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Boston Marriage

Art card by Karen Watson

My forever sweetheart and I were married in Boston five years ago. We joined hands in a ceremony with our children on a full moon Thursday at the Arnold Arboretum — a gem of stunning greenery in what’s known as Boston’s Emerald Necklace, a 4.5 km2 stretch of parks and waterways that includes the city’s Public Garden, Boston Common and Jamaica Pond.

Our friend, Angela, custom made our wedding dresses for us. I arranged $100 worth of white be-ribboned faux hydrangeas, creamy blooms and violet blossoms into bouquets and a boutineer for our six month old son.

A pair of purple and turquoise Converse high tops completed our look — what else to wear when you’re married in a verdant forest in the city that heralded the old Victorian (and yet thoroughly modern) notion of the Boston Marriage?

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Our choice of wedding shoes resulted in a number of inspired works of art. Our beloved on-site wedding photographer, Mitch, captured us wearing them on a park bench in Boston Common. The talented illustrator and our dear friend Karen Watson recreated the photo above in watercolour. Another talented artist and friend, Graeme Partridge-David, did the same for us as a wedding gift.

Heart shaped…

On our five year anniversary, my well-worn and well-loved high tops are bleach-splattered from a leak in the hall closet emergency kit three years ago. The rubber outer lining is cracked on one side; my right shoe lets in water on rainy day walks. The piano-key laces I laced them with are no longer a crisp white.

I’m sad to say, it’s time to retire them for a new pair. But not without memorializing them in one last photo. And this blog post.

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I remember wearing my purple high tops on our honeymoon in Cape Cod. One afternoon we got caught in a spectacular rainstorm as we explored the town of Orleans. It was the first week of October and just a few weeks after Hurricane Earl had swept up the New England coastline, reaching 145 mph winds at its peak. The afternoon we drove down the Mid-Cape highway from our rental house in North Truro the sky was heavy and grey.

By the time my wife and I finished off our lattes at our new favourite haunt, Hot Chocolate Sparrow, the rain was pounding against the roof of the cafe. It sounded like Kate Braid had turned her toolbox upside down and a cascade of nuts, bolts, screws and tools were pinging and clattering against a hardwood floor.

We were drenched by the time we dodged puddles and parked cars, carrying our wide eyed three year old and swaddled babe through the lot to our car. The yellow double lines were barely visible along the length of Route 6 back to headquarters as stretches of the roadway began to flood.

Driving below the speed limit for a long stretch time I had to rely on the brake lights of the car in front of me to guide us home; even the shapes of cars were blurry as rain slid down the windshield in sheets, the glass only momentarily clear in rainbow arcs. Heart racing, I pulled into the garage and we clambered into the warmth of our cozy living room.

That night lightning lit up our bedroom. The wind howled and shook the windows, tossing lawn chairs across the back deck. We couldn’t sleep under the bubbled skylight. By midnight, we’d moved the kids downstairs with us into the twin beds of second floor guestroom for fear a swaying tree would fall on the roof or the windows would shatter in the bluster.

It may seem that I’m sidling up to some kind of metaphor for marriage. Of course the odd storm hits. External pressures — not unlike unforeseen and threatening forces of nature — can batter and blind you as individuals or as a couple, testing the strength of your commitment.

As I write this post I don’t really know how a storm metaphor belongs in a post about wedding shoes. Surely a quirky-cute pair of shoes won’t hold back a Category 4 hurricane.

Can a heart full of love? The deep desire to nurture and protect the children you wanted with an indescribable ache long before the dream unfolded and finally became real?

Maybe. It has so far.

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Noam shoes reduced

Mini-Converse

As I bid farewell to my well-worn shoes, I can take comfort that our son’s navy blue baby-size Converse will continue to hang from the rear view mirror of our car, as it has since the day we returned from our honeymoon.

They’re so small and perfect, though they’ve faded several shades from exposure to the sun. They remind me of my sweet son on that day, his perfect chubby baby faced smile. The handsome tuxedo onesie I changed him into in the bathroom of the Omni Hotel where we dined that night on steak and lobster, drank Moet et Chandon and ate Boston Cream Pie in the very place that invented it.

Here’s to five years of Boston Marriage, Honeys. Because the wedding wasn’t just about two people; it was about all four of us.

And soon, for many more years of adventure together, some new pairs of shoes.

The Ex-Wife Special: A Recipe Just For You

Image of black olive and cheese appetizers on plateWant to connect with your family history? Put aside the photo albums and go to your kitchen. It’s right there, in the cookbooks.

Tonight my family and I went for dinner at our friend’s place. I brought along my aunt’s infamous appetizer, which she refers to as “The Ex-Wife Special”.

Why? Because apparently the one thing my uncle wanted to rescue from his first marriage was his wife’s recipe for black olive and green onion cheddar melts. So my aunt has the ex-wife’s cookbook in her cupboard, alongside the Joy of Cooking and The Best of Bridge.

I think it’s funny (and fascinating) how the foods and drinks we associate with certain people and days past can bring us right back to the good stuff – no matter how much time has passed or how things ended.

My dad’s mom was Austrian and an excellent baker. (She was also pretty feisty, and could tell your future with playing cards if you let her — a skill she learned from the Gypsies she knew in the old country). Her best bakery-worthy sweets were made with almond paste and poppy seeds. But what do I remember liking the most when it came to Grandma’s baking? Her deadly moist and sweet raisin bran muffins, served up alongside her kid-friendly half OJ, half ginger ale cocktail. These were served, without fail, in tall 1970s-style pink and orange frosted glasses whenever we visited Grandma O. at the co-op for a game of Aggravation.

I wonder, years from now, what signature recipe my kids will remember from the time we’ve spent together in the kitchen. I hope they remember making gingerbread houses as a family every Christmas, and baking sugar cookies with seasonal shapes, icing and sprinkles for every fun date on the calendar. But maybe it will be something as ordinary as Sunday morning chocolate chip pancakes (they may just get my son’s vote forever), or cheeseburgers with mashed potatoes and gravy (which my daughter special-requested for dinner at her recent birthday party)?

I bet there’s a family story or two behind some of your favourite foods and recipes — and the people from your past who made them for you. Why not share the memories? I’d love to read about your personal connections of food and family history.

And just in case you’re interested, here’s my aunt’s Ex-Wife Special recipe, just for you:

1 cup chopped black olives
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup mayo
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp curry powder
8 English muffins

Mix all the ingredients together, spoon onto English muffin halves and bake for 10 minutes at 400 F. Most importantly, enjoy!