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Present Tense

C. Rosenberg

Though gift-giving to every chassan and kallah has been a minhag since Eliezer loaded a camel with jewelry to bring to Rivkah, it can still become fraught.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

“Any day now, Ma. It really seems like it’ll be any day now.” My mother-in-law spends all day humming simchah songs — she’s even more excited than the soon-to-be chassan. I, though, am nervous. And part of that nervousness is due to her involvement. I hear her laugh through the phone line. “Remember, Ruthie, that I have a bracelet for the kallah. You remember how I went to Ta’s old friend from 47th Street and found this steal of a deal?” “Right.” Of course I remember. How could I forget that my super-wealthy, super-frugal mother-in-law spotted an amazing deal and bought a bracelet for my son’s kallah when my son was 16 years old! I turn to my husband and emit help signals. “Your mother thinks we’re giving the kallah that hopelessly outdated bracelet she picked up who-knows-where,” I tell him. He shrugs. “What’s the problem? Diamonds are diamonds. Gold is gold.” My husband must be the most hopeless of all men when it comes to jewelry. He doesn’t even know enough to ever buy me a piece. I wish his mother would know that. Scratch that. I don’t need her to know. But what do I do about my son’s kallah? She isn’t going to appreciate a hopelessly outdated bracelet. “First of all, the style is totally outdated — they’re putting more diamonds and chips now. And—” “So go buy her another bracelet.” “What am I supposed to tell your mother? She’s busy with this bracelet for years. She’s so proud of the ‘amazing deal’ that she got on it.” “So tell the kallah what’s going on. Tell the shadchan to tell her, tell her mother to tell her. Tell her that we’ll give Yehudah money to buy her a bracelet after they’re married.” What can you say to male logic? “I can’t do that to her. All her friends are going to come and ask to see her bracelet, and she’s going to be mortified if all she has to show is your mother’s bracelet.” “So give her two bracelets at the l’chayim. My mother will give her bracelet, and you’ll give her a new one.” “Do you know how weird that’s going to be? I don’t need her to think we’re nuts the day she gets engaged. I mean, this is her first gift… Besides, your mother will be terribly insulted.” He thinks for a minute. “I’ll tell Ma that I didn’t know about her bracelet, and I got one without checking in with you—” “And we’ll give the kallah two bracelets?” “Yeah.” “Your mother knows you. She knows you’d never buy jewelry without me.” “I’ll tell her a friend of mine offered me this steal of a deal, and I just went ahead…” At last, he’d hit the spot. I had to admit, my husband knows best how to talk to his mother. At the l’chayim, I allow my mother-in-law to present her gift — with all the fanfare it deserves. After my mother-in-law is seated (and oblivious to how well concealed the bracelet is beneath the kallah’s sleeve), I present the bracelet I bought. But this is only the beginning. 

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