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.
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.
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.
Tonight at Family Night Jenna introduced us to a new game, for which we take turns drawing and guessing the drawing. Each player draws an object on their paper, then folds the paper to hide the drawing and passes the paper to the player immediately next to their left, who writes on the same paper what they think is the drawn object. Then that player folds the guess out of sight and passes to their left, etc.
I drew a “rocket” and passed to Hayley. I’m not sure how, without solid rocket boosters, an orbiter, or an external fuel tank, she thought it was a Space Shuttle launch, but that’s what she wrote. Next, Jenna drew a nice Space Shuttle launching, for which Skye guessed, simply, “rocket?”
My Festibond date with Skye was good, but not a lot different than the many occasions when we hang out together at my office or a small coffee shop. For us, it’s all about the conversation.
I had taken Skye to Grace recently for one of their tiny juicy bar burgers, after which she decided she did like hamburgers, which she had theretofore disliked. In order to satiate her newfound craving for a delicious burger, she asked if we could go to Five Guys for our date. I thought it an odd request, as Five Guys isn’t exactly a nice place to enjoy conversation while being well cared for by an attentive wait staff. I tried to talk her into several other restaurants, but she wasn’t persuadable. At least I didn’t have to make a reservation. Continue reading Festibond 2013 – My Date with Skye→
Jenna had warned me that she doesn’t like fancy restaurants, but I figured I knew best. She’s a princess who dreams of opulence and refinement. She also said she wanted to eat at an Italian restaurant for our date, so I tapped my social media network for recommendations. Suggestions poured in for quaint little restaurants in the Old Port, many of which I was not already familiar. I called them all, only to be told they would be closed on Christmas Eve, the evening we had planned for our date. Frustrated, we rescheduled to December 27 and I made a reservation for two at Piccolo on Middle Street.
After much thought and searching for fun things to do, we decided to go bowling at Bayside Bowl in Portland. They would open at 16:00, and I was pretty sure few people would be there as the weather was supposed to be snowy. I left work early and drove down to Saco to get Jenna for our date. The roads in town were treacherous, with wet snow falling heavily and piling up quickly. Fortunately, road crews had done a good job of clearing I-95N, so our drive north wasn’t bad. When we got to the city, though, things were different. Conditions were slippery and visibility was poor. The silver lining, of course, is that we would have the bowling alley to ourselves. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The place was packed! Every lane was busy with both large and small groups, and they all had nearly an hour left on their lanes.
My Festibond date with Hayley was December 22nd. We went ice skating and then to dinner. It was a great time. Hayley is a terrific conversationalist, and I enjoyed getting to know her better.
Because we would be skating at the Family Ice Center in Falmouth, which is close to Freeport, we visited L.L. Bean ahead of skating so we could get Hayley a new pair of gloves.
Skating was fun. We held hands and talked as we made laps around the rink. Hayley remarked that there was a sign hanging up for “Greely Girls Hockey” and another for just “Greely Hockey.” She recognized the inequality and preference for the boys team, for which I was proud. After a while, both our feet were hurting from the awful rental skates, so we stopped for a rest, then decided we were done skating.
Festibond 2013 was, as expected, wonderful. Our family tradition has evolved over the years. We always discuss what works and what doesn’t, and everybody has an opportunity to suggest improvements. The biggest difference this year from prior Festibond celebrations was the venue: we stayed at a hotel instead of being at home. Jenna wanted to go somewhere, probably warm and exotic, and I just wanted to get away from our cramped apartment. I suggested we get a nice hotel in the area where we could swim and relax and not worry about things. It was, I must say, a brilliant plan.
Normally Kirsten and I take each of the girls out on a date for Festibond, but we don’t go on one together. This year I proposed that she and I go on a Festibond date, too, to which enthusiastically she agreed.
Kirsten had wanted to see the film “Les Miserables,” which was fine with me. I knew she has liked the story for a long time, and would enjoy the movie.
Kirsten made reservations to one of our favorite Portland restaurants, Grace. The building is a gorgeous repurposed church, which is far more useful than teaching innocent children to fear an angry deity. I digress.