Today is the 33rd wedding anniversary for Rebecka and I. Let’s review, shall we?
33 years ago Rebecka and I had lived together for four years, 2 years on our sailboat.
Followed by 2 years in LA as Rebecka studied for her Masters in Public Health and I taught at the high school for bad boys and bad girls.
Some of my little rascals at a Leadership activity.
One evening as she was nearing graduation from UCLA she said, “We need to talk.” Every man who just read those words felt their stomach tighten because “We need to talk” means that the status quo will no longer be “quo.”
In the morning we went to UCLA and bought breakfast in the Commons and Rebecka began.
“I believe it’s time to get married.”
I nodded in approval. “Congratulations, are you marrying anyone I know?”
(Rebecka requested the following edit after reading this:)
“I believe it’s time to get married.”
I nodded in approval. “Do you have anyone in mind?” She says it is more accurate, funnier, and more insulting, all at the same time.
She was not amused, so I engaged the conversation about why she wanted to get married. And she had good reasons, so I agreed. My only request was that the wedding not have elephants and acrobats like my first wedding which had ended after five years and had left me a little gun shy about marriage. At Rebecka’s request I will include photos of that first wedding because she loves the jacket.
With Dad, Jerrie Stringer, and Mom. When my mother went looking for wedding attire for me she balked at the price for rentals so she bought this jacket. “You will get a lot of use out of a nice jacket like this.” Oddly enough, she was mistaken.
The Elephants and Acrobats, “Come one, come all!”
Wedding #2, the Real Thing
Rebecka and I ended up spending almost nothing on our wedding because of the generosity of family and friends. Judy and Tom Buffalo, for whom Rebecka had been babysitter to their children, gave us the run of their mansion home in La Jolla and they rented chairs, tables, and canopies. My sister is Elizabeth, whose real name is “Sis” and who supposedly was a teacher for children with special needs but seemed to spend half her time being a social worker, asking around to her friends for a spare crib and delivering it to a poor family in a bare apartment in Logan Heights. Sis arranged the wedding feast as an opportunity to encourage some of the poor mothers of her students to start a catering business with their excellent Mexican Food.
Gavin and KC Hamels and Robin Lang as flower girl.
As I recall, the only money Rebecka and I spent on the wedding was to hire a band from Tijuana. I was a little concerned with having a band playing Mexican dance music because my Dad had aged into a period where he was more than happy to share his unkind views of our neighbors to the South. But as soon as the band started he moved toward the music and sat right in front. During a band break he came over to me, smiling. “Man oh man, this takes me back to when I was 18 years old and in Navy boot camp here and we would go down to TJ and drink. Those were the days! You can get as drunk as a sailor, but you can’t get any drunker.”
My Dad and Godmother Frenchie
Our wedding was officiated by Lutheran Pastor Rev. Margaret Suiter with whom Rebecka had worked during the summer between the first and second years in her Masters program at UCLA. Rebecka had spent two months in El Salvador, which was in a bloody civil war, and one of her duties was going to the Salvadoran Army, Police, and security forces looking for Salvadorans that had been disappeared. It was a job too dangerous for Salvadorans, but they hoped a blonde gringa would not be kidnapped.
She also accompanied Salvadoran farm families who years before had been forcibly removed from their villages by the army and who wanted to return without permission, and needed foreign observers to protect them from police and army reprisals.
Trust Rebecka to always have a good answer to the question, “And what did you do last summer, Rebecka?”
Immediately after our wedding we moved to Mexico City were Rebecka began her work in International public health, at CORA, which educated Mexican adolescents on safe sex.
Family planning was so behind the times in Mexico that it was considered taboo to even say the word “condom”. So to shock people into the 1980’s, CORA distributed key chains with a condom in a clear plastic case which said, “Open in case of emergency.”
Mexico was my introduction to living and traveling with Rebecka.
Lunch at Steve and Betsy’s in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
Rebecka took me several times to San Andres Ziróndaroin, in the State of Michoacán de Ocampo, the small village she had lived in for six months during her Watson Fellowship after college. The two men here are brothers in the family that hosted her.
It was while visiting San Andres, and seeing Rebecka adored and treated like a queen, that I began to think that being married with her would be an adventure, little did I know.
Rebecka and I were watching Top Chef together yesterday because the chefs were competing in Italy and it brought tears to my eyes to see beautiful Italy, because I have been to Italy, I know parts of Italy, I love Italy, and I never would have seen Italy if Rebecka had not asked me to marry her.
Florence and Rome
Torino, Italy with Ayisha Varraich
Venice with my, “Back off pickpockets!” look.
If Rebecka had not proposed to me I would not have my family.
I’m pretty sure I would not have survived much longer if I had never met Rebecka, those were dark times for me, and she stood by me through those my tempests and torments. The truth is, Rebecka saved my life and the girls filled it with joy.
In conclusion, I was once waiting for the elevator at the American Bar Association in DC and a coworker asked me how I had managed to have decades filled with social justice work and adventures in the same life time. I replied, “I married well. And the ironic part, is that Rebecka thought she was marrying well.”
Happy anniversary, Rebecka, I love you very much.