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Ed and Irene, May 8, 1974

Without my husband Ed’s constant support of the organizational “child” I brought into our home and lives 28 years ago, there would be no Kidpower! And, since so many of you wrote about my letter to my 19-year-old self, I thought you’d enjoy a few memories and this wedding photo of Ed and I from 43 years ago today.

In an odd reversal of some traditions, I never saw my husband’s full face until a week after we got married, when he shaved his beard off to make us less likely to seen with suspicion while traveling in small villages in Greece.

In 1974 in the Netherlands, you could have a free economy City Hall marriage with 2 other couples or a 100 Guilder marriage on your own. Money was tight for us, so we took the free marriage.

When we were filling out paperwork about two weeks before our wedding, I suddenly realized that the ceremony would all be in Dutch. Concerned, I asked the clerk, “Can you please explain to me what I will be agreeing to? I need to make sure that I am NOT agreeing to obey Ed. I am happy to promise to love, honor, and cherish him and to stay with him for better or for poorer, and in sickness and in health, but we wouldn’t be here if I had obeyed him and stayed in California.”

A glimmer of a smile flickered across the face of the clerk. “Hmm,” he said. “I don’t remember anyone asking this before. Let me get the Justice of the Peace who will be marrying you to answer your question.”

The Justice of the Peace translated their standard marriage vows. Fortunately, it didn’t mention anything about promising to obey. Then, he asked me dryly, “So, will this be okay with you?”

“Yes,” I said. “And thank you!” We all shook hands.

On the morning of May 8, 1974, Ed and I entered the cold gray stonewalls of the large City Hall building in the Hague. Our wedding party included our friend Willem, who had been with Ed when we met while traveling in Crete and who wore a straw hat with a tulip and klompjes (wooden shoes) as well as Ed’s parents and sister, who were dressed much more officially.

Suddenly, I felt very alone, far from family, far from my own language and culture. Because my legs had started shaking, I was glad that they were covered by the long flowered dress Ed’s mother had altered to fit me so that I wouldn’t get married in blue jeans.

As we started to enter the room to get married along with the 2 other couples along with their friends and families, the clerk stopped us. He said, “The Justice of the Peace who met with you couldn’t be here today, but he has arranged for you to have a private ceremony without needing to pay for it. He has written a special speech in English and in Dutch, just for you.” My eyes filled with tears, and my loneliness evaporated. I remember thinking that inside those cold grey stonewalls beat a very kind and loving human heart.

Later, we had a “rijsttafel” with our small wedding party at an Indonesian restaurant nearby, and then Ed rode me to the train station on the back of his bicycle.

And I have been loving, honoring, and often disobeying this dear impossible person ever since. Much of what we’ve learned about teamwork, communication, and tolerance comes from our ongoing struggle to put our strengths together and to accept our differences. He prefers order – I prefer flexibility. He is a night person. I am a morning person. He thinks in a straight line. If you pick up a piece of my thinking, you might find that it is like picking up one part of a huge seaweed that is covering half of the beach.

I once told him a bit wistfully, “Lievert, I always thought I’d marry a flaming reformer, storming through the world about some great social cause.” (“Lievert “means “darling” in Dutch.)

“Taking care of you IS my social cause!” Ed sighed.

As I look at our wonderful family with our amazing kids and grandkids – and our wonderful Kidpower community and the important work we do – and our love through the ups and downs of our lives – I think, “Being my lievert’s social cause … what could be better than that?”

So, Happy 43rd Anniversary, Ed!

 

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Published: May 8, 2017   |   Last Updated: May 8, 2017

Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: cartoon-illustrated Kidpower Safety Comics and Kidpower Teaching Books curriculum; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; and The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People.

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