Wedding in Chile: Celebration!

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five


Erika and Israel chose to be married at a really gorgeous park in Santiago called Cerro Santa Lucia.  There was some discussion about how to get there, all dressed up in our wedding finery.  But since it was only a few blocks from our hotel, the bride and groom decided it would be fun to walk.

Israel hadn’t seen Erika in her dress yet, so David took him just around the corner to wait for Erika.  The rest of us walked Erika down into the lobby and out of the hotel, with John escorting her in the lead.  As soon as Erika stepped onto the sidewalk, car horns began to honk, first one, then 3 or 4 at a time.

As Erika walked, glowing, sounds of celebration accompanied her.  People rolled down car windows to wave and shout congratulations and smile.  It was amazing.  We followed Erika, smiling and smiling.  As she neared the corner where Israel was, John let her go forward alone, and we hung back so that she and Israel could have a moment to themselves. Then we all walked on, with Erika and Israel in the lead.

Walking to the wedding

Wherever they walked, people smiled and cheered.  Took pictures.  Shouted congratulations. Everyone wanted to enter into the moment, and share the joy.  In the process they added to all of our joy, and gave us some of the best memories of our time in Chile.  We felt like we were seeing the heart of the people.

Santa Lucia is something straight out of a fairy tale.  I’d seen photos, and knew it was lovely.   But I was still amazed.  Everywhere you look, there’s another lovely vignette– basically it is a photographer’s dream.   When we got there, we didn’t immediately see the pastor, who was to meet us there.  Erika’s host-mom Gina was there, however, exclaiming over how beautiful she was, and clucking over the fact that the bottom edge of Erika’s dress was already getting dirty.  As we waited for the pastor, David got started on a few photos, and John took some as well.

Totally uncharacteristically, I’d chosen to leave my camera back at the hotel. I was so sure of David’s mad skillz that I knew anything I got wouldn’t be half as good.  Plus my big clunky camera bag would look horrid in photos. 😉  I felt a little odd without my camera, but as you can see, my confidence in David was well placed.

All around us were people enjoying their Saturday.  Everyone smiled at the sight of the bride and groom, and many got out cameras and got their own pictures of the happy couple.   But they also did their best not be be intrusive, ducking apologetically out of camera shots and staying a respectful distance whenever they could.

At one point a little girl, maybe 4 or 5, came shyly up to say hi to Erika.   While the little girl’s mom looked on from a few feet away, Erika knelt down and spoke to the little girl in Spanish, and then gave her a kiss on the cheek. The little girl glowed like she’d just been kissed by a princess.

After a little while we located the pastor.  Due to a little miscommunication, he’d been waiting one level above where we were.  He was a kind-faced man who spoke only Spanish. We gathered at the bottom of a sweeping staircase for the ceremony.  Then John walked Erika ‘in’ across a big stone courtyard, and presented her to Israel.

The ceremony was short and sweet and entirely in Spanish.  Erika and her host mom were probably the only ones who understood all of what that pastor said.   But Spanish has words similar to English here and there, and we’d all been to enough weddings that we could guess what he was saying at any given moment.  And of course we all knew what Erika and Israel were there to promise.

Then, of course, it was time for lots more photos.   (What else would you expect from the wedding of a photographer?)  Here are a few of my favorites. As you can see, it was a wonderful day in every way.

The last bit of official business for the day was to get on the computer and change their facebook status to ‘married’.  🙂  Big congratulations, you two!   We are so happy for you, and so blessed to have shared in such a wonderful day in your lives.  We are praying every good thing for your future together.


Photos by David Shirk, Unplugged Photography  (More pictures over here on John’s blog!)

Wedding in Chile: last minute shopping

Part One | Part Two

John started the morning by walking Erika to the subway stop so she could go pick up Israel from the airport.  I think we were all holding our breath that he (the last member of the wedding party) would get there without a problem.  When John got back, David, Ann, Sandra, Marcia, John and I gathered to check out La Vega, a huge open-air market that looked on the map to be fairly close to our hotel.

The morning was gorgeous, crisp, 60’s and sunny. We arrived at the market after an easy 15 minute walk.  Small stalls on blocks ringed the perimeter of the main market, which was a huge covered stadium-like area.  David, Sandra and I all had big cameras and we were using them.  A man immediately came speaking warningly in Spanish.  He gestured for us to keep our cameras close and in front of us.  Dangerous, he said.  Minutes later yet another man issued us the same warning, and I started wondering just how unsafe this destination was.  I pulled my camera bag around onto my chest so that no one would come up behind me to steal something, and tried to stay within a dozen feet of John.

Wandering through the meat section of the market, guys behind a counter mugged for the cameras, and others looked disappointed that we didn’t buy from them.  A picture with pig heads was essential in my book.

Just beyond that I walked past a flat of strawberries whose heavenly aroma reached my nose from 5 feet away.  The woman behind the counter offered me a taste, and I smiled a refusal.   But the man working the stall with her wouldn’t take no for an answer.   He scooped up a handful of berries and handed them out to all of us. I haven’t tasted a better strawberry ever.  Sweet perfection.   The man saw the smile on my face, went over to the flat, and scooped 3 pounds or so into a plastic bag.  He pressed the bag into my hands.   I tried to ask him what they cost, and he said, “No, no, no!   A gift of Chile!”

John asked about the cost and offered money and the man again refused, so we thanked him and walked on.  John said he got the feeling that the man would have been insulted if we’d further insisted on paying.   We walked on, exclaiming over how kind he was. Someone else offered us olives to try, and just a little further a man peeled and offered me ‘tuna’ (Chilean prickly pear).  He waited til I took a bite and looked pleased when I exclaimed over it. The fruit at Erika’s host-mom’s house the day before had been exceedingly good as well, including the best cantaloupe I’d ever eaten.

Sandra and Marcia and I had fun looking at dishes.  Sandra bought some pretty plates and I found a rolling pin for Erika and some kitchen towels for Erika and Amanda. John bought a cheap calculator, thinking it would help bridge the language barrier.  We did fine asking how much things cost, but if the answer was anything other than uno, dos, tres, or quatro ‘mil’ (thousand), we were lost.  An interesting note:  the exchange rate was about 480 pesos to the dollar.  To get a rough estimate of the value in USD, you take 3 zeros off the cost and doubled the remaining number.   For example, something that was labeled as $10,000 (pesos) actually cost roughly $20 (USD).

Around 10:30 we decided to head back to the hotel and see if Erika had returned.  Sure enough, there she was, glowing happily with Israel beside her.  I think we all gave a sigh of relief.  Erika had been planning on going to get flowers with us this morning, but Israel was tired from his flight, and she didn’t want to leave him.

So she sent us out to shop on our own with instructions to buy wedding flowers and a cake.  It was already after 11 AM.  We needed to get back in time to make a bouquet and flowers for everyone, and get dressed and help Erika dress all before meeting the pastor at Santa Lucia at 2:30. The biggest snag?  We didn’t know exactly where to look for either flowers or cake.

Erika suggested we go to another market, Mercado Central, not far from the one we’d visited that morning.  There were no flowers.  An English-speaking tour agency employee was handing out brochures outside the market, so we asked her where flowers could be found.  She gestured vaguely across the road, but didn’t look very sure of herself.

By my calculations, flower arranging was going to take an hour even with help from the grandmas, and getting myself ready and Erika’s hair curled would probably take another hour.  The very latest that I wanted to be back at the hotel was 12:30.  It was now almost noon.  I was ready to go into overdrive and get these flowers found.   But our group was moving slowly, and every time I looked back, people were strung out a little further apart.

Just before I turned on my rocket boosters 😉  I tersely warned everyone to stick with someone who had either a phone (David or me), or who knew their way back to the hotel (David, Ron, and me) because I wasn’t waiting.  Everyone huddled up nicely after that, and at the time I was too concerned about deadlines at that point to worry about sounding rude.  (Sorry, folks!)  We got across the divided quad-lane road in good time, and sure enough, straight ahead were about 10 little flower shops all in a row. Hooray!

We walked from one to the next, trying to find daylilies the shade of orange-red that Erika had requested and that were already open enough to use that very day –(actually, in a mere 2.5 hours, not that I was counting).  Victory!  Next we found babies breath and roses in a complimentary color for everyone else.  David, Mom and I had a discussion about whether Erika’s bouquet needed filler flowers.  No, we decided.  We bought half a dozen stems of daylilies, ten roses, and a little clump of babies breath for about $15.  I hoped that would be enough.

We decided to head back the direction of the hotel down some different streets, in hopes of coming across a bakery that sold cakes.  David, Sandra, John, Marcia and I were in the lead, walking fast.  Most of the rest of the group was clumped with Ron, who was walking at a more leisurely pace.  David and Sandra scanned their Spanish-English dictionary for the right word as they walked, and John, Marcia and I scanned the sides of buildings.  Then the sky opened up and the favor of heaven shone down upon us.  Across the street in foot-high letters across the top of a big building were the words Panaderia Pasteleria.  And there was cake in the window.

After a quick glance for traffic, I darted across the street right in the middle of the block (probably not the smartest move in crazy-driving Santiago) and went into the building smiling.  Cake, blessed cake.  Lots of it.  John soon caught up, and we looked at options together.  Something white and round, I decided, which narrowed the options down to cake embellished with pineapple.

John then had a brainstorm.   He suggested we buy two round cakes, one large and one small, so we could stack the small cake on top of the large one.  Perfect!  In very broken Spanish we tried to explain about the wedding to the lady behind the counter.  When Marcia started to hum the Wedding March, understanding broke across the lady’s face, and she smiled and congratulated us.  Within minutes she had two white cakes boxed and ready to go.  $12,000 pesos.  Sweet.

We were now three blocks from the hotel, and it was just 12:30.  There was hope for us.  I’d packed florist tape and wire, so we had most of what we needed for our flower arranging, but walking down the next block, I remembered one item I didn’t have: corsage pins.  Yikes.  What were the chances of finding those in the short time we had?  I scanned the block and saw a little shop that looked possible, something like a cross between a dollar store and a drug store.

I ran in and got the attention of a worker, but then realized I had no idea how to say ‘pin’ in Spanish.  I made a motion like I was poking my finger with something sharp and then said ‘ouch!’  She laughed, shook her head no, but then– glory be– gestured toward the store next door.  Next door, believe it or not, was a yarn and knitting shop, and they had pins in the perfect size.  Was God watching out for us or what? It seemed to take a ridiculously long time to get someone to get pins from the locked cupboard  (who locks up pins?!)  and then take our money.  But finally, finally we were on our way back to the hotel with everything we needed.

Now, time to finish the preparations.  As we walked, me suddenly all relaxed, we laughed over the craziness of finishing wedding shopping less than two hours before the wedding.  Marcia agreed to come help Erika and me do flowers.   Then she would go get dressed.  My mom said she’d get dressed first, and then come help me curl Erika’s hair.   It was coming together.

Back at our room Erika exclaimed happily over her flowers, and we got to work. On the list:  1 bride’s bouquet, 4 boutonnieres, and 5 corsages.  It was 1 PM.  We decided that the rosebuds were a little large for the men’s boutonnieres, so we peeled some of the outer petals off to bring them down to size.  Then we backed each rose with a few rose leaves, trimmed it to the right length and wrapped the stems with florist tape.

We did corsages the same way, except we left those roses full size and put in babies breath instead of rose leaves.  With the three of us working together, it went amazingly fast. By 1:30 we had all the flowers in the fridge, and were scooping scraps into the garbage.

When John saw the heap of rose petals on the counter, he told us not to toss them.  He suggested we use them to decorate the cake.  I thought that was a brilliant idea, and promptly gave him the job of building and decorating the cake.  This wedding truly was a group effort.

Now that the flowers were together I started to really feel how neat this thing was.  Sure, some moments would have been more relaxed if it had been possible to do more ahead of time.  And yet there was a real beauty in involving everyone, and just pulling it together at the end like this.

John had changed while we did flowers, so I then went to change quickly so that Erika could have the bathroom and start getting ready herself.  At this point with multiple people coming in and out of our apartment, it was really wonderful to have a true apartment with a separate living room, not just a dinky hotel room.  In fact, many times over the week we were glad for the space in that apartment.  It was a comfortable gathering place for the whole group.

After I changed, I helped Erika with a few dabs of makeup.  She didn’t need much — she positively glowed!  Then we started in on hair. My mom, already dressed, came in to help, and we curled away.  It was 1:45.  David (official photographer for this shindig) came in to get some pictures of our preparations.

He also helped John stack the wedding cake in the kitchen, a momentarily precarious operation that I wish I’d gotten a photo of.  But I was too busy curling.  When asked if Israel looked nervous, David said he didn’t think so– he was too busy rassling his tie.

After John and David got the cake stacked (on our hotel-room breakfast tray!) John arranged rose petals around the edges of both layers of the cake, and laid the last rosebud across the top of the cake.  It ended up looking like a truly professional effort.  I always knew I married a great guy, but I didn’t know til then that cake decorating was a skill he possessed.

Soon after that, Marcia came back, dressed and ready to help some more. (Bless her!)  I assigned her the job of pinning on corsages and boutonnieres.  I also remembered that no one had eaten lunch.  We grabbed some food out of the fridge to set out on the counter:  those wonderful strawberries, bread, juice, and cheese.  That would have to be enough.


2:15 – Erika’s hair was finally done.  I had a moment of concern when she looked in the mirror and said it wasn’t quite right.  But she wet it a bit and sprayed it a bit, and got it more to her liking and all was well.  Time to put on the dress.  When it came time to zip it up, I think she and I both held our breath.  The last time she’d tried it on was 9 month earlier when she bought it, and it was very form-fitting. But it zipped easily and she looked just stunning.  Hooray!  It was 2:30.  Time to go get married!

Go to Part Four


Wedding in Chile: Go out with joy

Part One

Friday evening we gathered in front of the hotel to get cabs to the restaurant. With 9 of us, we figured we’d only need two. But when five of us tried to cram into the first cab, the driver shook his head disapprovingly and pointed to a sign on the front windshield stating that no more than 4 passengers ride in a cab. OK, 3 cabs then.

Erika had bought us two pay-as-you-go telephones so that we could communicate. So into the first cab went one phone and 3 people. Same for the second cab. John and I went alone in the last cab, but I figured that since I had the address written out, it would be OK.

The cab driver squinted at my paper to read the address to the restaurant, (Como Agua Para Chocolate) nodded his understanding and zoomed off. We headed in the general direction that I’d expected from my map-studying, so I settled back for the ride.  He stopped on a poorly-lit block and pointed to an alley blockaded by a tall metal-rail gate.  Um?

He repeated the house number and gestured as if to say, ‘this is it’.  We were dubious and not inclined to get out and let him leave us there.  He gestured for me to hand him the paper and turned on the dome light to read it again. ‘Oh!’ he said, and repeated the number with a different street name.  Apparently he’d driven us to a street with a similar name, not the right name.  He punched a button to start the cab-fare from zero again, zipped off, and soon had us to our destination, where the rest of the party was waiting for us to arrive.

We were exceedingly glad to see everyone, and were soon ushered to a long table in a huge rustic-looking room: blue plaster walls and rustic wood beams and rough shutters set alongside old windows.  We’d arrived a little after 8 pm, and the restaurant was fairly quiet then.  (People in Chile typically eat dinner quite late, and it is not at all uncommon for them to just be leaving restaurants around midnight.)

By the time we’d been there an hour or so, business had picked up and by 10PM when we left, the huge place was full of noisy diners. Food was gorgeously presented, and pictures were necessary as each new dish came out.

To the right is filet mignon with bacon and sweet peppers.  It was garnished with a chard leaf attached with an uncooked spaghetti noodle.   To the left is a huge platter of shrimp fajitas shared by a couple of the ladies.  All the dishes were beautifully presented, and most were extremely generous portion-wise.  Several of us came home with leftovers in boxes– the kitchens in our hotel rooms made taking home extras an easy choice.

Back at our hotel we were pleased to discover that the living room couch folded down into a bed and there was extra bedding in the closet– convenient since Erika was staying in our apartment that night.  It was her last night with us….I felt a little nostalgic thinking of all the years Erika has spent with us.  But her joy and anticipation over the next day made it hard for me to feel too unhappy.  She was ready for this step in her life.

Now all we needed was for the groom to arrive.  Tomorrow.

Go to Part Three

Wedding in Chile: Gathering the guests

(Prologue to this story)

The location:  Santiago, Chile, 10-15 hours flying time for most of the guests

The wedding party:

  • John and me, parents of Erika
  • Ann, mother of Israel
  • Hazel and Ron, my parents
  • Marcia, John’s mom
  • David and Sandra, Israel’s brother and sister
  • Gina, Erika’s Chilean host mom

Random things we learned:

  • It takes three cabs to transport ten people anywhere
  • Parking garages in Santiago are not open on Sunday
  • Eggplant lasagna can be amazingly wonderful
  • Tours consisting primarily of photographers take a long time to get anywhere


More on that soon.  But now, on to the story.

Part One: Gathering the Guests

The first guests to arrive in Chile were my parents, on Thursday morning.  About the time that they were arriving in Chile, John, his mom, and I were leaving for Chile. Thursday flights went smoothly, except for a brief snafu over seating on the 9 hour flight from Dallas to Santiago. That ended up with us getting bulkhead seats all in a row, much better seats than we initially were supposed to have.  Leg room– hooray!!

Off the plane in Santiago we changed money and went through immigration. Going through customs were were a bit slowed by my dried fruit  (it had to be inspected, of all things).  At one point people in line near us gestured for us to look upward, and there in an upstairs glass-walled hallway looking down and waving wildly were Erika, David, Ann and Sandra.  David, Ann, and Sandra had arrived in Chile only half an hour or so ahead of us, and Erika had come to meet us all. By the time we got through our immigration line, they had arranged for a minivan with a driver to shuttle us to our hotel in downtown Santiago.

Check-in was not the speediest thing.  We were glad for Erika’s Spanish since people there did not speak English, and our little hotel (actually a tiny apartment complex) is one of many businesses in a huge building.  But once the apartment manager/housekeeper showed up, Erika was able to help us through.  Once in our various rooms (5 total) we discovered that they were well-equipped and clean and looked exactly like the internet pictures.

We checked out the cute little pool on the roof, and took a few pictures of the view around us.  Then we had just a little time to unpack before it was time to leave to visit Gina (Erika’s host mom) for lunch.  We were tired enough that it felt difficult to think of leaving so soon after our all-night flights.  But we felt honored to have been invited.

We began with a short walk to the subway, then 15 minutes or so riding the subway, including a line change.  Then it was time for a 15 minute walk to the house.  It was a perfect, sunny 70 degree day with little breeze.  You could not have picked a nicer day for walking. Her host mom lives in a charming little house in a lovely neighborhood.  We saw an aloe vera plant that — no joke– was big enough that it would overflow the bed of a pickup truck.  The houses are gated, with charming doors and shutters, and pretty wrought-iron bars on windows–security like we saw in Ethiopia, but with more character and nicer materials.

David is a professional photographer, and Sandra and John and I all enjoy taking pictures, so at any given moment during the trip, chances were good that someone was taking pictures.The dinner party was no exception. On arriving at Gina’s, we were embraced and kissed and set into the living room with drinks to talk.  Gina doesn’t speak much English, and Erika and one other guest were the only ones who spoke both languages.  So conversation was halting, but we did ok.

Gina had several relatives and friends there to visit with us and help cook and serve us a lovely dinner out on the covered patio.  The patio is amazing, with grapes and lemons and olives growing all around, along with white and yellow trumpet flowers.  Just lovely.

Lunch was 3 courses:  first sliced tomatoes and cucumbers and bread and fritatta-like lettuce/egg ‘pancakes’.  Next came eggplant/sausage lasagna, seasoned very mildly, and absolutely delicious, served with a different bread. Gina promised me the recipe and I seriously think we need to try growing eggplant again this year.  Finally there was a lovely fruit platter — actually one for each end of our big table.  There were 14 people counting her friends and relatives, though one young lady devoted herself strictly to serving.

Erika sat at one end of the table– boy, she is learning lots of Spanish!!– and the translator/friend served to help conversation along at the other end.  It was really fun.  Topics ranged from Venezualan coffee to eggplant to politics.  Gina, her host mom, is just gold,  the sweetest lady you can imagine, and I felt so blessed to know she has been watching over Erika.

Despite the language barriers, conversation continued long after lunch, and we were all having such fun visiting and sitting around in the hammock that it was hard to leave.  But there was still the walk and the subway ride back. Eventually around 5 PM we had to tear ourselves away.

People were getting tired, I think, and the group had stragglers on the walk back. Six of our group had only slept on the airplane.  John had felt extremely exhausted during our little time in the hotel room before lunch, but he rallied admirably when we were out and about and joked and laughed and enjoyed the afternoon.  Sandra was most tired by the end of the walk/subway home, though she was gamely hanging in there.

At one point the subway was so full that only half of us could get on before doors shut– we were smashed in like utter sardines– and so we had to regroup at the next subway stop.  Luckily we had time to communicate before the doors shut, and we did a good job of keeping our partial groups together, and reconnecting at the next stop.   The subways, though crowded at rush hour, feel safe and very clean, much like in Korea.

Back at the hotel we enjoyed short naps and a bit of rest/downtime.  Then it was time to get ready for our 8PM dinner reservations in Patio Bella Vista, at a place called ‘Como Agua para Chocolate’.

Part two of the story here!


Our Chile trip: the rest of the story

As I begin to write to you about our trip, I need to tell you about the dual challenge I was working under. First, the normal blogger’s challenge: how do you take readers along on a trip without telling the whole world you’re out of your house? Even if everyone at home is well supervised, it is still not something you want to trumpet over broadband.

The second challenge was more unusual.  John and I had been planning an anniversary trip, and did indeed choose to take that trip to Chile to see our daughter who is studying abroad.  But we were enticed.  Back in January, after spending just a few weeks apart, Erika and her boyfriend/fiance of two years surprised us by deciding to get married over spring break.  In Chile.  They wanted a few of their closest family to come, but they wanted to surprise almost everyone else in their lives. To give you an idea of the scope of this secret– most of my sisters didn’t even know until last week.

So last week when I was writing about leaving for Chile, John and I were actually on our way to a wedding in Chile.  On Saturday, in  stunningly beautiful Santa Lucia in Santiago Chile our Erika married her Israel.  We couldn’t be happier for them and we are wishing God’s every blessing on their lives.

I’ll be writing more about our trip in the next days as we get unpacked and try to segue back into normal life.  I’ll also be sharing more photos.  The pictures below were taken by Israel’s awesome brother David Shirk, of Unplugged Photography.  I can’t wait to see more– I am sure they are gonna be amazing!  But finally you (and my sisters! 😉  ) know the rest of the story!

$10 Date Success

For the past two evenings John and I have had time to ourselves, thanks to vacation Bible school and the fact that the only solitary thing I was asked to do for it this year was to bring a few pounds of grapes.    (Hip hip hooray!  And thank you to all the wonderful teachers, craft leaders, rec leaders and snack people who are contributing to the fun my children are having this week!   I’ve done one or two of those jobs over the years and not a one of them is easy.)

Anyway, John and I and our time….   The first evening since we couldn’t really think of what to do, we drove around running little errands.  Fred Meyers had 79 cents/lb grapes and $1.59/lb hamburger.  We got $10 bed sheets at Target and $2.49 clearance t-shirts for our son who’s heading off to college oh-so-soon.  We swung by Home Depot for 400 pounds of concrete mix for a project of John’s and 2 types of basil plants (cinnamon basil and Thai basil) that I hope will thrive in a pot in my kitchen.   Wanna guess which items I carried out of Home Depot?  🙂

We finished off the evening with 60-cent ice cream cones at Arctic Circle.  Aren’t we romantic? 🙂 Actually the evening was fun. Relaxing.  Nothing too frivolous, nothing too expensive.  But let’s face it: shopping dates may be good for the company, but they are not gonna save ya much money.

This evening we came up with another plan.  I packed root beer and grapes and cucumbers into a cooler.  We grabbed books and a blanket and John’s mp3 player.  After we dropped kids off at church we stopped at the grocery store deli for fried chicken and some good bread. $6.

Then off we went to spread our blanket in the grass in the nearest park for a picnic.  The 85-degree day felt utterly perfect in the shade of some big trees.

Blue sky above.

Green grass under bare feet.

Good company and good conversation.

Books and a blanket for basking in evening light after dinner.




unexpected fruit

When we first moved to our place in the country, the landscaping consisted of a hillside full of weeds, a good-sized rock pile, and a bedraggled wild rose that still today ekes out a living on our ditch bank. We dreamed of trees, huge ones, shady and rustling in the wind.  So whenever we had a few extra dollars, we’d go buy another tree.

That particular day, we had colorful leaves in mind, and so we went to the nursery and picked an ornamental plum tree.  I was sure that we needed to go get the pickup truck to tote it home,  but John was equally sure that it would fit beautifully into the back of the minivan.   It was one of those moments that flamed to fierceness, both of us frustrated at the other’s bullheadedness.

Tired of doing battle in the nursery parking lot, John forced the tree into the back of the van. Tender toward the tree instead of my husband, I insisted on riding in back to support the tree.  Unable to dissuade me, he spun out of the parking lot with unnecessary force, with both me and the tree shifting uneasily around in the back of the minivan at every turn.

My hissed cautions from the back only gave him more of a leadfoot.  He was determined to get home where he could escape his shrewish wife.  By the time we finally made it there, we were both so upset that the last thing we wanted to do was plant a tree together.  We did somehow, but as I watched his strong angry shovel toss fresh dirt grave-like onto the root ball, I knew I’d never be able to look at this tree without remembering the feelings of this moment.  Including the shame already creeping in at the realization that my cussedness had played way too big a role in the tempest.

I wondered if the tree would die– almost hoped it would, actually.   But it was made of tough stock.  It grew and thrived and grew some more.  Soon the mailbox became hard to see past the plum.

Ornamental it is.  The leaves are a lovely purple, especially in the spring when growth is new.  But a handful of years after the planting, it surprised us by bearing fruit.  Tart, yes, just like the words spoken as we barreled home that afternoon.  But lovely for plum jam, and also much coveted by hungry children who spend July afternoons swimming.  Late in the day just before dinner, they can often be found standing around the tree, reaching high for the ripest, warmest, deepest-purple treasure.

I still wish I’d handled that day with more grace, more love, less stubbornness.  But instead of being a bitter memory, that tree to me is now living evidence of resilience, of forgiveness, of grace, and of unexpected blessing, more than we deserve.


I’ve been rassling a post for more than a week, mostly at bedtime. Each night after working it over for a good long while, sure it is on the brink of done, I decide I still haven’t done it justice, and it still isn’t quite ready to be tossed out to the world. And I post something else. This night is no different. So I will leave you with a picture of my darling Eldest, our first-born. And I’ll ask you to finish this sentence for me.

Love is….

Where we were today

just a kiss

We stand in a crowd at a banquet, my husband and I.  Dinner is done and folk dancing is a-swirl in the center of the room.  We consider dancing, but given our lack of familiarity with folk dancing, we decide we’ll have more fun simply watching our son and his friends.  I take pictures of the action and we chat contentedly.  My husband flirts with me, letting me know that to him I’m the prettiest girl in the room, 18-year-old girls included.

I’m a lucky woman and I know it. I glow a smile his way and lean in for a quick kiss.  A young man walking past spots the smooch.  I expect him to glance quickly away thinking, 40-something lovebirds — yikes.  But instead his eyes linger, as if he’s seeing something sweet, unexpected. He smiles at us, and keeps smiling as he walks on.

I suddenly remember my parents. When I was growing up, my dad would come up behind my mom in the kitchen, wrap his arms around her and kiss her on the neck. She’d lean back into his embrace with a smile. I remember how safe and warm their embrace made me feel. I knew love lived in my world, and it made me hope for a romance like that someday.

I’ve thought about that young man several times since that dance. I hope we weren’t the first long-married couple he’s seen still in love. I hope his parents love each other, and I hope they kiss, warmly, right in front of his eyes. Because when we married folks show our love for each other, not only does it nurture us, it also gives the young people around us a hope for a happy future of their own.
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How did you learn to be married?
Can you increase your own kids’ chances at successful marriage?