It was at a family wedding just a few years ago. Afterward, discussing the wedding with Andy, we were astonished when he spoke of marriage as a decadent and archaic institution that had no place in today's world. "But look how happy we are!" we exclaimed, "Look at Marjorie and Jonathan, look at so many of your friends! Don't you see yourself some day as having that same kind of happiness? Gay people can marry, too, and have all the same joys!"
"Never! Not me!" he persisted.
A few months later, we got a phone call. "I'm so in love!" he mooned. "I've never felt this way! I never thought I could feel this way!"
Of course, he had met Neal.
We first met Neal at dinner at Osnat's a restaurant in New York. We shared a wonderful dinner. The wine was a stupendous Lebanese Chateau Musar. We were even more impressed with Neal. He was quiet, reserved, but with a hidden and subtle sense of wit and humor. And he was a Jewish! And a doctor!! Yes, he was the one.
We really got to know the Hoffman family at the Jewish Museum at Andy's Bel Cantor presentation. We went out for a celebratory dinner afterward with Marty and Elaine and Tracey, Neal's sister. The warmth and ease with which we related to each other was remarkable. Yes, Neal was the one!
Neal and Andy, guided by Rabbi Roderick Young, planned the wedding together over many months, calling it a Brit Ahava--a covenant of love. They planned every detail meticulously. Overseeing the whole process was Marty Hoffman, who missed his calling as a wedding planner. He offered a steady and guiding hand, negotiating prices, reviewing contracts, and picking up on a myriad of details. Everyone in the family offered input, and it helped our families to become even closer.
Friday, Carol and Bess and I drove in from Providence directly to Marjorie and Jonathan's apartment. I got a great space, right in front. M & J had decorated and arranged their gorgeous apartment so that it sparkled with warmth and grace. Just before we arrived, Andy and Neal had finished their mikveh ceremony, using M & J's swimming pool and a ceremony created by their friends, Mark and Daniel, who were married a year ago. Although Mark and Daniel did the mikveh ceremony prior to their wedding separately, Andy & Neal chose to do our ceremony together. Floating in the pool, as the sun set, were votive candles, sunflowers, and wedding cake toppers of two grooms. It was quite magical.
Josie was passed around and, as usual, stole everyone's heart.
The Hoffmans arrived--Marty & Elaine;
Tracey, Jeff, Amie, and Allison; and Barrie, all the way from Arizona.
The children got along famously all weekend.
It was a small and intimate gathering, just right for us all. Ally and Amie lit the Shabbat candles with Neal & Andy,
I made kiddush,
and we gathered at the pool, where Jonathan was grilling. I spoke of the blessing of my children, welcoming the Hoffmans, and welcomed Neal to the world of not-blood. Bess, our matriarch, offered a short speech of welcome and blessing, marked with her usual grace and dignity. I have no photos of these moments, but they are burned in my heart forever.
And then we went in to eat. Hava, the caterer, had prepared a fabulous table of hors d'oeuvres--red peppers and slivered almonds on a nest of fried vermicelli; egg rolls, and a hummus-spinach dip. Then came dinner. Jonathan had perfectly grilled shoulder chops from several lambs, with a wonderful minted soy sauce by Marjorie, an eggplant and tomato tart, diced roasted potatoes, tofu and vegetable salad with peanut sauce, Israeli salad.
We served the wines that Jonathan and I had bought at Costco the week before, but no one drank that much. We sent Bess up in a cab to Nancy's, where a graduation party for Ali Certilman was being held, and we drove up with the Hoffmans to the Gramercy Park Hotel. I got a great place right across the park.
What a wonderful evening. What a wonderful beginning.
On to Saturday