I met Mark and Ellie 18 years ago when I was searching for a day care provider for my daughter, Lea. Their easy-going spirit sold me - a husband/wife team and 10 happy children for Lea to grow up with? Perfect. Mark and Ellie cared for each of their charges as though they were their own. In fact, Mark was often asked when shopping at Wegmans if the five or six kids hanging on to his shopping cart were all his. As my daughter moved from baby to toddler, my friendship with Ellie grew stronger. I had many friends in my life but only a few as special as Ellie and even fewer with a husband as kind as Mark. Mark and Ellie were the whole package, so to speak.
Lea’s father and I divorced when she was two – it was a difficult time of change and adjustment and Mark and Ellie were very supportive of Lea and me. I left Lea at their home every Monday – Friday knowing that as long as she was with this very loving, family-focused couple, she would be okay. On the weekends, Mark and Ellie invited us to Dinner Dogs concerts, parades, church functions and music festivals. They never made me feel like a third wheel – Lea and Beau got along well and it was so nice to have a couple to spend time with. One Saturday night, Ellie and another day care mom took me out to a local nightclub now that I was single again. Ellie laughed with me the whole way home over the number of times the other mom said, “Oh my God, I could NEVER be single again.” Ellie truly understood what I needed during this time in my life. Mark and Ellie friendship gave me something unique – faith and lots of hope. They knew there was somebody out there and I would find him when it was the right time. It was obvious the love they shared with each other was something they wanted everyone to experience.
As I began dating again, I promised myself to never settle for anybody who didn’t look at me the way that Mark looked at Ellie. Their marriage gave me a strong example of what a good marriage looks like. They enjoyed spending time together, they trusted each other, they supported each other in following individual passions, they communicated with each other in a caring manner and they laughed with each other often.
Mark and Ellie celebrated with me when I did, in fact, marry that perfect guy and we soon expanded our family with two more children. They cared for my son Mark – whom we called Markie Mark or Little Mark in those days – and celebrated with me when I told them I had decided to leave my job and stay home with the kids once my third, Ryan, was born.
It’s hard to believe we have been friends for 18 years and they have been married for 25. How did time pass so quickly? Ellie and I have logged countless hours on the phone discussing day-to-day news….sometimes during very, very difficult times. During these times, when all seemed so overwhelming I knew without a doubt that everything would be okay – it had to be, God had given so much to this couple. Why would he not have easier times in store for them? I’m thrilled that the ups and downs associated with the early years of parenting have passed and Mark and Ellie are enjoying the true happiness and peace that is now theirs.
When I think about the role that Mark and Ellie’s relationship has played in my life, I marvel at how far we have all come. Through all of the kid’s birthday parties, the graduations and the times we have said good-bye for now to loved ones at memorial services, our two families have fit together like a team, being there for each other with love and support always. Ellie and I have joked about being at a three future weddings together as mothers of the bride and groom seeing that our three children are similar ages and opposite genders. These conversations make our children roll their eyes in protest. I think what Ellie and I are really commenting on when we talk that way is the knowledge that we will always be a part of each other’s lives. Mike, Lea, Mark Ryan and I will continue to celebrate their marriage milestones, their children’s accomplishments and all the day-to-day simple things that true friendship affords. As the years pass, I’m sure Ryan, the only one in our family who didn’t experience Baby Macaroni day care first hand, will continue to ask, “Is Beau really my cousin?” and “How are Mark and Ellie related to us?” To which I will always answer, “They just are, buddy…they just are.”