|Robert Louis Stevenson and Isobel Steel Bannatyne,|
1st May 1943,
on the front steps of Fisherwick Presbyterian Church,
Belfast, Northern Ireland
He was a 24 year old American from Chicago
who was working in the war effort
for Lockheed Aircraft overseas.
She was an 18 year old Scottish girl whose family had come to Belfast
for her father's work when she was a child.
She was working in the accounting office of a tobacco company.
They met at a church service that was held up the stairs,
on the second floor, above a fish and chips shop.
It was during the darkest days of World War II.
Amidst air raid sirens, Luftwaffe bombings,
food rationing, and Vera Lynn war ballads,
they fell in love.
|Cutting the wedding cake at the reception|
The second youngest of eight siblings,
6 of whom were girls,
she was the first to be married.
Her widowed mother, (my grandmother)
was determined, despite the wartime restrictions,
to make the wedding not only as GRAND,
but as "politically correct" as possible.
When there was no appropriate cake mold available
for the top of the wedding cake,
a tubular propeller housing was found that was exactly the right size.
They used it to bake the final layer you see the happy couple cutting into,
and they called it good.
Fast forward 63 years...
|Greeting guests after the post-Sacrament service ceremony|
in the church meeting room,
(that shared the building with a Yoga parlor)
Christmas Eve, 24th December 2006
Both of us were determined,
despite the swiftness of the decision to be married,
(I had only been in Sweden for five days),
and the distance involved from my home and beloved family in the U.S.,
to make the occasion as Grand, and as "politically correct" as possible.
When there was no appropriate wedding dress available,
we borrowed a "folkdräkt" (traditional costume) of Junsele
from a woman in the village, he put on his best suit
and a Swedish blue tie,
the "Swedish sisters" his daughters, baked a cake and made
"hjortronsylt" topping with whipped cream for refreshments,
and we called it good.
Sounds pretty romantic right?
Well, it really was.
Bob and Isobel had checked with all the requirements to be married legally and reside in Northern Ireland until his commitment with Lockheed came to an end, after which he returned to the U.S. and Isobel followed a little while later with their first child, a girl, who had been born in Belfast.
If only it could have been that easy for us.
We were good on the romantic part.
It was a wonderful time with so many new and exciting adventures
to share together.
There were still children at home on the farm to be raised, and a lot to learn for a "city slicker" who had never even touched a cow before.
We were confident we had done it all legally
by checking with the government agency,
about an hour away in the kommun of Sollefteå,
before we got married.
They were kind and helpful.
They assured us that because Hans
was born in Sweden and a Swedish citizen, his marriage to me
gave me "automatic" residency.
If only it were true.
Arriving at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm after a visit back to the U.S.
I was stopped at the immigration desk and asked to prove I was married.
My passport was in my maiden name. I hadn't changed my driver's license yet, still in my maiden name. I didn't have a copy of our marriage document with me.
The officer was pleasant but firm as he explained that the law had changed and I was required to "register" as a resident of Sweden.
Furthermore, if I had nothing to prove I was actually married,
I would not be allowed to enter the country.
My mind moved instantly into resolution mode.
What did I have that was in my married name that could prove what I was saying was true?
1. Flip open wallet
2. Scan cards on one flap of wallet - Dang! (All U.S.)
3. Scan cards on next flap of wallet - spot something Swedish - HOORAY!
My Coop-Konsum Swedish grocery store rewards card
in the name of "Lorayne G. Karlsson",
and with that...
They let me through!