tomorrow…i will be cheryl gan-el. Tonight i went with hani to the mikveh. Felt important in a traditional, rite of passage, feminine way… the night before a wedding, the bride must have this ritual purification. I had heard stories that provoked dreams of judgemental religious lesbians scrubbing the soles of my feet with pumice stones but none of that happened. Hani and i walked arm in arm into the mikveh’s reception area. “today i bring you a bride for tomorrow!” hani announced.
Six religious women with hair coverings offered their congratulations. Some bellowed a high-pitched yemenite yodel “OOH-LOO-LOO-LOO-LOO!!!” putting their closed fist over their mouths directed at me. i joined in with the excitement “woo hoo!!” to which the yodeling abruptly halted. I gave one of them my green slip of paper from the rabbinate and went with her and hani to the shower room. It was a small sculpted space with walls open at the top and a sterile atmosphere. She showed me what to do to prepare for the actual mikveh. Hani translated, where necessary… and they left me alone. I took off my clothes and set them on a chair. I turned the shower on full blast and stood in the torrents of hot water, mentally preparing as well. I put q-tips in my ears just cuz they were there, i dragged a comb thru my hair to stall and then when i was ready, i pressed the green button next to door number two. Door #2 near the green button lead to the mikveh. Hani checked up on me and let me know she was there for me. it took a while for the woman to come. I found myself staring hard into the mirror telling myself that tomorrow is my wedding day… i parted my hair slowly with a black, thin comb and let the water in my hair drip down my nose. My face as a little girl superimposed itself over my face now. the door opened briskly and the woman came in. she picked stray hairs from my face; she inspected my fingernails, my toenails. She even looked at the bottoms of my feet. No moonblood check, nothing scary. I walked thru the door with her and down a white hallway. The mikveh room had a blueish tint to it and was a cross between a wine cellar and a medical laboratory. Hani waited in the hall while i laid my towel aside and walked down the steps into a warm square pool of living water (it must be rainwater, from the sea or other ‘living’ source). There were bars above me where the woman stood. I could hear hani like a cute peanut gallery behind her offering translation from hebrew to english. She told me to spread my legs with my feet firm on the bottom of the pool. My arms were to be out slightly away from my body, a familiar ballet pose, my fingers were spread. (mom later suggested the explanation of this to make sure all this living purity gets in all my crevices) i had to fully submerge myself jumping down into a fetal position under the water. I’d push all my breath out from my lungs and jump up to pose again. I did this 3 times. Then she put a towel over my head and i said a prayer. She removed the towel and i jumped under the water 4 more times for a total of 7 self-dunks. (there’s that reoccuring hebrew magical number 7). Another woman peeked in and both of them yodeled in their congratulations and i ascended the steps of the mikveh, into a robe, into a hug from hani and a kiss from the woman. We took some photos and i felt elated… elated that it was over mostly, elated to steep myself in such an ancient tradition in its place of origin, israel. Elated to feel such support…from hani, from ‘the women of my tribe’…it was a unique experience.
I dressed quickly, giggling, paid 15 shekels, got a yellow slip of paper to give to the rabbi tomorrow (…tomorrow!) that certifies that i am 100% grade A choice beef pure and ready for consecration, and hani and i left as we had came, arm in arm and back to home to tsafi and to a phone call from my mother. Aunt sandy was also there. they made me smile. Mom says she’s bringing in wine to work tomorrow, someone’s bringing a wedding cake and mom and dad will call into tsafi’s cell phone at the moment of the wedding. i recounted the tale to tsafi as he sat red-faced and smiling like a boy. He’s running out of practical things to do to avoid the reality sinking in. the rabbi last week gave us a list of things to gather up for the ceremony. Tsafi and i scoured the house like we were on a scavenger hunt putting things in a bag…the rings, wine, 2 glasses, a glass for smashing which he wrapped in aluminum foil, kipot, a table. Now he’s collecting his male family members and friends for the ceremony. (a legal jewish wedding must have 10 men called a ‘minyon’). Tomorrow we will wake up, check the weather, so far it’s supposed to only rain tomorrow night. I’ll go rent a chuppah, the kind with 4 poles for people to hold and we’ll hope for clear skies. If all goes well, there will be nothing standing between us and super nature. Sunset on a cliff over the mediteranean sea… now if only to calm the sugargliders in my belly….

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