She was a turbocharged lawyer working at a prestigious firm in downtown Atlanta. He was a staff musician and long-time leader at a church in the same city. Married in their mid-thirties, their roster of professional, social, and ecumenical events was inked to the edges, and their career paths had them living two completely different and independent lives.
Their names are Peter and Stephanie Choi. He now mixes and rolls pretzel dough every morning while she spins puffy globes of pink and blue cotton candy onto thin, paper cones — in Yakima, Washington. How is that for a non-sequitor?
A year ago, they packed a truck full of their belongings and headed for the other coast, leaving the blistering pace of Atlanta in the rearview and trading it all for an ice cream and snack parlor adjacent to the Sears Department Store in a sleepy Yakima mall.
And I, on a months-long USA road trip with my family of three, was giddy as a schoolgirl as we drove away from the coast and headed east toward their address. Most tourists would not trade precious time exploring Seattle for a two-day layover in Yakima, but I was delighted to make the swap in order to reconnect with these dear friends.
Naturally, a visit to their shop, called the Crazy Cow, was in order. I was delighted to sample several of their store’s 40 varieties of ice cream, and I even played the part of salesman, offering mall-goers free tastes of my newest favorite flavor — black licorice. It was fun to mash my (gloved) hands into the thick pretzel dough, twisting up and baking my very own perfectly-browned, buttery snack. And I even munched my way through a crunchy, chewy, piping-hot cinnamon-suger churro. The evening was a festival of empty calories, and I was loving every indulgent minute.
As I was stuffing my cheeks, I noticed one of my friends sending the other a soft smile. And it was returned it with a little giggle. And there was a good bit of hand-holding going on. And gooey glances. And kind words spoken.
Peter and Stephanie both have a litany of admirable qualities, but to the best of my recollection, marital affection was not on the list. In their own words, the first half-year of business partnership catalyzed the tensest phase of their seven-year marriage, creating a long period of tension and disagreement. But as the months rolled by, they gained mutual trust and honed communications skills as they spent a massive amount together working on common goals. And somewhere along the line, their relationship grew into one of the greatest marital friendships I have ever witnessed.
Our three days with Peter and Stephanie blazed by. All too soon we were repacking the trailer with our freshly-washed laundry and headed down the highway once again.
The two of us are a week away from our 11th wedding anniversary, and with a three-year-old in the family, it is all too easy to favor the pragmatic while letting the romance slide. We have Peter and Stephanie to thank for the gentle reminder that caring friendship is the essence of solid marriage. And so I ask myself, “What decisions can I make today that will drive me closer to the people I love?”
With Yakima in the rearview, my wife and I took a turn with the hand-holding and mushy looks as we rumbled down I-82. And we talked for a long time about our marriage — our goals, our hopes, our challenges, our struggles. As our car negotiates the twisty Rocky Mountain passes of the west and heads toward our Atlanta home, it is my sincerest hope to find an answer to this burning question.
My family is currently traveling around the USA in a 10 foot Shasta Compact travel trailer from 1969. We are currently camped in Yakima, Washington and headed toward Boise, Idaho. Keep it right here for tales from the journey, and please also join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Nothing keeps us motivated more than the encouragement of hearing from our readers, so please keep in touch by commenting below. Thanks!