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Demanding Mothers and Handmade Yarmulkes

One of the most tedious projects I undertook for my wedding also wound up being one of the most valuable because of what I learned.  You see, my mother became somewhat notorious for her slightly… ridiculous demands during the wedding.  One fateful night, she happened to call while I was over at my then-fiance’s apartment cooking him dinner.  Like usual, I put the phone on speakerphone (insurance for my sake, so he knew she was the one making the absurd demands and not me) and waited to see what was in store.

This time, my mother had the idea that rather than purchase yarmulkes for the ceremony as planned, she wanted to crochet all the yarmulkes for the wedding.  While a lovely, thoughtful gesture in theory, there was one slight problem with this.  My mother hasn’t touched a crochet hook since before I was born… and even back then, she was quite bad at it.  With visions of lopsided, fuzzy, misshapen doilies plopped haphazardly upon the heads of tuxedo-clad guests, my fiance started wildly waving his arms above his head like a windmill to grab my attention, and then passing his hand back and forth over his throat, the universal symbol for “kill the idea ASAP.”

Unfortunately, my mother did not take this news well, and continued to a) insist on the yarmulkes and b) rant that I was the worst daughter in the world.  In the meantime, she attempted a prototype yarmulke which had no chance of fitting on anyone’s head, and the situation became dire. We decided that the only way to save the situation was to come up with a pattern complicated enough that she would not be able to crochet it, thereby meaning that she would just have to give up on the idea and let us order them like every other wedding/bar mitzvah we have attended.

Like every other plan to foil my mother, this one too backfired. My mother wound up, at the time, loving the pattern so much that she insisted that I make all 100 yarmulkes, in between making the invitations and working 90 hours/week in the lab. I certainly didn’t have any desire, or time, to undertake this project… but I was stuck. Fifty yarmulkes in, I happened to mention my misery in her presence… and she lost it, yelling that she thought it was a terrible idea from the beginning and tried to discourage me from making them from the beginning but I insisted.

At this moment, I learned the single most valuable lesson from my entire wedding planning process: a difficult mother must be treated like a vendor.  From that moment on, every request my mother made was signed in writing (generally email, as she lived several hours away). Phone conversations were followed up with emails as such:

“Dear Mother, This email is to confirm your request for four (4) trapeze artists to perform during the wedding ceremony. You are aware that the venue coordinator has warned that the ceilings are to low to accommodate the acrobats, but have still requested us to acquire said acrobats. Please reply to this email ASAP to confirm or deny said request.”

A bit harsh? Perhaps. But the ability to pull up e-mails solved every single argument that came up throughout the rest of the wedding planning process, and I only wish I had thought of it sooner.

Oh, and as for those yarmulkes? Well, once all was said and done and the pictures came back, I was glad that I had them, and the guests raved. But would I ever consider croching them again? No way!

handmade yarmulkes
{Jennifer Childress Photography}