This is a story told to me this evening by a friend (and elaborated just a tad to add some ambiance)…
Before we were married I went to visit his family. Oh yes, S told me that he wanted me to meet them and get to know his country, to be certain that indeed I wanted to marry him, it being such a serious commitment and all that. I knew I wanted to marry him, but found it sweet that he felt this way, so of course I agreed, and we went.
Only much later did I find out that the trip had another purpose and that it was I who was, in fact, under consideration, not the other way around.
On the third day his mother roused us early and took me and her other son’s wife, along with her youngest son as chauffeur, for a long drive on bumpy back roads. We stopped before a small house in the middle of nowhere, and were met at the door by an old woman who ushered us into a small room. There, in the dim light, we made out the figure of an old man. Wizened by age yet with eyes dark and intently focused, he motioned for us to join him. The three of us sat on a narrow sofa while the old woman served us a cup of tea, heavily sweetened and minted, and some nuts.
There was a bit of chit chat, smiles and nods, punctuated by the sound of goat bells wafting in through the open window, and then silence. We watched the old man as he pulled his chair closer and began to chant, or so it seemed, although to me it sounded more like he was clearing his throat, or gargling. Poor thing, I thought. He reminded me of a neighbor who lived next door when I was a child, who would make the oddest noises as he sat on his front porch. (The other children would laugh at him, but I, who had a brother who made similar noises, never did.)
My soon to be mother-in-law looked from my face to his nervously, holding her breath. I could feel the tension in her body and tried to determine what was making her so nervous. Surely not this kind man before us who’d slurped his tea and smiled with a grin brimming with kindness and woefully lacking in teeth. He stopped and leaned forward, staring at the two of us intently, then began to speak, arms waving in the air and dust flying, shimmering like gold suspended in the light which filtered through the thin curtain.
I assumed he was giving us a blessing, and listened quietly, a slight smile on my lips, my eyes lowered just enough to indicate my gratitude and respect. How kind of you, I said in a whisper, which he, naturally, could not understand any more than I could understand his incantations, both spoken in words sincere and well-intentioned yet incomprehensible to those to whom they were directed.
Years later, well after the wedding, after we already had our first child and had conceived but didn’t yet know of our second, I found out that he had not offered a blessing at all, but instead had foretold my future, his fingers reading it like braille in the air between us. He predicted that my soon to be sister-in-law would never conceive (she did not), and that I would have four children (which I did, although one was stillborn) and that as long as I was part of the family they would prosper.
It is no wonder that from that moment on my mother-in-law was in such a hurry for us to marry!