Hayley and I pondered, discussed, and researched what we might do for our Festibond date for some time. Nothing seemed worthy of the occasion. I knew she liked art and thought, perhaps, there was something we could do around that. Perhaps a visit to the Portland Museum of Art or the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. But Hayley seems to like doing art more than merely appreciating it. When I was a kid my mom got me private painting lessons and took me to a wood carving class. Of these and other experiences I have fond memories, and thought Hayley and I could do something similar. We should take one of these painting classes that have become so popular and that Kirsten did with a few of her friends from work. Of course! Hayley loved the idea, so we picked a night and I made the reservations.
Friday evening we drove to Portland and parked on the street between Zapoteca, where we had 17:30 dinner reservations, and Muse Paintbar. Perfect. We were seated immediately at a small table in the dining room. I ordered a margarita and a flight of Patron tequilas, which were very tasty. Hayley ordered a mocktail that was too sweet, so she drank water.
We also ordered bacon guacamole, which we’d had on a previous visit but is not on the menu. The kitchen agreed to make it for us, and we were both grateful they did. It’s very tasty. For our entrées Hayley ordered the Sopa Azteca and I got the Carne Asada con Mole Negro. My steak was so good that if I described it you wouldn’t believe me. It, and I know this is so cliché, melted in my mouth. The fat in the meat was cooked so that it added this wonderful buttery flavor. I digress.
Jenna suggested that for our Festibond date this year we go on a drive to somewhere–it didn’t matter–and I could take some pictures. What she really wanted, I think, was a lot of time where we could just talk without distractions. I enjoy my every conversation with Jenna, so was thrilled by her suggestion. We decided to drive west to find a covered bridge or two in New Hampshire.
On Saturday morning we stopped by Fernleaf Bakery in Saco so Jenna could get a pastry. The fresh olive oil and herb bread looked so delicious we purchased one of those, too. We had no plans to stop for lunch, so I figured we could snack on it during our drive. I’m glad we did. It was delicious! We ate three-fourths of the loaf between us on the drive.
After Fernleaf we stopped at Elements in Biddeford to get Jenna an apple cider. Then we were off. Apple Maps took us down the Turnpike before turning us west into rural New Hampshire.
As part of the Festibond tradition, I recently went on a date with my dad. It didn’t take a lot of planning to decide what we want to do. He and I share a love for watching hockey and it’s something we do seasonally. For one of our past Festibond dates, we went to see a Portland Pirates’ game. However, they no longer play in Maine so my dad suggested we go to a Boston Bruins’ game.
We booked a train to the city and tickets to the game. Dad picked me up early from school on Thursday to catch the 14:47 departure. The ride to Boston was mellow, but pleasant. I enjoyed conversing with Dad before napping and completed some homework considering we wouldn’t arrive home until early in the morning.
For our Festibond date this year Skye suggested we watch a hockey game together, something we’ve enjoyed doing in the past. I was thrilled at the suggestion. The Portland Pirates are no longer a team here, so I suggested instead we take the Downeaster Amtrak train to Boston to see the Bruins. I’ve been wanting to see them since we moved to New England back in 2007. I got us two of the last seats available, then booked business class tickets on the train.
The following day, Thursday, Skye got out of her last block a bit early. I picked her up from school and we headed to the train station in Saco. The ride down was uneventful. We both planned to do work so brought our laptops and iPads, but it occurred to me on the train that we would not be able to bring our backpacks into the TD Garden, and because of terrorism we would likely not find public lockers at North Station. Fortunately, a Google search pointed me to a blog that suggested we might be able to leave them at Sullivan’s Tap for a small fee. When we got to Boston we found the dive bar and, sure enough, they let us leave our bags for $10 each.
We were early to the game, which was fine. We found our seats and got some food. Skye got fried chicken tenders and I got a sausage with onions and peppers and a few beers. And shelled peanuts.
Festibond this year was great, as usual. It’s sad to have Mom missing from the tradition, but we enjoyed each others company and the wonderful activities. We began the morning on Festibond with everyone pretty much getting up and begin to get ready for the day. There was also some working on the letters to each other. Once everyone was up and ready (in our matching clothes) we headed to Miss Portland Diner for breakfast. It was a short wait for a booth in the old part of it.
The food was good, and the discussions were great. It’s always very nice to spend time like this as a family. We next returned home, where, in a manner reflected across the last few Festibonds, we completed our letters. I was the last to finish mine, and as I so/after I completed them, we set up the snacks. The things to be done were mostly the assembly of the food and cutting up fruit and vegetables/quickly making the dips for both. The previous day had been when we did a lot of the preparing, such as shopping and baking. There was fudge (made by Skye), triple chocolate chip cookies (made by me), caramel popcorn (made by Jenna, fruit and a cream cheese fruit dip, veggies and a ranch dip, crackers, cheese, meat, chips and guacamole (made by Dad), and Martinelli’s.
Ten years ago Kirsten and I decided to stop celebrating Christmas with the girls. We didn’t like its symbolism, religious heritage, and most of the ways people celebrated. However, we did like the idea of spending time together with intentional focus on strengthening our relationships. We created our own traditions and called them, collectively, “Festibond.” Our Festibond celebration, in which we go on dates, write and read letters to each other, play games, put together puzzles, and eat way too many snacks, has always been my favorite day. Festibond 2016, our tenth, was Saturday. It was my favorite day of the whole year.
Kirsten died in May. Every day since has been, to some degree, more prosaic than if she were still here. I was concerned that Festibond this year would be somber instead of happy and joyful. Indeed, we missed her as we do always, but our celebration was wonderful, happy, heart-warming, and close, as I’d hoped. The girls have embraced the spirit of Festibond from its inception. Squabbles that would happen on other days don’t. Everybody pitches in to make it all happen. We smile, we laugh, there may be singing, and we give each other lots of hugs. It’s impossible to describe just how special and penetrating it is, but I am always moved and wish every day in our house could be more Festibond-like.
This year was our tenth Festibond. Although we lost Kirsten, we had a good holiday and our traditions remain unfaltering. In preparation, we went to Freeport to get matching clothes–something that Kirsten would have done when my sisters and I were a lot younger. Our holiday was on New Years’ Eve, so we attempted to stay up until midnight (we didn’t succeed).
In the morning, we drove to Portland for breakfast. Although it was a long drive for just a meal, the meal was plenty satisfactory. It was a good decision.