June 13th, 2008 by cgergen

Almost five years ago, my wife and I “eloped” with ninety of our closest friends and family to a small island off the NE coast of Puerto Rico named Vieques.  It was a wonderful celebration of life and love as we said our vows beneath a pair of palm trees overlooking the crashing waves.


As life has charged ahead with the arrival two children (our daughter Maya is three and our son Liam was born just four months ago), a move to Seattle and back to DC, and new professional adventures – Vieques began to seem like a brilliant dream.  Until last week…


In the midst of a family vacation to Puerto Rico, my wife and I slipped away to Vieques with both children.   We were nervous to return.  What if things were different?  What if the reality spoiled the magic of our memories?  Ultimately, though, this is a special place that we didn’t want to recede further into history.  Rather it is a place we want to stay connected to, to share with our children, and, Inshallah, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


The ferry ride across from Fajardo was not an auspicious beginning.  The seas were rough and soon our daughter experienced her first bout of sea-sickness.  When we disembarked into the heat and dust of the island’s main town, Isabella Segunda, with two unhappy children we wondered what in the world we were thinking.  But then the memories started kicking in – there was the place we had first met Father Tomas, a Panamanian Priest committed to social justice who had married us.  There was the place we got our wedding certificate.  This tucked away island that had seemed so far away seemed to be welcoming us home again.


Within an hour of arriving, we were bouncing along familiar roads in a beat up rental jeep – delighting Maya with close encounters with the island’s ubiquitous stray horses who graze along the side of the roads.   Neeeeeeeeeighhhh she shouted into the air happily as we skirted on by.  Lunch was at Banana’s an old favorite watering hole overlooking the sea and we wandered down to say hello to a fellow who got us flowers for our wedding – and sold an ice cream to Maya.  Old friendships and new connections. 


We eventually made our way to the Inn on the Blue Horizon – the site of our wedding.  The ownership has changed but when we explained our visit, they welcomed us with open arms.   Maya ran ahead – running through the open-aired restaurant and bar, doing a quick tour of the dance floor where the island’s only band had us twirling until the wee hours, and then down the path towards the ocean where my radiant bride had walked arm and arm with her Dad.


The two palm trees beneath which we had exchanged home-made vows had now spawned their own children – two small palms dancing side by side in the breeze.  As my wife and I stood hand in hand (Maya now climbing down a dangerous cliff towards the water and Liam sweating in his carrier), it felt like we were where we needed to be.  Life has moved on – fast and furious.  But we remain rooted to the important things.  And by reconnecting to the past we were helping to renew for the future where the priorities are clear and the beauty of the world is in abundance.


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