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Advice To The Groom

When the world was created,
G-d made everything a little bit incomplete.
Rather than making bread grow out of the earth,
G-d made wheat grow so that we might
bake it into bread.
Rather than making the earth of bricks,
G-d made it of clay so that we might
bake the clay into bricks.
Why? So that we might become partners
in completing the work of creation.

— from the Midrash

This evening, September 4, 2009, Pundit Aide-de-Camp James Matthew Elmer, Jr. will wed Maureen Margaret Gides at what will surely be a ceremony both meaningful and beautiful at the Saint Sebastian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

James is a good man and a conscientious aide. We wish him and his new bride every happiness.

In selecting Labor Day weekend for their nuptials, the couple certainly picked an auspicious time for a wedding — and that comes from personal experience.

For it was ten years ago this week, Labor Day weekend of September 1999, September 5th to be exact, and this writer was in a hotel room, putting on top hat and tails and preparing to take an elevator ride down to a beautiful room at The Plaza Hotel in The City of New York where my betrothed awaited and where we would be wed.

I have been thinking of what lessons I could draw from my decade of marriage to pass along to James, and I thought of the selection from the Midrash that I put at the top of this article.

Because I was having a Jewish wedding and many of the guests were not Jewish, I prepared a little booklet to explain the ceremony and I selected this excerpt because I had been inspired by my own parents.

Dating since they were kids in high school, my parents married young and partnered with one another to create a life and build a family. It wasn’t until years later… sitting in a hospital room in Houston, Texas, while my father, suffering from leukemia, underwent chemotherapy in preparation for a stem cell transplant from his identical twin brother… that I fully understood that for all our efforts, we are all also in partnership with G-d.

The ten years Debbie and I have been married have been years of work and commitment, leavened with joy and pride.

On the business front, we’ve surely spent much time and effort building a business, including launching the Pundit. We’ve worked hard to build a reputation and we’ve been fortunate to see some reward from that effort. Ken Whitacre, with whom I founded PRODUCE BUSINESS and who, along with my brother, Barry Prevor, was best man at my wedding, was kind enough to write a piece in the Pundit when I was given an important award earlier this year. The piece was titled Prevor Wins An Award, But Industry Gets The Prize.

Yet the greatest work of the past 10 years has certainly been procreative — two little gentlemen named William and Matthew.

Debbie and I have shared our lives with the industry. When we first got married, the Pundit published a piece titled Marriage to a Produce Man in Pundit sister publication, PRODUCE BUSINESS. The article identified Forthrightness, Empathy, Necessity, Work and Perishability as five lessons learned by growing up in a produce family that I thought would help in marriage.

It was just after 9/11 and William was born. The world looked a little scary at that moment, and two new parents saw their role as protecting that little guy. Yet we were never pessimists and saw the hand of a divine providence in the fact that William was born on October 19, 2001, the same date we had launched PRODUCE BUSINESS in 1985. We called the piece we wrote about the birth, Faith in the Future.

Then there was Matthew. I wonder if he will ever know how precious he is… because we almost lost him. To this day I think of myself standing outside the delivery room because they wouldn’t let me in, and then I shudder, as I did that very day, when I suddenly realized that all those people around me were sent by the hospital to be near me if they had to tell me something awful. The article about the experience was called No Accidents In Life.

As with many in our age brackets, while we are busy raising families, we also sometimes get opportunities to say thanks to our own parents for all they did for us. When my father was ill and I traveled to Texas to help, it was Debbie who manned the home front. I wrote a Special Note about the experience and included the famous Dylan Thomas poem, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.

Then there have been the industry friends and family we’ve had fun with. We stole off to Las Vegas with some industry friends, swooped into town to attend the 40th birthday of another, did a cruise with family and friends, and a barbeque in the backyard out in Los Angeles and countless fun times with others.

Of course, life is bitter mixed with sweet, and we’ve known sadness as well. As when we went to the Animal Kingdom Lodge with our friends the Nuccis, and Joe Nucci suffered a fatal heart attack, or when I gave a Eulogy at the United Nations Chapel for an industry consultant, Stan Silverzweig.

And as quick as you blink, ten years is over: Building a business, having children, helping your parents — living and dying with family and friends. It just happened so fast. Then it starts to hit you. If I just blinked my eyes and we traveled ten years from our wedding day, that means if I blink again, William, my second grader, will be 17-years-old and Matthew, my kindergartener, will be 16-years-old. Now the boys leap on me when I walk in the door; ten years from now, I suppose they will be distracted by friends and girlfriends and who knows what activities?

If I were to give James advice, it would be that life quickly gives people roles, and, especially if you have children, it is easy to focus on all your jobs and forget to focus on each other.

Some of it is inevitable. I’ve traveled so widely and so often — think how wonderful it would be to have Debbie with me in Cape Town or London or Sydney — but we have an obligation to our children, so I mostly travel alone.

But whatever the circumstances, one can always pay more attention to one’s spouse.

My grandmother, Bebe Prevor, was not a schooled person, yet she was very wise. When my father told her that he wanted to marry my mother, my grandmother asked, “Are you compatible?” I think that is a crucial question. Debbie and I have occasionally disagreed over the ten years (of course, in the end Debbie was always right and I was wrong — recognizing that is another key to a happy marriage), but never, not once, have we disagreed on anything I would think of as a core value.

But a marriage is more than just a partnership to raise the children, and as I think about blinking my eyes a couple of times and think of the children off on their own, I’m resolved to try to make my priority this second decade to let my wife know how much I love her.

As you read this, Debbie, our boys and your friendly Pundit will be jetting off to the Las Casitas Resort at the El Conquistador in Puerto Rico. A long weekend to celebrate ten years, two boys and the creation of a family — or to go back to the piece we started with — to celebrate our chance to be a partner in perfecting the work of creation.

* * * * * *

My grandfather, Harry Prevor, who was an auction buyer and wholesaler in New York on the old Washington Street market, taught me a song with a wry look on marriage. It was an old Eddie Cantor classic called Makin’ Whoopee. Michelle Pfeiffer did a rendition of the song in The Fabulous Baker Boys with Jeff Bridges as her accompanist.

She is not as hot or as sultry as my Debbie, but thought you might enjoy the song:

Of course, between basketball, the school play, piano lessons, soccer, swim lessons, chorus, homework, etc., we don’t really have that much time for going out in high style. In our house — and I guess this is all about marriage when you have young children — we are at the stage where life involves a different take on the song. Cookie Monster from Sesame Street (before he became politically correct and declared cookies a “sometimes food”) did a version called Eatin’ Cookie:

Whatever life stage you may find yourself in, here is wishing you and yours a terrific labor day weekend.

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