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.