, and that includes our rabbis, pre-marital counselor, and wise friends and family. I particularly leaned on Carol and Dad. There is not a chance our own glue could have been enough.
Barry has owned his company for thirty-one years. I’m still new to my career. I have been practicing and teaching Yoga for only eight years. I do know this about Yoga, and I know it well enough to recite it to my students at each and every class: There is no competition in Yoga. Have you got that? I work on it every day. I say it to myself every day. But I am extremely competitive. I compete with myself, every day. Being a Yoga teacher doesn’t mean you are any better at this journey than any one of your students, it only means you have found an awareness for the direction you would like to go. This leads me to my biggest sorrow, or challenge, in our marriage.
No little girl wants to grow up and be someone’s third wife. I have been told I am an idealist, and I’m certain that’s true. I’ll own it. I imagine what it would have been like to see Barry run, at full-on sprint speed, or know his brother, Mike, or his parents, or have children with him. I wish he knew my mom most of all, or saw how huge I was when I was pregnant, or saw me in my bad-ass Camaro Berlinetta when I was sixteen. Gratitude abounds, and I recognize with deep humility, how blessed I am to have met my match, this most kind, intelligent, dashing man. But sometimes, I still have to push away those thoughts of moments that will never be lived together. It has only been recently, that in searching for words for led meditation for my classes, that within the Parsha Vayeishev, I have found peace.
“Jacob dwelt in the land of his father’s sojournings, in the land of Canaan.
These are the generations of Jacob: when Joseph was seventeen years old, being a shepherd, he was with his brothers and the flocks, and he was a lad, and was with the sons of Bilhah and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought evil tales about them to their father.
And Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age, and he made him a fine woolen coat.”
I admitted to you I am competitive. The last line above gives me peace because it offers me a unique and special place in Barry’s life. I am the wife of his old age.
Kori and Gregory had a beautiful outdoor wedding a few months after Barry and I. Two years ago, Amberleigh came into our lives. We went to Philadelphia to meet her, and might have been happier than Eli when she said “yes.” Barry and I welcomed Laila June, Maggie Pearle, and Avery Claire into the world and became grandparents together.
Our brother-in-law, Lloyd, passed away suddenly this year. Barry had his right hip replaced. Several moths ago there was a rescue effort at Preston Royal for dogs who needed a second chance, and although I thought Barry would never let it happen, Nala Rothschild enjoys sleeping in our kingsize bed and eating doggie bag scraps from The Mercury Restaurant.
Have you eaten at that beautiful new restaurant, Bouillion? It has a lovely view and sumptuous food. Pricey, but worth every penny if you are celebrating a special occasion. I adopted Caroline Rebecca on May 16, 2018 at the Dallas County Courthouse. I have a daughter, and Caroline has a second mother.
Barry and I go to every concert that appeals to us, and we take a three mile walk together most every evening to talk, and get in our cardio. We eat out too often, share good bottles of red wine, and go antiquing even though we’ve run out of space for more. We saw Hamilton in New York when it was the new big thing. I make a challah every Friday and we schlep it wherever we have Shabbat dinner. We try really hard in this second marriage for me, and third marriage for Barry, to remember the time honored wisdom of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
This story is dedicated to those who handed Barry and me a flashlight to see our way through the dark patches. Thank you, Rabbi David Stern, Rabbi Debra Robbins, Adele Hurst, PhD, Kay Hale, PhD, and Ron Foxman.
You can find Debbi K. Levy at Temple Emanu-El teaching Yoga through a Jewish lens on Tuesdays at 5:00 p.m. You can reach her at DebbiKLevy@gmail.com