My niece Lauren and her husband, Ben, are riding up the West Coast on bicycles. They started in Glendale from her grandmother’s home.
Her grandmother is worth mentioning here. Mrs. Patricia Fiedler personifies the very definition of matriarch. Overseeing a brood of 12 children, 22 grandchildren and one great-grandchild, she is one of the most incredible women I have ever met. Moving into the fall of her life, she lives as if it is the first day of her spring. Inspirational is too inadequate a word to describe her.
Mrs. Fiedler spoiled the two for a few days and sent them off. Their initial days took them to Santa Monica and up the Pacific Coast Highway. They spent a night at Point Mugu and then made their way to Carpinteria. They arrived at our home last Thursday, full of the love-filled enthusiasm that is the exclusive domain of the recently wed.
Ben and Lauren were married just less than two years ago in a ceremony that was as simple and elegant as it was enchanting. They grew up high school sweethearts and their vows sealed a relationship that will, without doubt, last beyond those earnest promises.
They are also charmed in remarkable and mystifying ways. Riding into town they stumbled across what is arguably the best place for breakfast in Southern California. It took me years to find the place, and they ended up on the doorstep completely oblivious to their find. I must confess a degree of envy. Even as their journey progresses they are being consistently blessed by those happy accidents reserved for a select and chosen few.
I suppose in many ways they have earned it. They are two of the brightest people I know. He graduated from Amherst College, she from Vassar. He moved on to a Ph.D. program at Harvard, and she went to Wall Street and quickly made her mark at Morgan Stanley. She will be joining Ben at Harvard in the fall to start an MBA program.
They are brilliant conversationalists while also humbly engaging. Lauren is the second of my sister’s four children, all girls. She raised them for most of their young lives as a single mother in the quiet enclave of Sandpoint, Idaho. Ben grew up right alongside Lauren. In spite of the rabid conservatism that sometimes defines the area, both grew up with world views far vaster than the forested landscape that surrounded them. Today their gaze reaches beyond my own.
It is for that reason we take every opportunity to have our children spend time with them, and with Lauren’s sisters as well. My daughters will find no better role models than the Fiedler girls, no better maps to navigating the tumultuous waters of young adulthood. In this context, taking them to dinner was a benediction.
We went to a favorite local steakhouse, started with a bottle of local Merlot, and spent the next hour catching up. Living in Manhattan, their first apartment was just 120 square feet, the rent a mere $1,700. Lauren worked for Morgan Stanley and embraced the outrageous hours demanded of an analyst. Her last day was just hours from her departure for their excursion up the West Coast.
I am proud of her for knowing when to let go, for being clear about what really matters in this life. Our dinner solidified everything we all know to be true. Life is about so much more than money. It is about those special moments of meeting people on the journey. It is about sharing a meal with folks who had been strangers and become family. It is about the simple act of breaking bread on the outrageous journey of biking 1,300 miles from Glendale to Seattle.
I wish I could join them, but even still I am enriched by their journey and thankful for the gifts such a courageous expedition can offer me and those blessed to be touched along the way..
Note: Click here to follow Ben and Lauren’s journey.