Don't Mess With the Ketubah!

I'm in Atlanta (the ATL for those who have never heard me say that) right now.  I flew in Friday morning because Paul, my oldest friend in the world, was getting married.  Flew in, had some delicious Chick-Fil-A Chicken Biscuit breakfast action, spent some time hanging with my dogs, and then my family needed to get on the road to Birmingham (the home town of the newly minted Mrs. Paul).  And then the adventure began.

We got on the road late, no surprise for my family.  But we might have still made it on time to Alabama and the rehearsal dinner.  We were leaving my sister's apartment after picking her up, heading through the back gate since it's by the dumpster and we had trash.  My mom was driving.  And then crazy happened as it sounded like we went off-roading and the bottom of the car was exploding.  Did I mention the minivan was fully packed with luggage, and there were two dogs on the way to being boarded inside along with four humans?  Yeah, awesome.  My dad and sister got out and started making faces as they looked at the car.  I assumed two flats, maybe all sorts of body damage.  In reality it was just a gnarly looking leak - either the radiator or the oil pan got thrashed (we'll know today).  But what it meant was there was no way this car was going to 'Bama in time for anything.

Change of plans, let's all hop in my sister's IS (which is probably about half the size of the van, and take that all the way.  Plus the dogs still need to get dropped off.  Long story short, our should-have-been three hour trip ended up taking closer to 7.5, with a stop-0ff for dinner.  I spent the ride to the hotel in Birmingham with a suitcase encroaching on me from the middle of the seat, making my right arm unable to be lowered or sit at a normal position.  Oh, and my suit and a dress (not mine, I swear) hanging from the handle above the door closest to me.  I was... Uncomfortable.

We got to the hotel around midnight and just in time for some hospitality suite partying.  I attended for too long and poured Bacardi and diet too heavy, but I did finally meet Paul's lovely bride, Jill, for the first time.  She didn't seem like a raving loon, so I gave my blessing to the union.  Paul also asked if I would be willing to do him a solid on Saturday (the day of the wedding).

In Judaism there are several traditions as regards marriage - the huppah, breaking of the glass, dancing the Hora, and more.  Paul asked me if I'd be willing to bear witness and sign the Ketubah, which is essentially the Jewish marriage license.  A big honor to be sure, and one I gladly accepted.

I got to the reception early to take care of my duty, and my fellow co-signee, Stein, was there writing down Hebrew.  He asked if I had practiced.  Um, practiced what?  Apparently we were meant to sign our Hebrew names.  Well, shit.  No one told me this.  I knew my name, but not in Hebrew.  And I have to put part of my dad's name in the sig.  A phone call later and some help from Roei, I've got a crib sheet.  Of course, it's written in cursive Hebrew, which I never truly learned, and my knowledge of basic Hebrew is tentative at best at this point.  I practice it once, it goes okay, and I'm told we can use our cheat sheets.  Stein keeps practicing for a bit, where I only used my sheet once...

The Ketubah bit comes around and there's all kinds of family gathered.  It's maybe 12 people total, but it's the bride and groom's parents, grandparents, etc.  The Rabbi is talking about the Ketubah, what it means, how nice this one is, etc.  And all I can think is, Man, why didn't anyone tell me about the Hebrew.  I don't want to be the reason today gets ruined.  They go through a couple prayers between Paul and Jill, then it's time for the witnessing.  I let Stein go first, as if he screws up the pressure is off, right?

He walks up, cheat sheet firmly pocketed, and whips out what I can only assume is a perfect signature.  Mazel tov.  Then it's my turn.  I look down at the sig, see no problems, and start to get nervous.  It's not about me, it's all about me not wanting to ruin this marriage document with my shoddy grasp of Hebrew and religious customs.  

They hand me the pen and my hand was shaking.  I say, Stop hand, and it refuses to comply.  So 24 year-old Parkinson's boy is sitting there with his crib sheet, signing the slowest Hebrew signature in history, and at one point I draw a line the wrong way.  I completely fuck up a letter, look at it, and then quietly say, Ah, crap.  Nothing I can do.  I finish, barely getting done, and want to get the hell out of there before anyone has a chance to look.  The Rabbi leans in, says it's all good, and I think says a prayer.  All I can hope is that they forget to frame it and it stays rolled up forever, never to see my blunder again.  Of course people want to get pictures of it.  So much for that plan...

An embarrassing moment to be sure, but here's what I took away from it.  I weathered the car debacle the day before like a zen master.  I didn't get stressed, I just took it in stride.  It happened, doesn't matter how and why, let's just figure out what's next.  One of the things I've really keyed into in my life of late is that you can't edit your experiences.  Things happen, good and bad, and while you can analyze (or, as is often the case, overanalyze), there's no changing them.

So what I learned is that I can still get nervous.  Part of the changes I've made the last couple of years have almost entirely limited social anxiety for me.  I've read Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, and at this point I seldom feel the fear, I just do it (whatever IT may be).  I was actually glad, in hindsight, to have gone through this.  Sure, it would have been nice to be slick and smooth, gliding effortlessly like an eagle across that scroll with my pen.  Point is, it didn't happen.  That would be a largely unmemorable experience, an uninteresting story, and nothing people could have laughed at just prior to the ceremony whilst looking at Stein's camera.

I guess the point is that mistakes are cool, they happen, and always take something away from them, even if it's just a story.

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