Michael: Hi Grandma!
June: Hello Ms. Duarte.
Grandma: Oh please June, you’re about to marry this young man, please call me your grandmother too.
June: Will do, Grandma. We’re both sad you won’t be able to make it to our wedding next week, so we’re glad to be able to spend today with you.
Grandma: Oh you know I’m too old to fly, and the two of you will be celebrating each other for the rest of your lives together, me missing one day is fine. Either of you want anything? I know you’d want a black coffee, Michael. June?
Michael: Ah you know me too well, Grandma.
June: Just some tea if you have any.
Grandma: Of course, dear. Come on to the kitchen, you two.
Grandma: I’m actually really glad you’re here; I’ve never told you how your grandpa and I married, have I? It’s actually a bit like how the two of you met.
June: He owned a coffee shop and you wrote at that coffee shop all the time?
Grandma: Hah, almost. Just with a little more drama.
You already know that my parents passed when I was young—my father when I was about 12 and my mother not long after—so my sisters and I lived with our aunt. Thanks to her we weren’t rich, but we were far from struggling. For about a few years we would always buy bread and treats from this local bakery: Leonardo’s.
Grandma: Mhm. His father named the bakery after him shortly after his birth. It was all his family had. They couldn’t afford for your grandfather to go to school so he would work behind the counter every day. Often times my sisters would ask me to pick up some pan de leche after classes—still the best pan de leche I’ve ever had. I had just turned 16, so he must have been 15 still when we first met. Over those three or so years seeing your grandpa that often quickly led to a friendship, and eventually his courtship. Unfortunately, I was already planned to be wed.
June: Wait, you were supposed to be in an arranged marriage?
Grandma: Yes, my aunt had a friend that wanted me to marry her son. Their family was rich and successful, just as you would expect. It was simple and easy so my family agreed to it.
Michael: There is no way you took this sitting down, right?
Grandma: Ah, of course not, you’re here right in front of me after all!
Michael: So then Grandpa’s, uh, “courtship” worked? Like, he didn’t have to chase you?
Grandma: Obviously. He was young, silly, and very naïve, but also very ambitious, passionate, and funny. It was hard not to love him. Once we found out about my aunt’s arrangement, we knew we had to act fast, so we eloped. Well, actually you can’t say that it was your normal elopement: first we staged a fake kidnapping.
Grandma: My sisters hated your grandfather because his family was so poor and thought they weren’t suitable for us. In a way they were right. Not that I cared.
June: So how’d you do it?
Grandma: It was pretty simple actually. He and a couple of his friends helped me down from my second story bedroom window. Then in the following days I lived with him and his family while arranging our own marriage. We were also young and stupid so the kidnapping wasn’t very convincing, though. Without any sign of struggle, my sisters were quick to see through the act and two days later visited your grandfather’s bakery.
Michael: How’d they know to go to Grandpa, though?
Grandma: For three years there was no place I spent more time at than that bakery. Even when my sisters didn’t ask me to pick anything up I would stop by to see him and his family, then come home with some extra sweet rolls from spare change I didn’t have. Even with their financial situation, that family never hesitated to gift me something sweet.
June: Runs in the family; that sounds just like your dad, Mike.
Michael: I’m starting to think you kept coming back for the free muffins and not because of me! So what did Grandpa do?
Grandma: He told the truth. He said that he loved me, I loved him, that I was upstairs, and that we were planning to get married the next day. Then they bought some pan de leche and left.
Michael: … that’s all they did?
Grandma: Here’s the thing about my sisters: they may have hated your grandfather, but they knew and loved me very much. Though they were looking forward to rich in-laws, they also knew I was stubborn and that I would hate the housewife lifestyle planned ahead for me. So they let me go and told my aunt that I was okay, safe, but not coming back.
Then with your grandpa’s best friend at hand and the priest from the nearby church, we quickly got married. Together we both worked at the bakery while also building our own house right next door. It was made out of old, worn out tin and would fall apart when it rained, but we were in love with it; it was the first thing we did together. A war, five children, a trip to the United States, and ten grandchildren later, here we all are.
Michael: Wow… that… was amazing.
June: So you really had to build your life back up from the bottom, even when you had an easy path ahead of you.
Grandma: Yes, I chose a life much harder than it needed to be, but being with your grandfather was one of the easiest decisions I’ve made in my life. I could’ve had at the very least short term security for my life, but knowing and valuing my self worth was much more important. I consider myself lucky for realizing this at nineteen; it led me to your grandfather and I am better off for it.
Michael: How come you’ve never told me this story before?
Grandma: Hah, you never asked. And with your wedding coming up, I figure there is no better time than now. The two of you remind me of your grandfather and I, and I believe you’ve found the same thing with each other.
June: Thanks Grandma, I think so too.
Michael: Me too.