Vicki Cabot

Scattered petals

Roots, leaves. petals
Vicki Cabot
Roots, leaves, petals Photo Vicki Cabot

It was a joyous occasion.

A sister marrying off her youngest son, the bride glowing, the groom beaming, the parents of the couple smiling broadly, even as they tear up. The couple recite their vows, share a tender kiss, and stride up the aisle to begin their new life together.

There is something about a wedding that is not only so very happy but hopeful.
Even as the world is in turmoil, love, especially young love, illumines the darkness and reminds us that there is still so much light, so much wonder, so much good.

Too, it’s precious time with family and friends, to marvel at its passage, how our lives have spooled out as the years pass, how our children have grown, and with them, the prospect of new little ones.

I reminisce with my sisters, catch up with those now adult nieces and nephews, and delight in the antics of the most recent addition to the family, an adorable grand niece who thoroughly embraces her role as flower girl, tossing fragrant rose petals with abandon.

They settle on the ground, evoking thoughts of our family, generations past, present and future, scattered by chance or choice like so many fragile blossoms. I wish I could gather them up and piece them together before the soft evening air wafts them away.

Wedding photos of those who came before grace a table at the reception. Among them, one of my parents, smiling shyly as they look into the camera. My father, already balding, my mother, with a mass of dark curls framing her pretty face. They look happy, and oh, so young. And in love.

Both children of immigrants, they were raised in large families with very little but with a strong sense of obligation for their parents and siblings. Ever grateful for all this country provided, they worked hard to make lives here, and while ever respectful of their past, they were ever striding forward. Just like the newlyweds.

It is an old story, made new, with each young couple and perhaps a family to come.

The ties that bind us to what came before, loosen with time, memories of generations past fade, like those wedding photos.

How to remember, to honor our past, even as we are forever drawn to the future?
And what draws us to it?

An uncle, a cousin, then another, attempt to trace our ancestry. It is an ambitious task, that, as often happens, leads to a tragic ending, so many lost to the Holocaust, their death undocumented save for its surety.

A niece, intrigued with the prospect of proving Spanish ancestry – our Sephardic grandparents are believed to be descendants of Spanish Jews who fled Spain in the 1400s – spent years delving into our past. Ultimately successful, she secured dual citizenship and affirmed our Spanish lineage.

Awed by her determination, I could not help but ask, why, a young, busy working wife and mother, was impelled to take on the task.

She looked at me quizzically.

Because of grandma.

But of course.

And I think of my mother, fiercely proud, strong, loving, who never knew her grandparents, nor many aunts, uncles, cousins. Who still chatted to my aunt in Ladino, the ancient Spanish of her parents, who collected Sephardic cookbooks, who grew vegetables in her garden and simmered them on the stove, redolent with exotic spices, as her mother did before her.

And how she was determined, in her own quiet way, to assure that their memories lived on through her family.
That we knew our roots, even as the branches of the family tree grew, even as leaves and blossoms flew away.

So it is that scattered as we may be, a little bit of that precious DNA resides in all those who come after, me, my sisters, our children, our grandchildren. In my niece who was compelled to piece together the story, and in that little girl twirling in white tulle, scattering those rose petals.

Because of grandma.
But of course.

About the Author
A writer and editor, Vicki has been recognized for excellence by the American Jewish Press Association, Arizona Press Club and Arizona Press Women. Her byline has appeared for more than 30 years in Jewish News of Greater Phoenix and in a variety of other publications. A Wexner Heritage Scholar, she holds masters degrees in communications and religious studies from Arizona State University and a Ph.D in religious studies also from ASU.
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