The Tines That Bind

tinesTwenty-eight years ago I stood by a rhubarb patch with my brand new husband and a well used pitchfork. It was the photographer’s idea — the rhubarb and pitchfork, that is.

After our wedding in my hometown Catholic church in Wisconsin, we all headed out to my family’s farm for our reception. When the photographer saw our bright red shed (newly painted for the occasion), he was American Gothically inspired and asked if we had a pitchfork handy. My older brother produced one from the barn, complete with crusty manure on the tines. My husband and I took our places next to the rhubarb patch alongside the shed and held the pitchfork between us, taking care to keep the tines away from my lace dress and his rented tuxedo. The photographer snapped the photo, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The American Gothic image was appropriate because we would be moving to Iowa two days later. I was set to begin graduate school at Iowa State University, and my husband had found employment with a small landscaping company nearby. However, we moved to Iowa just in time for the 1988 drought. By July my husband was laid off — not much call for landscaping when it’s 104 and dry. Suddenly we were scraping by on only my graduate assistant stipend, wondering what the hell we had done.

But eventually it did rain, my husband found other work, and I graduated. I got a full-time job at Iowa State, so instead of moving back to Wisconsin, we stayed in Iowa.

Over the course of 28 years, my husband and I have been through both droughts and floods. We’ve borne and raised two kids, seeing them through the terrible twos, orthodontia, driver’s ed, and college. We’ve had two dogs, three rental houses, and one mortgage. We’ve carried on through six cars, seven pickup trucks, and one nearly severed fingertip (dear husband, 2015). In other words, we’ve lived.

Twenty-eight years go by rather quickly. One day I’m 26 in a wedding dress holding a pitchfork, and the next thing I know I’m 54, gazing at old wedding pictures in a photo album on my anniversary. Damn, it’s been fun. I’m sure looking forward to what the next 28 years will bring.

Laura Sternweis

P.S. Be sure to visit the American Gothic House Center in Eldon, Iowa, (yep, husband and I have been there) to see the house that inspired Grant Wood to paint “American Gothic.” Get your picture taken, with or without the pitchfork.


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