Today is my parents’ 31st anniversary. They first met because of a key lime pie, which makes me a key lime pie baby – sweet and tart. The setting was Southern Belize, where my mother was living with a Catholic nun and teaching home economic skills to Mayan Indian women. My dad was living just one village away in Big Falls running crews at his parents’ saw mill. The first time she saw him, he was erecting a radio tower at the age of fourteen. No one could compare. He was so mature for his age, but still she was cautious because she’d had her heart broken before.
They finally interacted one day because my grandmother wanted to bake a key lime pie, so she sent my dad to the nun’s house to trade eggs for key limes from their tree. The nun wasn’t home, so my mother answered the door when he arrived. She wished he’d go away, but felt obligated to help him. As they picked the key limes together, he spoke to her and she laughed because he is a total ham. He eventually asked her to go with him to a dance at the community center that weekend, so she said yes. They have been together 37 years since.
At first, my mother didn’t want to pursue a relationship with my dad. He would throw flowers at the car as she rode by, but still she wouldn’t budge. He even bought her a ring with a tiny diamond in it. Sister Marianne Joseph wanted my mother to become a nun, and she didn’t want her to have anything to do with my father. She made her return the ring. And even today, the Sister blatantly states, “This is one marriage I never expected to work out.” For a whole year, my father kissed the dimple on my mother’s cheek without the least bit of encouragement. And finally, she fell for him when she was about to leave for nursing school in Belize City.
For years, they dated long distance. He would ride along on sugar cane trucks, or any chance at transportation he got, to visit her in the city – on treacherous roads that were so primitive, they flooded between rivers in the rainy season. She gave him back his ring so many times, but still he persisted. Even when she tried to pawn him off on her friends, he always came back, and the ring always returned with him. When I was little, I would wear this ring whenever my mother would let me, just hoping that I would have a story like theirs someday.
When I graduated from college, I decided to move to Belize. Partly because I wanted to become a dive instructor, and partly because I had this romantic notion that I would meet someone in the jungle who would love me as much as my Dad loves my Mom, despite the hardships and pain. I thought that living in a developing country entailed hard work, and I might find someone with a work ethic like my Dad’s, his father’s, and his father’s before him. Obviously, it didn’t work out the way I had planned. But I still hope to find real Love, somewhere, someday.
Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad. I’m sorry that I couldn’t think of anything to give you, but hopefully one day your key lime love tree will have enough fruit to bake a pie.