Blog Archive

Search This Blog

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why McDonald's Shamrock Shakes are Good For Your Marriage | Maris Ehlers Photography

I love traditions, and weddings and anniversaries are steeped in them.  Today, on St. Patrick's Day, I thought I'd share a simple celebration in our family that while on the surface seems like a tiny thing, but in actuality is probably one of the most meaningful traditions in our extended family and has been for several decades.  

My in-laws were married 48 years ago today.  My mother-in-law Grace grew up on a dairy farm in Minnesota, and remembers that they had to plan the ceremony and reception around the milking times.  Such was the life of a dairy farmer.  Still is, I guess.  

Her dad and brother (a groomsmen) went home right after the ceremony to check on the cows to find that they had gotten out.  Obviously people didn't have phones attached to them 24/7 back then, so the rest of the wedding party and guests sat at the reception wondering where the father and brother of the bride were.  They assumed it was the cows, and Grace says they were just about to go ahead with dinner without them when they finally showed up.  Imagine chasing cows in tuxedos!  

Before we get to the tradition, first a funny reception story.  In honor of St. Patrick's Day, the bride and groom wanted to serve ice cream alongside the cake with creme de menthe topping.  Imagine the guests' surprise when they were served ice cream with straight creme de menthe (liqeur) on top! 

Anyway, on to the anniversary tradition.  Before they had children, Grace remembers fondly that she and her groom would celebrate their anniversary every year by driving three hours to the Twin Cities and staying the weekend at the Nicollet Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.  They would enjoy a wonderful Asian dinner on Saturday night at the Waikiki Room, a restaurant in the hotel. 

She recalls that after the babies came (four in all) that a weekend away was no longer an option.  She and Fred were lucky some years just to go out to a quiet dinner in town to mark the day.  Fred was busy owning and operating Fred's Cafe, a local diner in town, and Grace was busy chasing those four kids and working as a pediatric nurse part-time at the Worthington Medical Clinic when her youngest started school. 

When the kids got older, they eventually ended up closing the restaurant.  For several years after that, their financial situation was quite grim.  As Grace put it " We had no money to celebrate anything.  In fact, I lost it one time because I couldn't buy milk. Imagine... a dairy farmer's daughter who couldn't afford milk for her children." 

When their anniversary rolled around one year during that time, a weekend in the Twin Cities seemed like a lifetime ago, and dinner out wasn't even an option.  But ever the optimist, Grace had an idea.  She decided they all needed something to celebrate, so she thought they could go to McDonald's for shamrock shakes.  The shakes were about $.50, she said, and they had were able to scrape together money for six of them.  

That started the celebration and it has continued uninterrupted since then. To this day, no matter where Fred and Grace, their children, their children's spouses, their grandchildren and probably even a few friends and other relatives are, they make time to "mark the day" with a shamrock shake in a toast to Fred and Grace.  

One of my first dates I ever had with my husband of almost 20 years was a walk from the Concordia College campus in Moorhead, Minnesota to the local McDonald's for "a small shamrock shake" to celebrate his parent's wedding anniversary.  How could I not fall in love with a guy like that? 

Last year, when Fred and Grace were on their winter travels, they happened to be in a pocket of the Southern US where the local McDonald's didn't have shamrock shakes.  Can you imagine?  My kids were so upset we ended up driving back to McDonald's to get two more shamrock shakes which we kept in our freezer until Easter weekend, when they returned to Minnesota.  We surprised them with them, and the best part was that we got to celebrate their anniversary... again! 

That night, so many years ago, when two parents counted their quarters to see if they could afford the tiniest much needed celebration for their family, none of them had any idea how much that moment would end up meaning to the people who love them most.  

My little family celebrating their Nanny and Papa's 48th Wedding Anniversary with shamrock shakes! 
So to my brides and grooms, as you plan a celebration to start your lives off together, remember that it's a partnership that extends well beyond "the day".  You'll have good times and bad, rich times and lean, and quite possibly when you as a person or as a couple are at your lowest, it may very well end up being a defining moment for you and those you love.  

In other words, the creme de menthe might be fancy, but it's the shamrock shakes that will get you through!  

Happy Anniversary, Fred and Grace!  We love you! 

1 comment:

Grace L. Ehlers said...

I love this story, because it really is the simple things in life that count. It brought back memories of when my 2 boys were small and I was a single mother at the time and scrapping the bottom of the barrel to get some bread and milk, the boys wanted ice cream and after digging a little deeper found enough change to get three small cones. It so strange that even after times got better they always talked about those special trips to get ice cream. Thanks for sharing and giving me a nudge to go down memory lane, my oldest son would have been 23 in a few weeks(lost him at age 20 in a car accident)and been feeling little blue but this brought back the good times. Thanks again.