THE ALMOST WEDDING

Harvard Wein was waiting for the signal to walk down the aisle to meet his betrothed under the Chuppah, the traditional Jewish covering that you stood under when getting married.

It had not been easy finding the right woman and there were times that Harvard never thought it was going to happen, especially after the ''incident''

The ''incident'' happened when Harvard was twenty five. He was working for the Thompson McDonald brokerage firm in Toronto and he had fallen in love with a woman, Kirsten Wiatt who was also a stock broker at the firm.

They had dated for about six months and Harvard thought he had found the woman of his dreams. She enjoyed many of the same things he did and they were extremely compatible.

One night during dinner Harvard was a little surprised when Kirsten said ''Harvard, I want to spend the rest of my life with you, why don't you marry me?'' After a couple of seconds, he responded ''Great idea'' and they became officially engaged. Since he didn't know the proposal was coming, he didn't have an engagement ring, so he told her he would go shopping during the week.

That night Harvard called his parents to give them the news and they seemed both happy for him and disappointed. His Mother Elsie said ''If you're happy, we're happy.'' His Father took the phone and said ''I hope you are going to be happy in the long run and you know I wish you the best.'' It was unusual for his parents who always seemed much more animated when it came to good news to seem so sedated. Harvard hung up the phone, didn't give it much thought and called some of their mutual friends to let them know about his engagement.

Harvard was invited that weekend by his fiancée's brothers to join them at the cottage for a day of fishing. Kirsten would be there at night and they could have a great day together. Harvard thought this sounded excellent and on a beautiful bright sunny morning he headed to Muskoka and the Wiatt's cottage.

The cottage was on a beautiful lake and it was extremely well appointed. The family had every conceivable toy to play with from Sea Doos to Kayaks.

Kirsten's two brothers, Wayne and Thomas and her Dad, William were already at the cottage waiting for him when he arrived.

They took out their fishing boats and Harvard ended up with Wayne in one boat while Thomas and William went on the other. The fishing was great, they had a nice shore lunch prepared by Thomas and they brought back five trout and a couple of pickerel to the cottage.

At around five pm they returned to the cottage and Kirsten was there with her Mother, Virginia.

William said he was starving and he went to the barbeque and fired it up. Steaks and grilled vegetables were on the menu. Next out came a case of beer and wine and the Wiatt family began indulging with a passion. Wayne and Thomas finished a two four of beer in record time and were feeling no pain, Virginia and Kirsten shared a couple of bottles of wine, and Harvard had a half a glass of merlot.

Harvard was a little surprised when Kirsten and her brothers smoked a couple of joints. Another case of beer was produced and the boys continued their drinking and Virginia and Kirsten didn't slow down with the wine.

William didn't drink very much, he had a bottle of Rickard's Red that he was nursing while tending to the steaks.

''How do you like your steak, Harvard?'' Harvard replied medium well, and that drew guffaws from Kirsten who said ''My future husband likes shoe leather'' and everybody laughed.

There was something uncomfortable abut the situation and Harvard couldn't figure out what it was. They were all very nice so why did he feel jittery.

When the steaks were done, everybody sat at the table and Kirsten's father said Grace over the meal. Harvard didn't say anything and began to eat. It was Wayne who made the first comment that would lead to disaster. ''Hey Harvard, why is your name Harvard, somebody get laid there?'' Harvard explained his parents wanted him to go to Harvard University and thought the name would be an inspiration, instead he had ended up going to Princeton.

William was chewing his steak and looked at him. ''Kirsten says you do very well at the brokerage firm. That's good, she likes the finer things in life. Her last boyfriend, Michael, he loved her and wanted her but financially he just couldn't make the grade.'' Thomas chimed in ''That and he was a Jew.''

There was a second of silence at the table and Kirsten said ''I put up with his Jewish shit at first. You know he liked going to Synagogue on Saturday mornings and he went to all these Jewish holiday things, and he insisted on eating Kosher meat and that wasn't so easy. I once said to him, we can make love but you can't eat meat that isn't kosher, last time I looked I wasn't blessed by a Rabbi.'' Her family broke into hysterical laughter.

Harvard felt a knot forming in his stomach and moving up to his throat. Virginia entered the conversation ''You know the property values on this lake were very reasonable and then Jewish families started buying up the cottages and now the prices are crazy. Wayne and Thomas were going to buy the two cottages down the lake from us and the Jews beat them to it, and paid way more than they were worth.''

The steak was tasting like bile in Harvard's mouth. Wayne looked at Harvard, ''What do you think of the Jews, I bet you're working with them everyday in the financial markets, they are good with numbers.'' Harvard looked around the table and wanted to run far and fast. ''I think anti-Semitism is a problem. The unfounded hatred against the Jewish people is getting worse everyday.

Kirsten, the supposed love of his life answered ''The Jews bring a lot of their problems on themselves.''

Harvard wanted to cry, he had been dating Kirsten for a half a year and somehow she didn't know he was Jewish. Now he was finding out what she really thought of Jews, it was pure insanity.

Harvard finished his steak and his grilled vegetables and didn't say a word. Virginia said that after dinner they would do the traditional cottage thing and play cards. Harvard didn't say a word but he felt angry. He wasn't upset with the Wiatt family, but he was more upset with himself. He had lapsed as a Jewish man. He had hidden his identity without even trying. How had he become so secularized? How had he lost who he was? He had dated Kirsten for six months and she didn't even know he was Jewish, how could that have happened?

Standing up, Harvard looked around the table. ''Thank You all for the fishing and the steak and mostly for the wake up call. I'm sorry Kirsten but our relationship is over, I can't marry an anti-Semite. My family lost many members during the Holocaust and it was because of unchecked anti-Semitism. When you asked me what I thought about the Jews, I should have said I love them because I'm one of them.''

William stood up with a scowl on his face ''Stop being so disrespectful, we just shared an opinion, we don't care if you're Jewish.'' Harvard smiled, ''Because I could be one of the good ones. No thanks, I'm out of here.''

As Harvard walked to his car, Kirsten was running behind him. ''Harvard, I'm sorry I love you, we can make this work.'' Harvard shook his head, ''I don't think so, but I wish you all the happiness in the world.''

He got into his car and started to drive down the long driveway to the road, when he received a text message on his phone. ''Please don't say anything to anybody at work as to why we decided not to get married. Maybe we can make it work.'' Harvard shook his head and drove onto the road and away from the Wiatt family forever.

He heard two years later that Kirsten had married Martin Leibshin, the owner of a major Hedge Fund in New York and a prominent member of the Jewish community, he hoped Martin never went fishing with her family.

As he was about to walk down the aisle to his love, Samantha he felt excited and happy. A Jewish woman who believed in custom and tradition. His Mom and Dad had been very enthusiastic when they met her and very happy for both of them. They were already counting the days to Grandchildren

Just before he reached the Chuppah, Harvard Wein realized that if there wouldn't have been a fishing trip and time at the cottage with the Wiatt family who knows how his life would have turned out. Now as he walked towards his future it really didn't matter, maybe in a strange way, ''the incident'' had led him to self realization about who he was and once he had that knowledge, happiness followed.

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Alan J. Schwarz

Alan J. Schwarz

Alan Schwarz loves life. He is the founder of JAMS Productions, a television production company based in Toronto . His passion is writing.