Friday, May 31, 2024

New England and a Wedding

Why do we travel any more? Well it seems nowadays it’s mostly about family. We’ve been going to California a lot to see Emi and be part of her life (perhaps you’ve noticed? Haha). But this time we’ve going the other direction, back to Boston for Max and Rachel’s wedding. 

Of course this was a perfect excuse for us to go back to New England too. The wedding is Sunday in Topsfield, MA, but we flew in yesterday evening, grabbed a rental car, and drove to Salem, New Hampshire where we used to live. 

 We stayed at the Artisan Hotel in the Tuscan Village, where the old Rockingham race track used to be. This planned development was not here when we lived here, and even 2 years ago when we took the RV and drove here from Minnesota, this was mostly a construction site. But now! Wow! Lots of retail, restaurants, apartments and condos, all beautifully designed and constructed. It’s still not finished, there is more construction going on, but there is enough that it really felt like we were somewhere we had never been before.

We landed at a little after 5 pm, and although it took a while to get our rental car, we were in Salem by a little before 7. We checked in, I changed clothes and before too long we were downstairs getting drinks at the bar and waiting for Rich and Paula.

The Tuscan Kitchen used to be over on Main Street but they’ve moved to the hotel. It too is bright and beautiful and the food is just as good as ever. Before too long Rich and Paula showed up and we were busy talking and catching up. But I needed to eat; I had ordered an old fashioned and it had been a while since I’d eaten much of anything. I wasn’t feeling crabby, but I knew I shouldn’t drink on an empty stomach and my mood when hungry could turn on a dime (ask Lee) so we quickly ordered some apps, the burrata and the calamari, both excellent. Then I got the lobster gnocchi, Lee got the halibut and Paula got this amazing dish made table side where they had a giant wheel of cheese, poured cognac over it, set the cognac alight and then swirled pasta and a sauce in it! It was very fun to watch, and tasted good too.

Lee’s halibut was great. My gnocchi was good but I kept stealing bites of his fish. You just can’t get fish like that in Minnesota.

We talked and talked, but finally we had to call it a night. We went up to our room and turned on the Wolves/Mavericks game. Ugh, the Wolves lost by a point, again. We both said they looked tired. They missed a lot of shots too. Oh well.

In the morning Lee went downstairs and got us coffee and got me a sweet roll too. I was going to go for a swim but their pool wasn’t open, even though it was supposed to open at 8, and I didn’t want to wait around, so I went for a run instead. It was so strange! Until I was out off the Village, and even after that, I wasn’t entirely sure where I was! Then I passed the Pleasant Street Church where I used to volunteer at their food pantry and then I was oriented. I ran a little on the rail trail and then turned around.

It was time to check out and drive to Tynesboro to meet Amy D and Jason for brunch! Another wonderful reunion and we also got to meet Jason for the first time. We approve! he’s a very nice man, likes silly jokes, loves Amy’s dogs and is a Disney convert so he’s perfect!

After brunch we drove to Peabody and checked into the wedding hotel. Right now we’re just chilling in our hotel room. Introvert me needs to unwind just a little bit before our next round of socialization!

Sunday May 26.

Around 4:30 we roused ourselves and I got dressed for the cocktail party. I liked my dress but I was a little nervous. The event was listed as casual; would my dress be too much? As it turned out it was fine, not too dressy at all, just about right.

It was great seeing my cousin Mark and his wife Amy, the parents of the groom. They both looked great. Amy has finally retired from her job as a pediatric oncologist; they’ve bought a house on the Cape and are getting ready to enjoy life, although Mark, also a doctor, is still working, for now. Mark’s parents, my aunt Ray and Uncle Al, have moved into an independent living place in St. Louis, after living in the same house for most of their married life. They are in their 90’s and it’s been a big adjustment. I really should try to make it to St. Louis sometime soon. It was too much for them to attend the wedding.

I talked to Amy’s brother and some of their friends. We’ve been to a seder at their house when we lived here; fond memories! We also talked to Barbie, Mark’s sister (and also my cousin of course) and her partner Richard. It was so nice to see her, and finally meet Richard.

There was lots (and lots) of food, all kinds of snacks, burgers, salads, pizza, appetizers of all kinds, you name it. An open bar, some toasts, and an adorable slide show documenting Max and Rachel’s relationship. They met at the beginning of covid, in March of 2020, and spent the first month getting to know each other online before they were finally able to meet.

Finally around 7:30 we said our goodbyes and staggered upstairs to our room. This introvert needed to shut up for a while and recharge!

In the morning I took my time, drinking coffee, eating a banana and some beignets that Lee had bought. Finally I got myself ready and went for a run. The pool here is way too small to swim laps, so I went outside and did a 5.5 mile workout. It was in the 60’s and I got good and sweaty.

After that we drove up to Markey’s in Hampton Beach for a lobster roll. It’s a beautiful day so after lunch we drove up the coast for a while. We thought maybe we would park somewhere and walk along the beach but unless we wanted to spend $15 at the State Park there was no parking so we just drove around with the other hordes and stopped to get an ice cream cone at Beach Plum before we headed back to the hotel. 

The ice cream cone was ridiculous. I got a kiddie cone and could barely eat half. Lee got a large and he couldn’t finish his either. I want to know in what universe you would give a child a cone that size!

Tuesday May 28

Well we’re sitting in the airport at 6:51 AM waiting for our flight back to Minnesota. It’s been a whirlwind couple of days! I’ve done enough talking to last me a week at least!

Back to Sunday. We had some time to chill in the hotel room before it was time to get dressed for the wedding. I liked my black ruffly dress and Lee looked good in his suit as well. We took the shuttle to the venue in Topsfield. It was very nice not to have to mess with a car, and we didn’t have to worry about being late or where to park.

We wondered how their wedding had ended up in Topsfield. Max and Rachel live in San Diego, Rachel’s family lives in California, and Mark and Amy live in  Newton, MA, a suburb of Boston. Turns out it was pretty simple. Max grew up in New England and Rachel didn’t want any palm trees in her wedding photos! And it was a very pretty venue.

The ceremony was outside in the adjacent garden. It actually was the first purely Jewish wedding I’ve been to in a very long time. It was pretty nice, incorporating elements of Jewish tradition with a modern twist. Rachel had chosen just beautiful flowers, and copius amounts of them too; roses, hydrangeas and others in various shades of white and pink. The bridesmaid’s dresses were a light pink, in different styles. The groomsmen had bright pink bow ties, and Teddy’s man bun had a pink ribbon as well! Cute. Max and Rachel wrote their own vows, and they were pretty mind-blowing. They are both very articulate and love each other so much. I said to someone that, yes it sounds corny, but this truly seems to be a match made in heaven.

After the ceremony there were cocktails and appetizers available until it was time to head upstairs to the reception. We were seated at a table with Mark’s high school friends. Although we both grew up in St. Louis I’m about 6 years older than Mark and he went to Ladue and I went to Parkway Central, which are two different universes in the St. Louis galaxy. It was interesting talking to some of them. The woman sitting next to me had a fascinating job involving event planning (I think, it was pretty loud and hard to hear) and something involving lots and lots of confetti, in New York City. It sounded like fun, whatever it was. The man sitting next to Lee was a retired fund-raiser with a prodigious memory. Mark had obviously told him about us and he knew who we were, our names, where we were from, you name it! He was easy to talk to.

His wife was sitting across from me so we didn’t talk much, but at one point, seemingly out of the blue, she asked me, “so, do you practice your faith?”. I was so taken aback! But I think she must have heard Lee talking because at one point he mentioned that he wasn’t Jewish. I also think it was a bit of a St. Louisim, not too unlike “what high school did you go to?” She was trying to categorize me, but I’m not very categorizable! Yes I identify as Jewish and I’m proud of my origins. We raised our kids as Jews, but I’m not very observant. We celebrate hanukah and passover, and once in a very long while I’ll go to services, but that’s about it. If I was braver I would have used the Ann Landers rejoinder, “why do you ask?” but instead I tried to explain myself. Sigh.

Dancing, dinner, and some really really great toasts by the parents, Teddy, and one of Rachel’s cousins. Mark and Amy’s toasts were especially cute, involving aprons that included baby pictures of the bride and groom.

There was dinner, there was dancing, and of course the obligatory hora. We were both very tired, and by 9:30 we were more than ready to call it a night. We said our goodbyes and made our way to the waiting shuttle. 

In the morning I went to the gym and tried out a peloton bike. I don’t have an account but there is a “just ride” option so I used that. It was a good workout, but basically a spin bike.

There was a very relaxed morning brunch, so we went to that. I sat next to Mark and we talked for a while. He is just a really nice man. He’s going through a lot of what I went through with my mom, trying to take care of his parents long distance as they age. It’s very hard and there are just no easy solutions.

After brunch we drove back up to Salem and did a little shopping in Tuscan Village before checking back into our hotel. We stopped at the J Crew outlet and got ourselves some deals, shorts for me, jeans, shirts and boxers for Lee, all 50% off or more. Then we stopped at Athleta and I got myself another one of their wraps that I really like. Some of them were on sale, but of course the color I wanted was not. Boo.

We relaxed in our hotel room for a little awhile and then it was time to head to Diane’s for a pizza party with my Westie friends. Wow it was so nice to see everyone! Amy and Jason, Stephanie and Ryan, Amy C and Chris, Diane and Dennis, Diane’s friend Mary and her daughter and Steph’s mother and father, Kathy and Steve. We caught up on what everyone is doing, ate a lot of pizza, petted dogs, and met Diane’s new wild Mustang, Faihd. Yes really a wild horse that Diane is taming by herself. She’s not just a Westie whisperer; all animals have a special affinity for her.

A few people there are having pretty bad health issues and that makes me sad. Another one of our elderly dogs has passed away. RIP Benny. He died of kidney failure, same as Cossy. Sigh. We’re all doing the best we can, though. It made me feel very fortunate. I have a pretty good life, and most of the time things go relatively easy for me. My family is healthy and so am I. I’m grateful, because as we all know, it can change before you know it.


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