THEN and NOW

Two pieces show an idea of Marcel and Linda’s wedding in 2000, and Mel and Lana’s wedding in 2020. Both are a bit non-traditional. However, both show happiness.


20 YEARS! BUT WHO’S COUNTING?
By Linda Elissalde

She moved to 2660 Ashley St., Beaumont, Texas in 1949. He moved to 2635 Ashley St., Beaumont, Texas in 1949. Although they lived across the street from each other, they were not often together. She went to Beaumont Public Schools while he attended Catholic schools. THEY would be Linda Carole Schmucker and Marcel Howell Elissalde. His side of the street had all boys, while her side boasted all girls.

The two did meet up once in awhile to play Chase me, Tap me, Chase you in someone’s front yard. (Popular game with no real name.) Marcel and Linda remembered that once when they were in the fourth grade, they played in the Schmuckers’ front yard. He chased her, tapped her on the back, and then ran away. Linda was appalled because the front of her sun dress fell down. This was not a good beginning.

The two became friends while attending Lamar State College of Technology. Marcel finished. He went on to Graduate School at Texas A&M, and Linda moved to Houston. They would get together if both were home on the same weekends. Marcel married and received his PHD in Biology. Linda did not marry, taught school and traveled the world during summer vacations. She and her friend Yondle hit every continent except Antarctica.

Both their high schools faced 40 year reunions in 1999. Marcel had divorced and was caring for a grandchild in central Pennsylvania. Linda still resided in Houston. However, they shared mutual friends. Linda and fellow graduate Kathryn Phelen headed up the Beaumont High School gathering. Kathryn’s husband Patrick and Marcel had been great buddies since childhood. So Patrick and others started plotting. Shouldn’t Linda and Marcel meet up again?

It happened. Both attended his reunion…and friendship became love. Marcel and Linda married on June 24, 2000. Eighteen of their close friends attended the wedding at Wirt Road Methodist Church chapel. Then all traveled to the original Doneraki’s Mexican Restaurant on Fulton St. for a wedding luncheon. And what a luncheon it was! The couple had hired Doneraki’s Mariachi Band to serenade the group. The Elissaldes had not made clear for how long. So, for two hours, the great band played music around the table. With loud trumpet and fine musicians, no one had to make conversation with anyone they didn’t know. The band played on. Finally, the party ended. Food was delicious; band was great. Everyone assured the newlyweds that none would forget this luncheon.

Marcel and Linda began their new life in central PA. Everyone was so very welcoming, but Linda did not like living in the middle of the woods or cold weather. So, Marcel and Linda came back to Texas. Both decided on the Gulf Coast as they shared happy memories of coming to the Peninsula when they were young. It was the perfect choice.

Good thing they married in 2000. That way the two could remember which anniversary it was each year. This year they shared take-out from LaPlayita, drank Margaritas, played their favorite music (blues, zydeco, rock and roll) and danced. It couldn’t get much better than that. So Marcel and Linda decided to go for 20 more years; but who’s counting?


ZOOMING in on LOVE in the TIME OF CORONA
By Melanie Wallace

“We are going to have company at the Deep Eddy today,” he told me, as we arrived at his house in Austin. Mack and I were spending the weekend with our (then) 38 year old son; a confirmed bachelor…or so it seemed.

“And,” he continued. “It’s a girl.”
Well, there you have it, I thought. Just like that…the world turns. “Her name is Lana and she will be here in a few minutes.”

I was surprised, to say the least. We had no idea that there was a significant other in the offing. Our middle boy, Mel, is very close to us, talking on the phone every afternoon on his commute home from work and visiting every few weeks. But, he also held his private life just that…private. And, understandably so. He was a grown man, living on his own for almost 2 decades. I got it. And, truly, I was thrilled.

For several years, by that point, I had prayed for a life-partner for our middle boy. The other two had married a decade before and were happily settled in their relationships. We loved having extra time with Mel, but we knew that he needed his own life-partner. I began to pray, in earnest, for the woman who would complete this delightful guy. And, as much as I hated to share him, I thanked God for this relationship.

So, that first afternoon, I hid behind the shades of his third floor window and gave a running commentary for Mack.

“Ok, she is parking.”

“Alright, she is getting out of the car…wow! She is gorgeous!” I continued with the blow-by-blow as Mel greeted her at the car and as they walked in to the house.

Well, first of all, Lana brought us cheesecake from Hoover’s, our favorite restaurant to end up a visit to Austin. From the get-go, she understood the Wallace credo…”but first, dessert!” So, already, we were hooked. And, apparently, so was Mel.

Mack and I watched with interest as we swam the hot Austin afternoon away at the Deep Eddy. Now, just for clarification, it’s not usually my idea of fun to take my chubby body out for a public viewing in a swim suit…especially in the company of a gorgeous, tall, thin, young thing. But that day, I hardly noticed my discomfort. All I could see was that my middle boy was happier than I had seen him in years.

Lana had grown up in South Korea; a fact that would become even more interesting in the weeks to follow our first meeting, when Mack and I would accept an assignment in Seoul. A true collision of worlds. Lana’s dad was an American, on assignment with the Department of Defense in South Korea, when he met and fell in love with Lana’s mom, a South Korean citizen.

Tall and thin and beautiful and smart and sweet and hooked on our kid, Lana was (and is) a mother’s dream. She seemed to truly enjoy our company and she integrated easily into the extended family gatherings in the months that followed that first meeting. A real highlight of our prewedding relationship was their trip to Seoul this past Christmas. Lana enjoyed revisiting the sites of her childhood and Mack and I loved seeing the city that we had come to love through the eyes of someone who had grown up there.

About a year ago, work opportunities took both Lana and Mel to New York City. Lana had lived there for several years before, having earned a graduate degree from NYU. Mel (a graduate of Loyola Marymount University and University of Southern California) had always wanted to live in New York City. From their first year together in Texas, traveling the backroads in Mel’s pick up truck, Lana learning to love queso and two-stepping at The Broken Spoke, to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Italian restaurants in Brooklyn, Broadway and the A Train into Times Square, their journey has been an exciting one.

The move to New York took them to a beautiful brownstone in Harlem, owned by upstairs neighbor and world-renowned sculptress, Leah Poller. Ms. Poller was captivated by the sweet spirit of the couple, and became licensed to perform their wedding in her very own beautiful backyard garden.

When first moving to New York City, weekends were defined by trips to art galleries, the Botanical Gardens, jogging in Central Park, and visits to New York’s iconic pizza restaurants.

Then, of course…COVID19.

Their world shrunk to a small (though quite large by New York standards) garden apartment in the lower section of Ms. Poller’s beautiful Harlem Brownstone. Thousands of hours together/alone just clarified what they had known (and what Mom had known from that first day at Deep Eddy:); that this was the real thing.

In April, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Hall announced “Project Cupid” which allowed online marriage licensing. This ruling set the stage for what would turn out to be one of the most meaningful and beautiful wedding ceremonies we’ve seen in a long time.

In the meantime, as sirens wailed through the night, carrying sick and dying New Yorkers through the streets to hospitals and morgues, the country came apart with the death of George Floyd. While protests, mostly peaceful, but sometimes not, erupted throughout the city, Harlem remained an island of neighborly love.

One Saturday morning, out their front window, Mel and Lana witnessed, then became a part of, a neighborhood “Talent Show.” Neighbors of every color and creed came together to sing, play instruments and reassure themselves and others around the world, that this is what “neighborhood” looks like. During that talent show, Mel and Lana became acquainted with African musician and stage performer, Ismalila Diarra and asked him to play at their wedding. He played a prewedding show on his West African-syle harp, (kamale ngoni), then finished up the ceremony with a spirited bongo performance.

“That’s what love looks like,” I told Mack. “That is MY America.”

On the morning of the wedding, dressed in their wedding finery, the couple traversed parts of their now-beloved city with their wedding photographer. Harlem neighbors gathered on their front stoops to applaud for and cheer on the handsome couple. Again, I say…that is MY America.

The couple will remain in New York City for a while. They love their life there and look forward to a resumption of their museum and garden and pizza joint visits. Who knows what the future will bring? A kid from small-town Texas moves to LA then to Austin and meets the girl of his dreams who traveled from South Korea to New York and then to Austin. No telling where these two might end up.

[June-29-2020]

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3 Responses to “THEN and NOW”

  1. Nancy Bachman says:

    Very sweet story! Congratulations to the happy couple!

  2. Mavis Hunstiger says:

    Oh Linda I loved your beautiful falling in love story!

    You two were truly meant to be together!

    I love you both!💕
    Mavis

  3. Linda C Elissalde says:

    Dear Marcel,

    Please forgive me. I needed you to be my editor. We married on JUNE 24, 2000, not May 24, 2000. Maybe I goofed because I was anxious to become your mate. After all, we were both 59 years old.

    Love always,
    LCE

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