Updated: Sep 19, 2018
I married my lovely wife exactly eleven years ago today. That's not me in the photo, of course. That would be the father of the bride. It's staggering to think it's been eleven years. Time just continues to whiz by at supersonic speeds. One minute you're trying to decide what flavor of cake you want for the reception, the next minute you're trying to decide which restaurant to go to for your eleventh wedding anniversary. Yikes!
Maybe if we watch the wedding video it will remind us of how long ago it really was. Videos are funny that way. They have a tendency to bring it all back: The ceremony, family and friends, the reception, the food, the music, the honeymoon.
When you read the title "Spanish Honeymoon," you might think that our honeymoon was in Spain. It wasn't. Our honeymoon was in Spanish. Well ... it wasn't all in Spanish. Mostly just the parts with my South American parents-in-law who accompanied us on the trip. Oh ... did I forget to mention that part?
Maybe I should start from the beginning.
My wife is an only child. Anyone with a significant other who has no siblings will tell you, if you marry an only child, you get the parents, too. That's not to say that you're obligated to bring them along on your honeymoon, of course. But in addition to my wife being an only child, she's also from Venezuela. She came here on her own as an adult. Her parents still lived in South America.
I've never been to Venezuela, and my future in-laws had never been to the United States. I had spoken to them briefly on the telephone, using the little bit of Spanish that I knew at the time. I even officially asked for their daughter's hand in marriage over the phone (in perfect Spanish, of course) ... but we had still not met in person.
For a while, we weren't even sure they were going to make it here for the wedding. There were immigration issues we were dealing with. They needed to apply for their visas. There was a problem. Her father didn't have a Venezuelan passport ... all he had at the time was his passport from Colombia, his native country. He had become a Venezuelan citizen a few years earlier, but never received his Venezuelan passport. All very complicated stuff for a guy who had lived in Minnesota his whole life and had only been to a handful of states, and whose only experience with International travel consisted of driving to Canada for a week's stay in Sault Ste. Marie. And that was before you even needed a passport to travel to the Great White North.
It's funny how you don't know just how naive you are about certain things. Aside from being a bit unlearned when it came to immigration issues, I was also unfamiliar with what it was like to be an only child. I was raised in a relatively large family, at least by today's standards. I have a pair of brothers and a pair of sisters, all much more accomplished and responsible than myself. Truth be told, I always knew that when it came time to take care of our parents the way they took care of us for all those years, there would be others to confer with. It's not like I'm irresponsible or a bad brother (at least I hope I'm not). It's just that I always knew that I wouldn't be on my own. I always knew that I wouldn't have the weight of the world on my shoulders. Eleven years ago, I was getting ready to marry someone who didn't have that luxury. It was a foreign concept to me.
At the very last minute, Carlos was able to get his visa, as you probably already figured out from the photo above. My blushing bride would have someone to walk her down the aisle after all. Her parents would indeed make it for the wedding ... and the honeymoon.
The wedding was to be a small and uncomplicated affair, as was the honeymoon. We didn't have a lot of money –– and, of course, we would be traveling with twice as many people as your typical honeymooners –– so it was best to keep it simple. Our plan was to drive up to Lake Superior and stay in a little two-bedroom cabin for a few days.
Her parents arrived only a couple of days before the wedding. Some friends of ours graciously put them up at their place for a few days. What choice did we have, really? We weren't going to just leave them behind while we went away on a honeymoon.
Welcome to America! Here is your new son-in-law. We hope you enjoyed the ceremony. Did you get enough cake? Well then ... I guess we'll see you in a week. Ta ta!
That wouldn't have been very hospitable of us. So we packed everyone up in our rented SUV, pointed it north and began our three-hour journey into the great unknown. Not Lake Superior ... there was nothing unknown about that. I'm referring to spending three days in a cabin with two people that I had only just met, who just so happened to be the parents of my new bride and oh, by the way ... didn't speak any English.
When I first met my wife, I did not know any Spanish. I knew how to count to ten, because every single person on the planet knows how to count to ten in Spanish. But outside of that, I knew nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. (Wait ... nada? Isn't that Spanish? Okay ... I guess I knew one other word).
By the time I met her parents, I had learned quite a bit. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't able to hold a conversation or anything like that, but I had built a decent vocabulary.
The exchange of cultures was fun. We listened to a lot of old Colombian music that her father grew up listening to, and they got to experience the north woods. My mother-in-law even got to put her feet into Lake Superior. Not me, of course. I knew better than to put my bare feet into Lake Superior in April. But someone apparently told her that to truly experience being "up north" you had to dip your feet into Lake Superior. She was shocked, of course; but she seemed to enjoy the experience. Because it was so different, I guess. This was where her daughter lived now, and I suppose she wanted to experience a little bit of what it's like to be a Minnesotan. Although, I don't know any Minnesotans who have put their bare feet into Lake Superior in April.
Eleven years ago, we became a family. A family that isn't always able to communicate as well as they would like, but a family nonetheless. We manage to get by. And while I may be the only person I know whose honeymoon came with subtitles, our lives are not all that different from anyone else's when it comes right down to it.
I'm going out with my wife tonight to celebrate eleven years together. We're going to a nice, fancy restaurant with really expensive food. Maybe when it comes time for dessert, I'll think back to our wedding cake and how delicious it was. I'll think of the fun we had tasting the different cakes, trying to decide which one we wanted for our big day. I'll think back to how exciting it was to be planning the event that would launch our future together. And then I'll probably think: Holy crap! That was eleven years ago!