You want a good story? I think our story is pretty good. (of course I’m biased)
It all started on a.... Okay, I don’t even really know. I know it was a park around Detroit called Greenfield Village or something like that. There are some pictures somewhere. Anyway, the reason I don’t remember is that I was a couple months old. Jeremy was five years old. He had a baby brother who was a few months older than me who was colicky. So the story goes that Jeremy told his mom repeatedly in the following days that, “that Martha baby is such a good baby, that Martha baby doesn’t cry.”
At that time, my parents were serving as missionaries in Papua New Guinea. Our parents had met when my Dad was serving his vicarage year at their church the year that Jeremy was born, so when we were on furlough, it was a good chance to catch up with old friends. While we were in PNG, Jeremy’s parents would send us care packages with toys and books (when studying children’s literature in college I went home for Christmas and brought back some of my favorite childhood books only to open them and find inscriptions written to Jeremy in the fronts of several!).
But back to the childhood years. When I was seven my family moved to Chicago for my Dad to work on his PhD at the U of C. This meant we got to visit with the Paschkes more often and I developed a schoolgirl crush on Jeremy. Of course, he was 12 or thirteen at the time and he was way too cool to pay attention to an obnoxious little girl in pigtails chasing him around. He does vaguely recall someone chasing him with water balloons at a church picnic. Yup, that was me! I thought he was dreamy with his braces and his big smile, looking so cool as he headed off to baseball games or band practice when we were visiting for dinner.
Then we headed back to PNG for two years. The next time we returned I was twelve and something about moving so frequently gave me the boldness needed to send a letter to Jeremy after we visited them on our way through town. I was in seventh grade and he was a senior in high school who had a girlfriend but he actually wrote back to me. Of course I was heartbroken to learn that he had a girlfriend but I loved reading his letters and loved that he cared enough to write to me so we continued writing. For six years.
Yes, you read that right. What started out as friendly notes back and forth grew into love letters over the course of six years. I was in boarding school in Australia for most of that time and checking my mailbox at the end of the school day was the best part of my day. When I had a letter, it made my day. I would grab it and run to my room and lay on my bed to read his letter even before changing out of my uniform.
My senior year in high school, Jeremy finished college a semester early and came to Australia to study for a year. He arrived when our family was on summer vacation in Cairns, so we got to enjoy my favorite waterfalls and some time together before we went back to our respective schools. Even though he was still sixteen hours away by car (which neither of us had then anyway) he could call me! I remember being in one of the classroom buildings studying on a weekend day when I heard a few of my friends running from the dorms, screaming my name - Jeremy had called (the dorm had one phone at the end of the hall that people could receive calls on). Girls intentionally walked past me several times to eavesdrop on our conversation. So imagine the excitement in the dorm when he actually came to visit once! My house mistress had come to trust me over the three year I had already been there and since he was written down as a family friend who had been approved of by my parents for visiting, she was much more lenient with our visiting. We sat on the steps or Ross Roy, the grand old building that stood at the top of the hill near our dorms to talk one afternoon and a few of my friends tiptoed past to catch sight of my dreamboat boyfriend that I had talked so much about. Then we were allowed to go into the city on the weekend for a few hours (which was pretty much unheard of for our boarding school, so all those years of good behavior paid off!). We walked around the city a bit and enjoyed a picnic lunch before he had to get me back.
Then a stroke of luck - I won an essay contest that sent me to Sydney as a part of the Youth Futures Forum, a national forum that drew youth form all over Australia to talk about how we envisioned the future of the country (I felt like a bit of a cheat, not really being Australian) and it happened to be held at the same time that Jeremy and his parents were visiting Sydney! So when my conference was over, they picked me up and I got to be a tourist in the country I had already lived in for three years. We saw the zoo and rode the water taxis and saw the famous beaches and even caught a show at the opera house. It was amazing! I do recall having that madly-in-love-inability-to chew-and-swallow feeling the whole time and when I boarded my plane back to Brisbane I sobbed like a baby. That Martha baby does cry.
After finishing high school, my family returned to the States and after a half year of working I started college at St Olaf in Minnesota. Jeremy came up to the Twin Cities to study physics at the U of M and one fall day when I took the shuttle bus to the city to visit him, we ate dinner and then he got down on one knee and proposed marriage.
I arrived back at my dorm that night flushed with excitement and after calculating the time difference, I called my best friend who was in a boarding school in Taiwan and asked if she would be my maid of honor. The plans were beginning!
Our engagement lasted almost two years but the wedding day seemed to arrive before I knew it! We were married at my Dad’s church in southeastern Indiana on a very hot June 26th. At our rehearsal dinner the night before, his uncles brought a pig out on a spit and a platter of yams as a continuation of the joke our parents had had about bride-price, which was the custom in PNG.
I woke up on our wedding day with monster-sized butterflies in my stomach. My Dad made me some tea and ran to get something to settle my stomach. The day is a blur of happy memories - I know I cried as I said my vows - I had dreamed of this day for so long it was hard to believe it was happening. I remember it drizzled as we arrived at the reception site and I insisted that the photographer still take some outdoor pictures. I remember his brothers carrying me on their shoulders around the reception hall. I remember all our friends and relatives that were a part of the day. His friends decorated our car but most of it washed off in the drizzle during the reception. I remember my Dad speaking during the reception and playing old tapes of the two of us talking when we were little. There was so much laughter and joy that night.
That outpouring of joy and love from family and friends at our wedding has sustained us through these twelve years as we moved and started our family and as we continue to grow. Sure, we have our spats, we have our days like everyone else but there are a few things I am sure of in life and one of them is that Jeremy and I were meant to be. I still feel like that giddy school girl when I think of how much I love him. Yes, he turns laundry pink sometimes but that makes him human - so that I can get past the flittering stomach of first love and be able to chew and swallow in his presence.
As testament to what our twelve years has brought us - three kids and an over-commitment to our local community - I am only now finishing this piece that I started three weeks ago. As I hear about marriages failing and unfaithful spouses and unhappy wives I know that I am truly blessed to have by my side a man that never leaves me in doubt and whose love I can always count on. Of course it is much more than that. Words do not do justice to the deep and abiding love that you know cannot be broken when you have your soulmate by your side. So here’s to another twelve years and more!