Frankly, I think lucky numbers are bunk. No, your granddaughter’s birthday is no luckier because those are the same two last digits of your phone number. Nonsensical as this sort of numerical affirmation is, I do have a lucky number. Yes, I was born on this number’s day. Yes, it was my softball jersey number. Yes, it was the mailbox number for both of my first two homes, and yes, it is the last two digits of my cell phone number. With all these coincidences, and even due to the fact that today also happens to be the 11th, my lucky number is most fortuitous because it is my 11th wedding anniversary today.
Anniversaries are special. Even though I spent a total of seventy-five seconds talking face to face with My Albanian today while we passed each other on the street in our separate cars, I still realize the significance of this day. This is the day we promised to start our lives together as husband and wife. It had nothing to do with rings (cough, cough, mine is a bit too small to wear anymore) or the flowers (they were the wrong color, oh well) or the dress (I looked damn fine in that dress), it was about two people at different ends of the earth finding each other beyond all odds. If I were a gambling person, I would have bet against us from the start, but God had big plans for both of us, and I am so blessed that I followed his plans.
If I were going to be one hundred percent truthful about my wedding anniversary, I would have to tell you that it is not my first marriage. Oh no, I have been married three times, and every time to the exact same Albanian…with no divorces in between. Let me break it down for you.
The First Marriage
At 20 years old, and after an emergency stint in the hospital of Florence, Italy. My Albanian and I were married at Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall of Florence. In a room all decked out in ornate gold, gilded furniture, larger than life tapestries and walls covered in red velvet, we were married. Seated in a thrown fit for a royal couple, I wore platform sandals that I purchased from the San Lorenzo market for about eight dollars, a tan skirt, and a faded-out black button-up shirt. My Albanian went all out donning all black with his sleeves rolled up and top button left open in pure Albanian style. Our witnesses were a short Italian co-worker wearing a jumpsuit and a fanny pack (no lie), along with an Albanian cousin, also all in black.
What I remember most about that day was leaving the grand room after being presented with our scrolled marriage certificate and a silver coin embossed with the skyline of Florence, and the next waiting parties were looking past us in anticipation, waiting to catch a glimpse of the bride in her white dress. Sorry to disappoint. It was a shotgun wedding done Albanian style. This marriage was to help expedite our visa process that eventually took over a year, and was supposed to be our own little secret.
The definition of “secret” is, “something that is kept or meant to be kept unknown or unseen by others.” Of course, my mother had to be in on this “secret” because I needed her to send me my birth certificate. Isn’t it funny though, that when I returned to the States, my second cousin asked me at my Great-Grandmothers 90th birthday party, “So, I heard you married an Albino?” You can’t make this stuff up folks. Thanks, Mom.
Note my shoes and the fanny pack.
The Second Marriage
For seven years after my first “secret” marriage, I made sure that My Albanian was clear on the fact that we were not really married and I expected a real proposal and a real wedding with all our families in attendance; and until those events happened, he was to consider me his fiancé. No pressure. Finally, after endless hints, he proposed!
On his birthday, I took him to one of those fancy restaurants in the Bellagio Las Vegas, where I was working at the time. I reserved the best table looking right over the famous dancing waters. The whole meal was amazing. I did notice, however, that he wasn’t eating too much, and he looked a little pale. He said his stomach wasn't feeling well. After the meal was over, My Albanian practically hid behind the table, protected by the long tablecloth, got down on one knee, pulled out a ring and asked me to marry him…again. I was so surprised and happy I couldn’t even see the ring, I laughed with tears. After I said, “Yes!!!” he blew a sigh of relief, got his color back and said, “Now I’m hungry.” Did he think I was going to say no? Silly Albanian.
On with planning the wedding of my dreams, a Tuscan wedding! Not just Tuscan theme, in actual Tuscany. We were married on August 11th, at Villa Catignano just a wee bit outside Sienna. I will save all the hilarity that ensued for another post, (there is so much to write about) when a bunch of Albanians, a sprinkling of Italians and Americans and quite a few drunks came together to make a most memorable celebration that everyone in the family still talks about today, even the Carabinieri (police).
The Third Marriage
By now you are well aware of the fact that I married an Albanian. However, a marriage to an Albanian, I found out, should not be planned by the bride and groom, they must have a properly orchestrated Albanian wedding without your input....trust me, it's better that way.
A week after our Tuscan wedding, we both hopped over to Albania and were married a third time at a former communist leader's vacation compound. I kid you not, nothing was planned by us. There were well over three hundred guests of which I knew about five, including the one I was married to already. It was probably about the hottest day of summer, with ninety percent humidity. The building's air conditioners were not working, and I was stuck in a corset wearing a dress that weighed approximately the same amount as a fat toddler, with about one hundred bobby pins sticking into my skull and the equivalent of three cans of Aqua Net hair spray holding me altogether.
To this day, I have a hard time watching the utterly cheesy production video of my wedding. It lasted all day! I was famished. It was too hot to eat the wonderful fresh fish that was being served to everyone else around me, and I nearly passed out about two times. Nearing the end, all I wanted was a piece of my wedding cake and to go home, even that was ruined by a drunk shouting, “Yeaaaaah!! Come on everyone and parrrr-teeee!” whilst bursting a confetti gun all over my cake. I could have killed that idiot.
Our sweaty wedding images, and the food we couldn't eat.
After all those weddings, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat…well, maybe not the Albanian one. We considered doing it again at the drive-thru chapel in Vegas, but we got too busy with work and life. Tonight, on our 11th wedding anniversary, My Albanian is back to work, doing what he does best, being hospitable to others (and not his wife…just kidding!!). I am home taking care of our two little Albanians doing what I do best, yelling at them and hugging them for long periods of time.
I can honestly say marriage hasn’t been the easiest road to travel with an Albanian by my side, but the most important fact is that he has always been by my side, keeping me going, keeping me strong, and loving me with all my faults. He may not be as slick as that club rat I first fell in love with, but he certainly is a better man, better husband, and better father than I have ever known. I am sure looking forward to the next eleven years of adventures, laughs, and this crazy Albanian undertaking of mine.
Te due shume Babi.
This picture was taken right after he tried to carry me...that, was hilarious!
Have any questions about any of our weddings? Where were you married, or where would you like to be married? Do you even want to get married?
Comment below, I'd love to hear from you.