Thought I'd scare you during the Halloween season by actually writing an entry into this long neglected web journal.
Yeah, it’s been a while. (There’s an understatement!)
I managed to write at least one entry for every month in 2005 and now here it is almost the end of 2006 and I haven’t written a thing. At first I think I was a bit burnt out on updating the site and needed a break. Plus I didn’t feel like I had anything new to say.
Then a lot of things happened – some good, some very bad – things I should have written about. But the good things kept us busy and the bad things seemed too difficult to write about. And now here we are at the end of October and I’d like to start catching up before 2007 gets here.
If you’ve checked the guestbook on this site, then you’ve probably noticed an entry from my friend Mary Jo regarding my lack of journal entries. The message was far from being flowery or sympathetic, but it was honest, accurate and to the point. That’s Mary Jo and that’s one of the reasons I love her.
I was talking to her on the phone the other night and I told her that I had so much to write about that I was overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start. Her advice was, “Start with today and work backwards.” It sounded so simple that I decided to give it a try and here I am.
One of the benefits of starting with current news is that I can start with happy stuff and work backwards through the painful stories.
So, here we go with one of the biggest items...
After seven and a half years of being together, Herbert and I have decided to get married!!! (I don’t use ‘!’ marks very often, but I felt that statement deserved a few.)
For those of you who don’t already know about this, you may be wondering about the proposal. It’s something I had waited for since a year or two into our relationship. Every Christmas, every Valentine’s Day, every anniversary of our first date and every single birthday, I opened the small packages with nervous anticipation. Could it be a ring? Could it signal the big question? Although Herbert’s an extremely generous person and has given me wonderful gifts, there was never a ring. On these holidays, I had many telephone conversations with family where I was asked, “Well, did you get one?” My response was always something like, “Uh, no.”
So this year on my 46th birthday, I decided to accept our relationship for what it was – a loving, secure, fun and balanced relationship. I decided not to anticipate anything. And I wasn’t disappointed. There was no ring and no proposal. I did get a new fishing pole, which I had asked for. I had a great birthday. We had our good friends over for a BBQ party (much smaller than last year) and had a great time.
The next morning, Herbert went to our small local grocery store to pick up a few things. He called me ten minutes later and told me that our friends René, Felix and Bumsi were sitting on the patio at the store and asked me if I wanted to join them for a beer. I did. While we were sitting there, enjoying our beers, someone was talking about weddings or marriages or something like that. Then Herbert said, “Why don’t you pick a date for next summer?” That was it. Not the romantic, on your knees type of proposal I’d been dreaming of since I was a little girl. It happened while drinking beers with our friends at the local store instead of in a private setting with candles and wine. And it wasn’t on my birthday, but the morning after. However, it was a commitment just the same.
Now maybe he was thinking of something else. Maybe he was saying ‘pick a date’ in the same way that some people say, “Pick a number between one and ten.” But, I ran with it. I went home and called everyone in my family. I wrote down all the dates they gave me for when they could come to Switzerland for a wedding. I looked them over, trying to find Saturdays where they could all be here (no small feat) and came up with one date – July 7th. I called them all back, letting them know that the date was set. It wasn’t until I was on the phone with my sister-in-law, Ginger, that I realized the significance of this date. She told me, “Do you know that’s 7/7/07?” I didn’t. My birthday is July 21st – 7/21. Twenty-one has always been my lucky number with seven being the backup lucky number. When I’ve had the need to pick a third, I usually pick three because three times seven is twenty-one. Well, what is 7/7/07? Three times seven. The date has now been etched in stone.
But... we will have an additional wedding date. The date of our civil wedding. Here in Switzerland, everyone has to be married by the local civil office before they can be married in a church. Most people do this on the Friday before their wedding. However, some people get married with the civil wedding and then have the big ceremony and celebration much later, when it's convenient for all. And that's what we're doing.
It was Herbert's idea. At first I was strongly opposed to it. I wanted to wait until we could do both weddings on the same weekend, with my family there. Herbert wanted to do the civil part as soon as possible in order to give me some security for my future. He understood that we needed to wait until next summer for the 'big' wedding if we wanted to give everyone a chance to come and celebrate with us. But, as he explained it, if something were to happen to him in the meantime, my entire future would be up in the air. My visa to live here is tied to Herbert. He is my 'sponsor'. If he were, God forbid, in an accident or something, I may no longer be able to live in Switzerland. He told me that he feels that I really enjoy living here and he thinks that I would have a difficult time moving back to the US and reintegrating myself. I agreed. He said he wanted to be sure that I would have the choice of where I wanted to live. I understood all of what he was explaining, but was still set on waiting until next summer.
You see, I'd been through a similar situation before. When I was twenty-one years old, I was a US Marine living in Japan. I met a guy I thought I loved. (What did I know? I was twenty-one.) We wanted to marry and because we were both catholic, we took pre-marriage classes with the priest on base. Our plan was to go back to the States and get married.
The priest advised us to get married civilly through the Japanese process. He told us that it would be a legal wedding and would be recognized by the US military. As a married couple living overseas in the US military, your monthly pay is much more than it is as an unmarried couple. He told us we would be able to save a lot of money and could go back to the States the next year and marry in front of our families. We took his advice and got married the next month. He was right. Our pay was increased and we started saving.
However, my belly starting increasing at the same time. Within the first month of our marriage, I got pregnant. We were very happy about that, but concerned about having the wedding of my dreams in front of our family and friends with my belly sticking out or a small child in my arms. We didn't know if everyone in the States would understand that we were already married. We ended up never having the wedding in the States. And the marriage ending up not working out so well. (Another understatement!)
I told Herbert that because of my past history, I was afraid we'd never have the wedding next year. He told me that the wedding next year was not really important to him, not in the way that it was for me. He would be content with the civil part and a big party next year. I explained that I wanted the wedding to include a ceremony in front of our family and friends. I wanted us to profess our love in front of everyone. I asked him why he was marrying me. His response? To give me security. "Wrong answer," I told him. I was marrying him because I love him and had thought he was doing the same. He told me that he didn't need to marry me to love me. But he did need to marry me to give me security.
This conversation was taking place at our friend René's birthday party in the forest. Another friend, Felix, overheard a lot of it. He apologized for overhearing and then told me that he needed to say something. He told me that I wasn't hearing what Herbert was really saying. He said, "You want to marry for love. You're a woman. You hear that he wants to marry to give you security and you don't hear 'love'. But, his desire to give you security comes from love. He loves you and wants to make sure that you have a future." He said he agreed with Herbert and thought that I should seriously consider the fact that something could happen to Herbert.
And I guess that was the bottom line for me. I was afraid that if we married civilly without waiting for next summer, then I was admitting that something could happen to Herbert. It had been something I hadn't been willing to think about. But in my heart, I knew they were right. And so I changed my mind. I agreed. And Herbert assured me that we would have the wedding I want next year.
And so it is that this Friday afternoon, the 3rd of November, Herbert and I will get married at the civil office in Büren, the town near our village. Not only have I come to accept it, but I'm actually excited about it. Although I still see it as just a 'step' to July 7th and will always consider July 7th to be our anniversary, I'm looking forward to officially being Frau Kläy.
We originally wanted to have this particular part of our marriage to be very quiet and relatively private. It is, after all, only a step. However, my friend Marianne told me that she wanted to give us a small surprise on that day and kept asking for the date. I told her that we didn't want any surprises. She mentioned that she wanted to do something with the dancing group. I told her I would have to ask Herbert to see how he felt. We decided that it may be nice to celebrate that way and we told her the date and time. Once the beans were spilled regarding the date, the news spread throughout the village.
It is traditional here for people to go and wait outside the civil office when a friend is inside getting married. When the couple comes out, everyone is there to congratulate them. We have no idea what will happen when we walk out. There could be an empty courtyard or there could be many people. We will have to wait and see.
What we do know is that our witnesses will be Herbert's children, Yves and Natacha. In addition, Herbert's father will be there as well as, René Stoessel, the CEO of Herbert's company. He is a friend of ours and speaks English very well. I am required to have a translator - so that I can't be tricked in to anything - and I asked René if he would do that for me. My son, Nick, will not be there. He's busy with school in the States we didn't think it made sense to fly him in for this small step.
That is the current status of our marriage plans. I'll write more later about the July 7th plans, but this is enough for now. At least regarding our wedding.
There are, however, two other weddings that I want to mention.
The first is my mother's wedding. Yes, Mom is also getting married next summer. And there's a story here. She is marrying a man she knew very well when she was a young girl. His name is Jim and our whole family is thrilled for them. They grew up together in the same neighborhood and were in the same class in a small school from kindergarten through high school. After high school, Mom married Dad and Jim married Nancy.
Two years ago, when I was in the States because Dad was in the hospital, I met Jim. Mom and I were at a class reunion for the small Catholic high school she had attended. She introduced me to Jim as an old school friend. I watched them talk with each other and saw a few sparkles in their eyes. I mentioned it to Mom later. She explained that they had known each other many years ago. Hmmm, I thought. He seemed like a very nice man. He had recently lost Nancy due to a heart problem and we were just beginning to accept the probability that Dad would not live through his illness. I told her that if anything were to happen to Dad, she should consider a friendship with this Jim. It might sound callous, but it made sense. Mom and Dad had had difficulties. And if Dad were to pass away, I wanted my Mom to move on and be happy. This man Jim seemed like the man that could make that happen for her. I wasn't wrong.
In the year after Dad passed away, they started having coffee together. Then they went out for dinner and picnics and dancing. And Mom had a good friend to talk to. As time went on, I could hear excitement in her voice whenever she mentioned him. She sounded a bit like a young woman in love. Our whole family started to talk about it and we encouraged her to enjoy it. She didn't necessarily need our prodding. She knew that she was happy. As their relationship progressed and as she started referring to him as more than just a friend, I saw wedding bells in the future. Partly as a joke, I told her that I didn't want her to get re-married before I did. Due to the fact that I assumed I could be waiting forever for Herbert to ask me to marry him, I was asking a lot of her. And although she laughed, she did agree. And she waited.
A month after I told everyone that Herbert and I would marry next July, she told me that she and Jim would marry. Their wedding will be on August 11th. (Also my son's birthday.) I think it's interesting that I announced in July that I would marry the next July and she announced in August that she would marry the next August. Just an observation.
It's been a lot of fun to talk with her and go through the wedding planning together. We've shared thoughts and ideas and the excitement and anticipation of getting married. Next summer will definitely be the summer of weddings for our family!
Here are two photos of Mom with Jim...
Jim and Mom in Mom's kitchen
on an evening when Linda and I made a Mexican dinner for everyone.
Another dinner, another evening, but a photo that shows
how much fun they have together and how happy my mom is.
There's one more wedding I want to mention before I finish this web entry for the day. Our friend Mädi has been with Hausi for around twenty-five years. One evening before Mädi and I went to the States together in 2004, we were sitting at the stammtisch at her restaurant with Herbert and Hausi. We were talking about weddings and marriage and how reluctant these two guys were to 'make things official'. We told them that neither one of us were going to come back from the States without a proposal for marriage. Apparently we weren't very convincing because neither one of us got one. And yet we came back to Switzerland. And then time went on.
One morning this past August, Mädi and I were sitting at the concession stand at the swimming pool, having a cup of coffee after swimming. We were talking about what we each had to do that day. Mädi mentioned that she had to go to the community office in the town where Hausi lives. I thought for a second and then said, "You're getting married!" The look on her face and her silence said it all. Then she smiled and said, "Don't tell anyone. We've only told my kids and we want to do it quietly." I understood that. I congratulated her and then asked permission to tell Herbert. She agreed.
A month or so later, sitting with a bunch of people at her restaurant, I quietly asked her if she'd done it yet. She told me it would be on Friday the 13th of October. I laughed. That had been the original date that Herbert and I had picked for our civil wedding. But, because I had already agreed to work at a festival for the rifle club on that same day, Herbert and I picked the first Friday after he would return from a two week trip to Taiwan - the 3rd of November. After making that statement together to our guys, over two years ago, we could have ended up getting married on the same day in the same place. Life's little coincidences. Now Mädi has been a married woman for a couple weeks and I will be one in a few days.
That's enough for now. I'll write more in a few days and tell you about our past ten months. I promise.
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