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14 March 2007

the first plum of spring

first plum of spring

The Chef and I bought our wedding rings the other day.

We were meandering through the Market, making our way through the sparse crowds, pausing to gawk at the daffodils bunched in white buckets. Spring is nearly here. It’s inching toward us, ready to pounce upon our heads in sunlight-through-trees-full-of-green ease. As we passed the produce stands at the mouth of the Market, we saw the first asparagus of the season, and spring salad onions, and purple artichokes with long stems. Policemen on horses smiled at children near the bronze pig. Down the street, the blind piano man banged out a bouncy tune on his upright. The sun shone.

We were holding hands, walking down the cobblestone streets of one of our favorite places in the world.

I haven’t spoken much here about the wedding planning, although there are stories I could tell. Mostly, though (and I hope I’m not tempting the wedding gods by saying this), it has all been so easy. We agree on everything, and especially that we want to enjoy every moment of this. We will be married in the middle of a green field stretching toward the water, in one of the most expansive parks in Seattle. Friends and loved ones have volunteered their talents for nearly aspect of the wedding. Monica will be taking the photographs. Gabe will take some movies with his new HD camera. Daniel has said to us that anything we want from his gorgeous garden is ours for the wedding. There will be magnificent music: Kari and Bruno play cello and violin for the Metropolitan Opera; Kristin plays a kick-ass bass and sings her jazzy heart away; the Chef’s sister and brother-in-law will sing and play mandolin for the ceremony. We’re even hoping that Bill Frisell will be in town, because he would love to play for us. Other than that, a friend of ours who works at Sosio’s — our favorite produce stand in the Market — will bring his DJ equipment and play the hundred and one songs on the iPod that make us look at each other meaningfully or dance.

Ours is probably going to be the only wedding in history to have the theme from South Park as part of the dance mix.

And of course, there will be food. Glorious, gluten-free food. The chefs at one of our favorite restaurants in Seattle will probably make us a few dishes, as a backbone. Other than that, we’re having a potluck. That’s right, a gluten-free potluck. Everyone who can will bring a dish to feed ten people. (I’ll write a post about this later, the planning involved, and how we are going to try to make it an allergy-free wedding.) Everyone we love also loves food. And I just love the image of a tent full of tables laid out with food for hundreds, made by the people who love us.

But honestly, it’s not going to be a fancy wedding. We’re going to have paper plates and cups, blankets arrayed on the grass for instant picnics, and bouquets from the farmers’ market. No favors in matching colors, no garter or throwing of the bouquet. The rehearsal dinner will be a barbeque in our backyard, with both families and our closest friends eating burgers and potato salad. The day before, we’re having a miniature golf tournament. There will be no monogrammed cuff links or tuxedos, or matching bridesmaid dresses. I would wear red cowboy boots to my wedding, if the pair I want wasn't so darned expensive.

My wedding dress? I haven’t found it yet. I’ll know it when I see it, just as I did with my love. I’ve been looking at dresses, but I have found that I am horrified by anything that looks like a wedding dress (and by the price). The other day, in our living room with friends, I leaned into the kitchen and said, “Hey sweetie, tell Tita and John why I can’t wear a train and high heels.”
He chuckled. “Because you will trip and fall in the field, and I will laugh at you.”
I laughed out loud. “So would I.”

Actually, that wouldn’t be bad.

As much as possible, we want to be relaxed and laughing. Oh, there’s no question that we will both be crying. That Chef — he may have beautiful blue-sky eyes, but they are even more beautiful when they are filled with tears. That’s often. Just thinking about walking down the makeshift aisle we will fashion in the field, with all the people I love sitting in the chairs gathered before the enormous tree, threaded through with Tibetan prayer flags and red streamers — well, I’m sitting here on the couch, crying.

But mostly, we want to be laughing, relaxed.

That has been the wedding planning, as well.

And so, on Monday, we were walking through the Market. We wanted to look at some jewelers, to see if anyone made the simple silver bands we envisioned. Nothing too fancy, just clear. After all, I bought my engagement ring for myself, a year before I met him, for ten dollars. His engagement ring came to us free, in a wondrous story I’ll have to save for another time. We just couldn’t imagine spending that much money on our rings. All we wanted was rings that felt right to us.

We wandered, with no real purpose in mind, other than to see. Once or twice a week, we bop down to the Market before I take him to the restaurant, in search of new spices or squid ink or fresh fennel. Those days, however, require darting, and parking in the thirty-minute load zone. This time, we could just experience.

Years ago, I had a boyfriend who lived two blocks from the Market. Even though he had money and good taste in food, he wasn’t long lasting. Every time I went to his apartment, he had the best cheeses laid out for us on his table, a lavish spread he had concocted from a quick stroll through the Market. That food tasted fantastic. However, when he and I walked there once, I tugged at his hand like a kid, my eyes wide at all the life offered, and said, “God, I never grow tired of this place.”
He looked at me with a world-weary gaze and said, “Really? I mean, it’s lovely, but I’m never amazed. I guess I just come here too often.”

We broke up not long after that remark.

The Chef, however, is as big a kid as I am. He is nearly always amazed, never jaded. We don’t have to explain to each other. He just tugs at my sleeve to point out the banks of tulips, new this week. I nod my head at the smell of the sausages sizzling behind a counter. We squeeze our hands and smile in each other’s eyes when we see a pink-cheeked baby with a green wool cap. We laugh. Our eyes are open.

We looked at all the stalls, trying on rings and looking intently. None of them was right. We weren’t worried. After all, we weren’t really going to buy our rings that day. Doesn’t it require a thorough research, hundreds of rings, a few exasperating shopping trips before it becomes clear?


We wandered downstairs and passed Sunshine Jewelry. I smiled — one of the first emails he had sent me was titled Good Day Sunshine, after the Beatles’ song. (If you don’t know our Beatles connection, read this post.) It’s a dinky little stall, with hundreds of rings and bracelets jammed into the cases, a hundred choices we would never make. But in the back, a tray of simple silver rings. The chatty owner pulled them out for us, told us how many couples she had helped, and offered us a dozen different rings. None of them worked. They came close. And then we both put rings on our fingers. When I looked up, I saw his eyes, filled with tears. He saw mine, misty and smiling. We had found our rings.

It seems that everything is this easy between us.

Best yet — these beautiful silver rings, together, cost less than my age.

We’d rather save our money for the honeymoon than spend too much on rings.

Afterwards, he clutched the little silver box in his pocket, to make sure it didn’t fall out. We walked upstairs to Sosio’s, to find food for the slide-show party at our friend Daniel’s house that night. When we saw baby eggplants, the Chef’s eyes widened. I knew he had found something in his mind. I let him find it, in the stand. I turned, and then I saw them. The first plums of the spring.

Immediately, my mind raced back to three years ago, about this time. Only two months after my terrible car accident, I had barely made it out of the house, other than going to school to teach or hobbling to the hospital for physical therapy treatments. The earth had turned toward spring without my noticing. In terrible pain, and terribly lonely, I didn’t know the way out, other than to keep going. One day, I finally took a day off school. I slept in, ate a good meal, and drank an entire pot of coffee, slowly. Even more slowly, I made my way down to the Market. With enormous care, I sat in Le Painier, sipping on a hot café au lait and eating a croissant. (This was pre-gluten-free, obviously.) Hobbling, tenderly, the pain in my back quieted for a moment, I made my way to Sosio’s, and I found the speckled plums of spring. I bought one, juicy and studded with white dots like the Milky Way against a dark country sky. When I reached home, I bit into it, and it seemed as though the universe opened to me. Winter was finally over. I was emerging from the darkness.

Slowly, I came back to myself. As I reached for a plum, I spotted the Chef, dancing among the garlic and onions. Tears rose to my eyes again, this time in buoyant happiness. Three years ago, I was so enormously alone. I didn’t even know that the Chef existed. That day, we had just bought our wedding rings.

“Sweetie, can we buy a plum?” I asked him. It’s too early, really, to be eating plums. These were grown in Chile, and I normally shudder at the numbers of food miles required to make it to my door. But this, it seemed, was a special occasion. The first plum of spring? That’s our way of celebrating.

When we reached home, happy and laughing, I went into the kitchen to put away the food. The sun shone through the skylights onto my fingers. I cut open the plum. The firm purple flesh yielded to the knife, to reveal the pink-orange fruit, aglow beneath it. I ran over to the Chef, who was sitting by the computer, and I handed him a thin slice of the plum. We clinked our plums together, like champagne glasses. “To finding our wedding rings,” he said.
“Yes,” I said. “I love you.”
“I love you, pumpkin.”

No plum has ever tasted so sweet.


At 6:06 AM, Blogger two trees said...

cheers to you and the chef, shauna!

At 6:25 AM, Blogger RA said...

I love your low-cost, laid-back wedding! We had barbecue chicken and potato salad on paper plates at our wedding and I just about laughed my head off when one of my college friends said it was "the classiest wedding" she'd ever been to. :)

I hope you'll forgive the unsolicited advice, but have you looked into the dresses at JCrew? My bridesmaids and I all got our dresses there, and they are very simple and more affordable than most.

Best wishes!

At 8:05 AM, Blogger Mrs. G.F. said...

So nice. It makes me remember where mt husband and I bought our rings.

Beautiful, I smiled for you, and then I smiled for my own memory.

Thanks. :)

At 8:09 AM, Blogger Marce said...

Your whole approach to wedding planning is refreshing, to say the least. I just don´t understand why most people forget what it is all about: love, shared with your future spouse and your closest family and friends. It doesn´t need to be fancy or expensive, it just needs to reflect who you are and be an utterly enjoyable experience for you and your guests.
I for one vote for the red boots (maybe you can find something similar a bit cheaper). And I congratulate you and the Chef again for enjoying the simple moments, be it the first plum of the season or the perfect wedding rings.
And your story with the Chef is really inspiring to us single gals out there who aren´t always so sure there is someone right for us, so thanks for that as well :)

At 8:10 AM, Blogger Gaile said...

One of these days I will learn not to read your lovely stories right when I come to work. Or just not to wear mascara that will run when I read your tales and tears spring to my eyes. Thanks for sharing these wonderful scenes from your life. It's such a relief to know such happiness is really possible. :-)

At 8:35 AM, Blogger pokettiger said...

Such a touching story. Your wedding will be beautiful.

At 9:10 AM, Blogger Samatakah said...

There's magic in love - that is why everything is so easy.

At 9:21 AM, Blogger Blogteach said...

Oh Shauna,

I've been wanting to write to for a while now. Reading many of your recent posts about you and The Chef, how you live, what your priorities are...well, as I always tell the kids in school, we're all far more alike than we are different.

G and I will be married in a month -- and although there are of course some differences, our wedding celebrations, like your day, all have the hallmark of loved ones pitching in to make a joyous celebration with us.

We found our rings last weekend -- and we kept looking at each other with secret smiles all the weekend long. "You bought my ring for me; we're getting married!" he still says every so often, with a kind of unabashed and almost childlike delight.

Thanks for sharing your joy, and allowing me to bask in your collective happiness just as I bask in ours.

At 9:41 AM, Blogger Kristin said...

My god, you two are fantastic. In every way.

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Luisa said...

Your wedding sounds like it will be fantastic - I LOVE the idea of having your friends pitch in and be a part of the big day. Only shows how loved you both are and that is really a huge part of everybody's "ideal" wedding, no?

And my two cents on those cowboy boots? They are AWESOME and you must HAVE them. You only get married once! Come on... ;)

At 10:02 AM, Blogger LadyCiani said...

Love your story.

You sound like you're approaching the whole wedding thing with the right attitude. It's so easy to get caught up in the supposed "right" way to do things. Visiting wedding forums and buying the magazines, all I could think was, what are these women thinking?! They're crazy! A wedding means so much more to you if you do it so you'll remember it.

There's no hard and fast rule that says you have to wear the big white dress. Buy whatever you want. You should try looking at fancy dress stores. If you see something with "wedding" or "bridesmaid" in the name of it you'll know you're paying way too much.

Even buy what most people would think of as a "prom" dress. I tried on a prom dress, and I liked it a whole lot more (and it was $60) than I did the many actual wedding dresses I tried on.

Plus, have you tried on the current style of wedding dresses? They have so many layers they're like 20 pounds. And who wants to carry around an extra 20 pounds of dress on their wedding day?

I was lucky to live in the Los Angeles area - I rented my dress! There's a great local store that rents wedding and other formal dresses only 5 times, then sells them. You get the dress for I think it was 5 days. They take care of alterations and cleaning, and you don't have to worry about storing the stupid thing in a box in the closet for eternity - 'cause you give it back!

At 10:45 AM, Blogger Loner said...

it is so wonderful "listening" to you talk about what you have found. When I found my husband, we did the same thing - we made food, invited people over to help celebrate and spent our money on the honeymoon. Best day ever.

At 11:23 AM, Blogger Chanterelle said...

Oh Shauna, get those boots! That's not so expensive for good quality cowboy boots, and you'll wear them with a smile for years, probably get them re-soled two or three times (did you see all those 5-star reviews?).

As for the dress, it will find you. Mine started waving to me from the racks in an antiques store where Mr. C and I had stopped on a whim. You obviously have learned the the knack of holding out for and recognizing the right thing.

Thanks for letting your readers peek into the whole joyful process.

At 11:57 AM, Blogger Jean Layton-GF Dr. Mom said...

You touch my heart daily with your simple and clear message of love. Love for yourself in your choice of foods to nuture your body. Love for another. Love for the multitudes who you inspire.
Thank you.
I think you should have the boots too.
Can you think about putting up a paypal button on your site? I would love to get you a wedding gift ut don't know your size. I just wish I could make a dish for your potluck!

At 12:13 PM, Blogger Bengali Chick said...

I simply adore you. Your posts make my heart feel fuzzy. I love your celebration of love with authenticity and simplicity. I need to learn to not read your posts when I'm away from my husband...B/c all I ever want to do after reading your post is hold my husband and tell him how much I love him. I'm giving thanks right now for being so incredibly blessed. You always remind me to be grateful.

At 12:44 PM, Blogger Jodi said...

Hi Shauna,
Buy the boots!!! do it!!! You saved a lot on the cost of rings, so the boots can be from the savings. (rationalizing spending is a good thing. ha)
I cannot wait to see and hear more about the wedding in the future. It sounds as if you and your chef are making all of the best choices - together.
I am so happy that you got to enjoy that plum with him. So much has changed for you in three short years.
God Bless!

At 1:59 PM, Blogger Guin said...

I'm sitting here with tears on my face.

Sometimes, I forget that spring will be here. Winter is so hard on me, the cold makes me ache constantly, and I'm in the hardest relationship of my life. You reminded me that spring will be here, life will continue, flowers will bloom.

The tears feel like rain.

I wish only the best kind of happiness for the two of you.

At 4:16 PM, Blogger Jo said...

Hey there, Gluten Free Girl! I wanted to say "Best wishes!" on a magical wedding day. I'm celiac and my boyfriend had to weather those first storms with me until we figured out what it was.

I know what you mean about things being easy & working when they're right. When J. looked at me in Chipotle's outdoor patio and said, "Wanna elope to Massachusetts?" a few years ago, I said "Yes" with no question. We'd never been there before and a few months later, in mid-October, we were married standing on the banks of Walden Pond. (We both have English degrees). We'd just spent three days walking around Concord, visiting Alcott house (I'm a writer and my favorite book character in the world is Jo March), Hawthorne house, the Manse, the Old North Bridge. That Monday morning, though, it was just the two of us and our little Justice of the Peace with her big Red Sox earrings. The morning was crisp, the water lapping on the shore, the trees starting to shed a few of their bright red and gold leaves. And somehow, I kept from crying. I knew that, even without our loved ones there, it was the best day of my life (our families live out west in Kansas/Iowa, we live in Ohio - think of the logistical nightmares). Oh, and guess what? I was married in a beautiful mandarin-style, 3/4 sleeve top in dark red with matching dark red pants and little leather flats. I couldn't see myself in a dress. For pete's sake, our engagement ring was a tandem bicycle! And to this day, I haven't missed the dress. Wear whatever makes you smile - but you already know that!

At 6:08 PM, Blogger Shauna said...

Thank you, everyone. Thank you. Once again, I am amazed. This piece — which I wrote in that blind fugue of lovely creativity and knowing I was writing it for myself — has clearly connected in ways I never expected.

We are thrilled that our wedding is going to be relaxed and loving. And truly, we wish that everyone reading could be there!

To answer a few questions...

Two Trees, thank you my dear.

RA, That's actually funny. Two weeks ago, I ordered a dress from J.Crew, thinking it could be my wedding dress. I had high hopes, but mostly I wanted to be done with that search. But when it arrived, it just didn't look right. It wasn't mine. I sent it back. And it helped me to realize that I want a dress that is utterly mine. And now, one that will go well with red cowboy boots.

Slacker Mom, I'm so happy I could trigger that memory for you.

Marce, Please, do take hope. I was 39 when I met my Chef. I had almost given up hope. And it's not as if I had a plethora of great boyfriends before I met him. I waited, through lonely years and laughter, for him. He has been worth the wait. I really believe we can all find someone to love with this much devotion.

Gaile, God, I'm going to need a lot of waterproof mascara on that day!

Pockettiger, Thank you. We both well up with tears when we think of it.

Samatakah, You know, I really do agree with you. This is magic.

Blogteach, Oh my dear, all the best for your wedding days and happy congratulations. Be yourself and revel in it. And isn't it amazing, to look down at the ring and know that it will be on your finger for years to come?

Kristin, You are fantastic. I am not kidding. You are.

Luisa, exactly! We are blessed with loving friends who are enormously talented. Yikes! We're grateful. Now, if only you could be here....

Ladyciani, I agree. I just don't understand the poofy big white dress, at all! And I really don't understand wearing a dress that I will wear once in my life and put it in the closet. Not at all.

Loner, oh so good. We want to remember it. We don't want to be anxious. We want to be there. And then we want to go on the honeymoon. (More on this later.)

Chanterelle, I agree, completely. I'm not worried. One of my dearest friends in the world has offered to take me shopping, all day long, in little boutiques and thrift stores and department stores, until we find it. It will find me. He did.

Jean, Thank you! We'd love to have one of your dishes at the wedding. As far as the paypal button — well, we have thought of it! But it really just doesn't feel right. If you would like to send a gift — so sweet of you — then let me know, and we can talk. Thank you.

Bengali Chick, oh, hold him close when he returns. In the end, that is the most important part of my life — that closeness, his hugs, the undeniable fact of his love. Everything else is gravy.

Jo, your wedding sounds wonderful. I love your choice of outfit! And Walden Pond. Marvelous. (Jo from Little Women? Me too.) Thank you for sharing your story.

Jodi, You are right. So much has changed. Sometimes, I just stand here, amazed. And that plum, that simple bite, felt like the best recognition.

Guin, oh my goodness. If what I wrote can help you feel that way, I feel blessed. Spring is coming. It is.

At 6:10 PM, Blogger Shauna said...

One more comment from me, something I can hardly comprehend....

For those of you who have been urging me to buy the boots, to have them on my feet for my wedding day. Well, I agree. Apparently, so did someone else.

One of the readers of this site bought me the red cowboy boots, this morning.

I have been so amazed and giggly and astounded and grateful, all day long. Mostly, I am in awe of how much good there is in the world, and how much we can all give each other.

More on this later. There will be a post. But for now, I have to say...thank you. An enormous thank you.

I'm going to dance on my wedding day in red cowboy boots!

At 7:04 PM, Blogger Cate said...

Beautiful memory, and finally, a sign of Spring - I can't wait!

At 9:07 PM, Blogger et said...

I was going to say BUY THE BOOTS, but I don't need to now.

It will be easy to find the dress now.

At 9:36 PM, Blogger I'm Not Carrie Bradshaw said...

Shauna, I have been reading for awhile but never actually commented but your story about the plum waking you up made me burst into tears. Sometimes your story almost seems to good to be true and I have been depressed since this summer (I have SAD as well as gluten-intolerance)and to know that others feel this "waking up" feeling when spring comes made me feel so much better. I know intellectually this is true but to see the exact feelings I have had written out by someone else deeply touched me. Thank you. And it makes me smile to think of you wearing your red cowboy boots at your wedding as this is something I've wanted my whole life, too. :-)

At 2:18 AM, Blogger Pille said...

Now that you've got the dream cowboy boots, we just must keep fingers crossed for a beautiful and sunny day:)
Congrats, Shauna!

At 7:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

see, this is why you write. Your stories make me smile all day.

LOVE the boots!

At 9:51 AM, Blogger Simple Veggie said...

you two are fabuolus. i've only been reading for a little while, but this post was so sweet and romantic, it made me cry.

best wishes on your wedding planning!

At 2:21 PM, Blogger chrisd said...

Congratulations to you! I love the fact that you are doing a low cost wedding--love it like crazy!

We had a morning wedding, a lunch and were home at 3pm. It'll be 15 years for us and if I did it all over again, it would have been even simpler.

I'm excited to read more about your plans!

At 8:55 PM, Blogger Shelly (Nicole) said...

Sunshine Jewelry is, without a doubt, my favorite jewelry place in Seattle. Every time I'm home, I go by and buy a piece for myself. Your simple silver rings are absolutely gorgeous.

At 12:26 PM, Blogger Deborah Dowd said...

Very best wishes to you...Ah to be young and in love and have so many wonderful things ahead of you. It sounds like you have a great foundation to build a life (and lots of meals, both simple and gourmet)on!

At 4:20 AM, Blogger Skipper said...

Shauna, as usual you have made me cry, but in the most wonderful way. These are tears of joy, listening to the happiness you have found with the chef, remembering my own happiness when I met my husband and realized that the search was over and my life was complete. Stories of your life your love and your food are truly inspiring.

At 9:36 PM, Blogger Colaptes auratus said...

My partner and I found our rings at the Market as well. Without much looking we found two rings we loved in exactly the right sizes for our fingers. The Market is a wonderful place!

At 8:05 PM, Blogger Christine Mercer-Vernon said...

reading your column lately has reminded of the wonderful time i had planning my wedding. we wanted small casual wedding, but, well, let's see how do i say it....oh "mother-in-law". she wasn't thrilled with our little plan. so we gave in to a somewhat more traditional wedding with our own twist. we had a wonderful time and even RECEIVED thank you notes from friends and family that attended! we made people recite love poems that they had to compose that included four goofy words we had posted on their table in order for us to would have been impressed with the poetry! we handed out crazy hats, mardi gras beads and glow necklaces and more, but you had to come dance to get one. we have the best pictures. and there was the garter toss.....we practiced for days....i had an 'assortment' of items up under my dress that my husband comically removed one at a time, including a rubber chicken! by the time he got to the garter everyone was on their feet cheering!
so my point? enjoy your day, let it burst with your personalities and the love you have for each other. it goes so fast, enjoy every moment of it. but no matter what, it should be fun and a celebration of the two of you!
your column reflects how my husband and i began our relationship, and here we are 11 years later still 100% in love, and having fun everyday!
congratulations shauna, your wedding will be spectacular!!


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