Age-old traditions are falling by the wayside. Gentlemen do not have to rise each time a woman enters the room, or walk on the side of the pavement closest to the ongoing traffic just to be in position to save his ladylove from the galloping horses that might threaten her.
Women are allowed to wear slacks to church, fairly secure in the knowledge that the priest, minster, guru, whomever, might embarrass her with a statement that at one time, was actually said by the man (who, these days, could be a woman) officiating:
“Any woman,” he said, “who is wearing pants, will kindly leave this church!”
But that WAS, strictly speaking, the traditional stance of the church.
So traditions change.
I don¹t believe my grandmother would believe half of the marriages conducted today should be allowed.
I can hear her now!
“What do you mean she isn¹t getting married in church!”
“What do you mean the bride is not going to wear white!”
“What do you mean that woman has the nerve to wear white? Everyone knows about her and Mr. Smith!”
“I DON¹T KNOW WHAT THE WORLD IS COMING TO!”
But some traditions survive despite all. One of my personal favorites was triggered by the wedding recently of my granddaughter Celia, Jr., to her love, Rodney.
Everyone knows this refrain:
Something old, something new,
and something blue.
I don¹t now why it lingers, but linger it does. And the single thing that makes that so very important to me is that Celia chose – as her “something old” – to wear a bracelet I gave to her a few years back.
It is a simple, gold band.
Not a show stopper – just a lovely bit of decoration. But its history is long, and the fact that it has survived and goes on is important.
Okay, now this is not a change of topic, just some background:
When I went to Temple University in Philadelphia so very long ago, I developed a warm and ultimately wonderful friendship with a girl named Zelda. Zelda Goldich. The name probably tells you that Zelda was Jewish. She was my first Jewish friend as I was her first Catholic. Her grandmother was a wonderful older lady who cooked all kinds of great foods for me, but wouldn¹t eat with me because I wasn¹t KOSHER. Zelda was a bit vague on the details and I was wary of asking too many questions.
But I knew Grandmom liked me. She would introduce me to any visitors in the house.
“This is Betty Sex,” she would announce. “She isn¹t Jewish but she¹s a good girl.”
The name came from Bubba¹s inability to understand my name, which was Steck, so ‘sex’ was the next best thing.
And now, back to the bracelet.
By the time Grandmom died, Zelda was in New York and I was
in Philadelphia. Zelda was an independent woman in an era when everyday was a fight for women¹s rights. She confounded her family by living alone in a fifth floor walk up for years – up until the time, in her fifties, when she called me to tell me she was sick and needed help.
I raced to New York, hired an ambulance and brought her back to her family in Philadelphia.
Now, the fact is, Zelda was a rather difficult person to know. But I knew her, and loved her and spent a lot of the next two years helping her. She lived alone in an apartment in Philadelphia, but her mother was in the same apartment building as were her uncle and aunt. Everyone worked to making life as good as it could be for my friend. But for a woman like Zelda, it was often easier to let her guard down around me, because she thought we were a lot alike.
Unavoidable, and not soon enough to avoid the horrors of a ravaging disease, Zelda died.
She left me that bracelet.
In her last goodbye she told me the story of the bracelet.
Zelda¹s grandmother came here from Russia as a bride – probably somewhere in the late 1800s. They were not rich but were always able to take care of their needs. She brought very little from Russia. Some linens that had been carefully embroidered by either Grandmom, herself or her family members. Apparently they were not allowed to bring much of value with them and the bracelet was hidden somehow so whenever police-type persons checked for things would not find it and take it from them.
Zelda wrote that, while she had very little of great monetary value, she did have the bracelet, and she wanted me to have it because I cared. Those were the word she used – I CARED.
A few years ago I decided that the bracelet needed a new life to keep it moving. After all am not going to live forever – though it sometimes seems I might.
So I chose to give it to Celia, and to trust that she will bring it the honor of living with someone who is choosing a life aimed at helping others.