(also published on MariaShriver.com December 12, 2014)
It’s a love story.
Not naïve, innocent love blissfully anticipating a future of joy.
But the story of a life already lived and the wherewithal and desire to deepen the commitment…..
On a hot summer night in July, Twin Hearts Farm in Sebago was the picture-perfect setting of my dear friend’s wedding. She was marrying a man she has lived with at the farm for 20 years. They are in their 60’s. The time is right.
It’s rare that a work colleague breaks into my personal world and more so, my most intimate circle of friends. Most of my friends I’ve had since my teens; there isn’t much room for more. But Joanne crept in and grabbed my heart. I am a better person for having met her.
Joanne is a character – the hardest worker I’ve ever met, deeply caring, curious, kind, analytical, authentically her. I’ve never met someone quite like her. She would truly give you the shirt off her back and over the years, she’s encouraged, supported me and been the truest of friends.
When she told me she was getting married (after 20 years???) at the farm (how gorgeous!) and a good friend of the family’s would be the chef (now I get it….more work for her instead of being pampered at a catered affair), I instantly said I’d “work” it. I’d be the sous chef, I’d bus tables, I’d serve, wash dishes, whatever she needed.
Typically Joanne, she was touched, unclear how deeply she mattered to me.
Here’s why --
More than 20 years ago, the year my older son was born, for his first year of life, I worked 9:00-1:00 each day and then returned 6:00-9:00 p.m. three nights per week. Joanne had just gone through a divorce and her ex-husband was trying to steal the family farm.
So…she drove an hour from Sebago each early morning, worked all day with me in a fast paced job, and then cleaned our office at night. She left hours after my 9:00 shift ended and drove back to Sebago, an hour, in the rain and snow and deep of night, got up the next day and did it all again….for years. I watched as she cleaned the office better than our cleaning crew ever had. I begged her to cut back, skip vacuuming my office because it didn’t need it every day. Nope. She wouldn’t bend. Dedication runs deep in her veins.
Witnessing that, and what she’s been through, I’ve loved her ever since.
She saved the farm.
And now the wedding. Twenty years later, she is ready to try a man’s love again.
No surprise, I met several at the wedding with equally compelling stories of why this pair means so much to them. Four of us, one who came from Portsmouth, another from Vermont, cooked her favorite French meal (for which she did all the prep): soups, mussels with wine and shallots, brioche, salmon (with grapes we peeled), pork tenderloin. We lovingly set up the éclair bar and sauces to drizzle, hauled dishes in from the garden, and danced a little in front of the barn as we passed, wearing mismatched aprons and holding our serving trays overhead, smiles ear-to-ear and just a tear or two.
Physically, I’ve never worked so hard in my life; catering is not for wimps. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
It was a night to remember – representing life, love, family and all that is right in the world.
I find weddings of seasoned folks so much more “the stuff of life.” The couple and siblings were honest in saying the two had weathered some tough times. Their vows were not just promises, but real life already experienced.
As our kitchen crew raised champagne flutes with the guests, I knew I was privileged to witness the beauty in their truth.