I was so excited to see this week's episode, because Slade and I had worked so hard to put together this surprise for my parents. I unfortunately was disappointed because it did not even come close to showing everything we had put together for that weekend. I decided to do something big for their forty year anniversary, because you just don't see forty years of marriage that often anymore, and I believed it was something to be celebrated! Since the show wasn't able to show everything that actually happened, let me start by telling you the idea behind the weekend, and then tell you about the details you missed (so it helps you understand what we did better). I feel like it was a little choppy in this episode and might not have made sense what was actually going on. A lot took place so I will tell you all the behind the scenes action at the end of my blog in case you want to read about it. If not just read this first part of this blog.
It was a very sentimental weekend for me, and this episode truly helps you understand why I am hesitant to get married again right now. Seeing my parents so emotional yet so happy during this footage made me cry a lot while watching it. I was beyond happy that everything worked out how I wanted it to (all with Slade's help), and that they were able to celebrate each other and all the amazing memories they created together over the last forty years. I had been planning this for them for close to six months, so to see it all come together was so special to me.
Obviously you see my own personal story play out along side my parents and the struggle I have with being married again. As I have stated before, I have been through more in my thirty-three years of life then some go through in their whole lifetime, therefore I am hesitant to jump back into marriage. Let me be clear on something and set the record straight for all the people that continue to challenge this, it has nothing to do with if I think Slade is the one! I thank God everyday for Slade and the amazing relationship I have with him; I simply have some healing to still do before I jump back into marriage again! I don't know why choosing to listen to my healing heart before jumping back into something is so bad. Maybe if more people did, then we wouldn't have as high of a divorce rate.
I just want to point out that the weekend would not have been the same without all the amazing people that helped make it so wonderful for my parents. I am so grateful to all those who helped make the weekend amazing, like the designer of mom's gown www.azadehcouture.com , Larry Welk for personally taking the time to fly in the Pastor to location, Marci and Gary Eberle from www.eberlewinery.com, Bruce and Lori Hansen, my parents dear friends, that helped with getting the Mascot outfit for Slade to wear, making the Larry Welk connection happen, and having their daughter take all the behind the scenes pictures the whole time, also La Cresenta Presbyterian Church http://www.lcpc.net for allowing us to film inside the church and making that moment extra special for my parents!
Thank you for letting me share a little piece of my life and the reasons why I love my family and my parents so much! They weren't the perfect parents, but they certainly did a great job raising us three kids, and I feel beyond blessed to have the relationship I do with them today. Words cannot express the love and admiration I have for them sticking together for forty years and for being such great role models of what being in an equal partnership and loving each other unconditionally is all about. Despite what I have been through, I believe one day I will be able to have what my parents have had with my partner. They have given me hope for that again.
Now for those of you who are interested, here are the details behind what you missed and the background to what I planned for my parents. If anything maybe it will give you guys ideas of how to plan a wonderful surprise or celebration for someone you love using just memories! (It's budget friendly too that way.)
The idea was to take my parents down memory lane and use my parents' forty years of memories as a means of making a special weekend for them. I had gone up to my old childhood home (when my parents weren't home) and went through my mom's hope chest full of all the memories she had collected over the years of the special events and memories in their lives. It was so special to go through all the things my mom has kept for us kids to go through one day. So many things brought tears to my eyes going through that chest. My mom actually kept the little outfits each one of us kids came home in from the hospital after we were born. She had so many wonderful memories and things in that hope chest, and I feel so blessed to have a mom that thought to keep all those things for us.
This led me to the idea of doing a scavenger hunt down memory lane for them in their hometown where I grew up. I decided to do the three really important milestones in their lives, meeting in high school, getting married, and having three kids.
As I went through the hope chest I found pictures from my parents in high school, and it led me to ask so many questions about who they were back then, how and why they feel in love, and how they have made it work for forty years. Planning this for my parents was so amazing, because I learned so much about them that I didn't even know I didn’t know. You think you know your parents so well because they are your parents, but I realized that there was so much more about them I didn't know, and I learned about their lives (because at the time I was too young to really understand). I encourage everyone to do this one day with their parents.
My parents were high school sweethearts, and mom's first car was a Mustang. She and dad took that car on their honeymoon, and they had a lot of fun memories in that car, so it was a fun element to have as the first piece of our scavenger hunt for them. I knew it would bring back so many memories for them. I wanted them to drive around their hometown of Montrose in that car from location to location remembering how special their marriage and life has been together. The footage doesn't show it, but we had little clues at each location for the next location. The first clue was dangling from the rear view mirror in the car, and it lead to them where they first fell in love... CV High School. It said, "I know being married for forty years can be a hassle, drive to the place where you got your first tassle," When they arrived at their high school, Slade was actually there dressed up as the high school mascot and was in the center of the football field with flowers and their next clue. I had found out that my mom was the mascot for CV, so I thought that would be fun to see the old outfit she wore every weekend. I took video of that moment, and I would love for you to see that at my site www.gretchenchristine.com. It was so funny and cute!
Slade presented them their high school diplomas (I had found in mom's hope chest) and inside of those was the second clue. It was a heart cut in half and they had to hold it up together to get the next clue. It read, "Now that you found your true love and ended your search, next thing to do is head to the church." My parents got married right out of high school, so we took them to the church they got married next. I had found my parents' 8MM film of their wedding video from forty years earlier in the hope chest, so I decided to have it transferred to DVD, so they could watch that very special day again in the same church they got married in forty years ago! That was such an amazing moment for me sitting with my parents seeing where it all started.
The best part about this story is that the congregation actually wasn't really happy with Housewives filming there, however the pastor said that forty years of marriage is something to be celebrated and if any message got across to America that is the message he wanted to get out there! How great is that story! If that is not God working, I don't know what is... and we got to film there.
The next clue said, "Just when you think your DUNS there's MORE," which led them to the childhood park (Dunsmore park) where my parents had all three of us kids' (I have an older sister and a younger brother) birthday parties growing up. We had set up all the things my mom had kept of for us in her hope chest on one of the picnic tables; all our major accomplishments, diplomas, picture books, first teeth, etc. My parents cried and laughed a lot going through all those memories, and it was very special.
The next clue lead them back home to Montrose, and then we put them in the limo to head to Eberle Winery. I had transferred all their old 8mm film onto DVDs and had them watch all the videos on the way up to the next location. It was footage of us kids learning how to crawl, skate, birthday parties, etc. It was such a special gift to give them, because it was something they probably would never have done for themselves. I had all their old slides converted to CDs of pictures as well, so the thought was to continue to go down memory lane while driving to the next location (which was three hours away).
They love wine and to go wine tasting, so this was a perfect location for a renewal of their vows. The owners (who my parents ended up knowing and we didn't even know they knew each other) were kind enough to have us stay at their private estate on the property, and we had an amazing time with them on Saturday night. I had got to location early and set up their room full of all the memories from all their years together. I brought pictures to hang on the walls, every photo album my mom had in our childhood home, yearbooks and love letters between the two of them. My favorite part about the entire weekend was hearing the two of them giggling in the morning and then walking into their room to find then laying in bed together (in pajamas) going through all their old yearbooks together and photo albums and just reminiscing about all the memories of the life they had created together.
The next morning we took mom and dad to the spa so we could carry out the day's activities. One of the big surprises of the weekend was trying to get their pastor from forty years ago to location! He had to teach Sunday school until noon that day, and we did not know how to get him to location after that. Fortunately, we were so blessed to have Larry Welk personally fly in the pastor that day on his private plane! (OK so these parts aren't budget friendly.) However, the lesson I learned here is that it pays to be kind to people. Larry remembers meeting my parents and said, "They were such a wonderful couple and so kind to me," that he wanted to help us and do whatever it took to get the pastor there for this special celebration! I'm telling you God was working overtime in helping all these things come together!
Behind the scene footage of the plane coming in to the local airport with the pastor will be posted at my site as well (www.gretchenchristine.com). Having my parents pastor there from forty years ago really made the weekend so special for my parents and me! Seeing my mom's face when she saw the pastor made it so worth all the hoops we had to jump through to find Pastor Don! Mom also still had the service book from forty years ago in her hope chest, and it was so fun to give it to Pastor Don to use again (that brought a tear to his eye).
Obviously, getting my Mom a new ring was a huge surprise part of the weekend as well! I knew that dad couldn't afford a brand new ring for my mom, and that my mom had the same ring from forty years ago, and it was time to upgrade! There have been some misconceptions about this gesture. The fact is that my old wedding ring was just sitting in the back of my jewelry box and wasn't doing any good just being there, so I decided to trade in the ring so we could get credit towards my mom's new ring. It's just like trading in a watch for a new watch or an upgraded watch. I would have probably taken the ring at some point and traded it in for something new for myself, so why not my for my mom instead. I wasn't going to be wearing that ring ever again, and all it did was make me sad to see it, so I decided to get credit for those stones and help upgrade mom's ring. Dad ended up paying for the rest of the ring, the portion that my traded in diamonds did not cover. (It's sad to see how everyone misinterprets this or how they turn what I thought was a selfless and kind gesture into something else.)
Mom really did not believe the ring was real, she actually thought it was a prop. My parents have never lived a very flamboyant lifestyle, although I am sure many times in their lives they could have. I love that about them, they are down to earth, not materialistic and content to just have each other and family. They have always taught me the true meaning of being happy and content with life no matter what you have financially. They shared their first dance again together (video posted at my site as well), and we had a great dinner planned for them with a wedding cake and champagne toast as well after the ceremony! I brought all my linens, china, and crystal from my home in order to save money to have this perfect setting for them. I brought candles and pictures to set up on the table and it turned out gorgeous (you can see those pics on my site as well for ideas). Honestly, we did have some great people step up to make some parts of this amazing, but overall all we did was surround them with all their memories and it made a perfect weekend for them!
It was by far one of the most memorable and fun events I have ever planned, and my parents say it is one they will never forget!
Thanks again for all the support and love from you guys as we continue to share our lives with you every week!