As I mentioned in this space last time, my son Henry and his new wife Stephanie were married Dec. 20. It all happened quickly and in old-school fashion, in the living room of the Bryant Avenue house the groom grew up in, with our dear friend Lizz Winstead acting as radical minister of love and Henry’s mother Jean and me acting as witnesses.
Talk about modern love and about crossing borders for love. The beautiful couple met via the World Wide Web and playing video games, and for a few years now they’ve been virtual partners in life-and-death battles and civilization-building — which, it turns out, is excellent preparation for taking on the labyrinth of this so-called real life. Cue Rufus Wainwright: “Life is a game and true love is a trophy.”
We all met Stephanie for the first time when she accompanied our family to Colombia two years ago, and she quickly became one of our tribe, helping out with Spanish translations and shortly thereafter moving to Minnesota to be closer to Henry and to work at Concordia Language Camps in Bemidji.
With Stephanie’s family looking on from Costa Rica via the Internet and with our daughter Helen, Henry’s maternal aunt Barb and his paternal grandfather Jerry and grandmother Ann bearing witness (“A good role model for a marriage for you guys,” said Henry’s mother and my former wife Jean, who has taught me much about love in this life), Lizz handed the young lovers handfuls of emeralds and peanuts.
“I like to tell this story at services, about two of my favorite old-timey actors,” she said. “One is Helen Hayes, and she was madly in love with a guy named Charles MacArthur. They were actors, and they met at a bar and they fell in love that night, the first night. They were broke actors, and he handed her a handful of peanuts and said, ‘I love you, I know we’re poor, and I wish these were emeralds.’ They were married for 50 years. On their 50th anniversary, he handed her a bag of emeralds and said, ‘I wish these were peanuts.’”
My heart leapt. Tears filled my eyes. Finally, after days of rushing around and executing the wedding plan, it all hit me, standing there in my suit and tie next to my lad: the union, the warmth, the fact that this new love made the darkest and longest day of winter feel like a blast of spring. The minister then had the couple fill a keepsake jar with peanuts and emeralds, accompanied by a wish that they return to the magical idea of their love growing emeralds from peanuts to get them through tough times.
After that, vows were exchanged (complete with insider gamer jokes and promises to meld South and North American cultures), rings were exchanged, kisses were kissed, toasts were made, dinner and cake was served, champagne was popped, photos were taken, tears were spilled, joy was rampant, and three weeks later, the feeling remains.
Is there anything better than young love? At the moment, I can’t think of a thing, and these days, to be in the young couple’s presence is to be around something beautiful, promising, fun, funny and hopeful. That feeling of love and abundance is what I want to celebrate and hold close today and always, as a way to remind myself and anyone else who might need it about the healing power of love. And, given how much hate and discord is part of our daily planet diet, it says here the world could use as many reminders and examples of LOVE as we can get.
There are people reading this who have been with their significant others for decades, years, months, weeks. There are people reading this who are, and always have been, happily alone. There are people reading this who have recently become single, or who have lost their love, or whose love has gone unrequited, or who have no one and no hope or need for romantic love.
Me, I believe in love and I always will, no matter how skeptical my heart gets to humanity’s ills, and I’m lucky to have loved and been loved. These days I feel fortunate to be around new and old couples every week — some who are just starting out, some who have been together forever, some who defy all other makes and models, all inspiring.
None so much as Henry & Steph, a couple of crazy kids worth rooting for, whose love positively shines. Cheers…
Jim Walsh lives and grew up in South Minneapolis. He can be reached at [email protected]