By Connie Meyer
The youngest of Freddie’s grandchildren, my niece, got married a few months ago. This young woman is truly special- as beautiful on the inside as she is out, her generosity of spirit and ability to sense what makes others feel at ease, reminds me exactly of her grandfather, my dad, Freddie.
As the preparations began for her wedding, there was no question that my sister would ensure the setting would be beautiful, the food delicious, the music lyrical, and the ceremony meaningful.
When I first heard the news of the young couple’s engagement, one line I’d heard Freddie say my whole life, over and over to friends and family alike, popped into my mind- “I’ll dance at your wedding”. When I was younger, I couldn’t really understand what he meant. I took it literally, was this person getting married soon and my parents had been invited to their celebration? But it didn’t make sense. Freddie would say it to his young customers and the children of his friends in Roger’s Clothes all the time. “I’ll dance at your wedding”? What did he really mean?
Not until I was a bit older did I understand that Freddie was saying much more with those five words. And as I wondered what advice I should share with my young niece, the lessons I’d learned from my dad working alongside him at our family’s men’s clothing store came clearly into view. By saying “I’ll dance at your wedding” Freddie is telling them, he plans to be there for them and in their lives for the long haul. “I will listen to you, I will be there for you, I will help you through hard times without judgement.” Freddie’s way to say, I will be here today, tomorrow and every day after to share in the small and large joys of your life. He reminded us often that while life is fraught with troubles and sorrows, it is also filled with joys and wonder. Finding the right partner to share your life makes it all the richer.
If you’ve ever had the chance to attend a Jewish wedding, you know the celebration centers around dancing with gusto! For every small victory we’d achieve, he would say to us, “I’ll dance at your wedding”. This was his way to remind us every day and, in every way, “I loved you the day I met you, I love you today, and I will love you all the rest of your days. Always remember to celebrate life and the precious joys you will treasure, the best of which is the day you find the person to share the rest of your life with and I’ll be there, I’ll dance at your wedding”. He taught us with that depth of love and respect for each other, the hardships that inevitably come in life will never break your spirit.
My dad would always tell my sister and me “you are two of the prettiest girls in Portsmouth”. Now we didn’t really believe that, but what we knew is that we may not be the most beautiful people in the world, but no one looked more beautiful to Freddie than we did. His advice was that we use that measure when choosing a mate. Freddie would hate when he would often hear “close relationships, marriage especially, is a lot of work” and he would tell me, “when your heart is in conflict with your being, and your relationship seems difficult, it is the time to reconnect. If a relationship continues to be truly trying, you are in the wrong relationship”. Nothing is more important than a true human connection. The person with whom you choose to share your life must believe in you when you completely begin to doubt yourself. You know you’ve found the one who should be your spouse when that person inspires you to be a better version of yourself. Passion is important, but compassion and generosity of spirit- that’s the alchemy, the root of teaching another human being what love truly is. Freddie taught that reaching for each other is the best touch of all.
What I believe Freddie’s advice would be to my niece and her new husband is to recognize the power of wondrous people, those who know how to connect with their innate kindness and truly love. Guard those relationships with all the warmth and affection that you can muster and they will never let you down, you’ll never be alone. Freddie stays with us in our head and in our hearts, still guiding, still teaching.
I wouldn’t have missed this moment of my niece’s marriage for anything in the world, to watch her take her first steps into her married life and then join her to dance with joy and wild abandon.
As the music from the orchestra swelled to a crescendo, and my new nephew broke the ceremonial glass with his foot under the marriage canopy, I knew Freddie was there with us, continuing to enrich our lives, and to “dance at the wedding”.