That first Christmas in the old country Vermont farmhouse the entire family swarmed en masse to celebrate with us. The entire clan pulled on boots and outer gear suitable for the blizzard pouring forth from the sky and we went to find our tree in the acres of wood behind the old house. The little girls had to be carried on our shoulders because the snow was taller than they were high. The petite lemon-loving mother-in-law was nearly waist deep in some spots. Fortunately we didn’t have to wander far to find our wispy pine. It was tall, stately and going to take every adult to haul it inside. Once the enormous fir-tree was up, we decorated and drank mulled cider and hot chocolate. The sound of laughter, giggles and conversation drowned out the holiday music. It was simply a perfect day.
And not one second of it would have been possible had it not been for a simple twist of fate at a tiny donut shop in California’s Central Valley more than a half century ago. There, two young Navy boys in sailor blues were passing the time waiting in vain for blind dates that had evidently stood them up. They were busy consoling themselves with larger than human portions of donuts and coffee.
At the same time in Paris, Julia Child was writing the first draft of the epic Art of French Cooking. The U.S. national debt was rumored to be about $266B. Lucy Ricardo gave birth to little Ricky in Hollywood. Sir Winston Churchill won the Nobel for literature. And California was experiencing another drought.
But in that donut shop, a little bit of fate was just about to turn on a dime for one of those Sailors. In walked a young woman from the neighborhood. It was the kind of small town where conversation with strangers came easily. She invited the Navy boys to a church party at her mother’s house, down the street. With nothing else to do, except eat more donuts, they followed along and crashed the party.
The girl’s mother saw the Navy uniforms strolling up the walkway with her young daughter and promptly sent out another sister to chaperon. Once the dark-haired Navy boy saw the adorable redhead emerge from the house he was grateful his blind date had never appeared at the donut shop. The redhead invited them for dinner in her mama’s kitchen and the dark-haired, functionally mute Sailor became quite animated and charmed the mother while never taking his eyes off the redhead. The other Navy boy was left to scoop up his dinner in silence and fade away.
Mama invited the charming functional mute back for dinner much to the redhead’s delight. It wasn’t long after that the bride-to-be was crafting her wedding dress.
And on January 3, 1953, the adorable petite redhead and the dark-haired charming Sailor boy were married.
Happy 58th anniversary to the best lemon loving in-laws on the planet.
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