Remember pen pals? I used to have a bunch of them. Back in the days before email, discussion forums, facebook… It was one of the only ways to connect with strangers who lived far away.
And of course, mostly, I didn’t keep in touch with most of them. Some endured for only a couple letter exchanges; others lasted for years. But only a couple have lasted til now (even if more in email form these days): a grade-school friend from Timmins who is now in Edmonton, and Beth.
Beth is from Indiana. We were first matched via Teen Magazine when we were 13. (I just looked that up. Yep, still have all the old letters filed away…) Though contact has been far more sporadic in recent years than in our turbulent teens—despite the ease of email, et al—we have kept in touch all this time. Last weekend, we met for the first time. Because Beth was getting married. (Also for the first time. People keep asking that.)
It proved fairly impossible to get there by train, and although plane wasn’t that expensive when leaving from Buffalo, in the end, we decided to drive.
We’d hoped to get away around noon on the Friday, but Jean’s work made that impossible, so it was more around 1:15 when we left. It was also pretty snowy and blowy. Fortunately, we left that type of weather behind us fairly quickly. We crossed the border at Sarnia, and that went well. We were a little ahead of rush hour going through Detroit. And then it just seemed like a lot of Ohio. Not the world’s most interesting state to drive through.
We were trying to arrive in time for a dinner for the out-of-town guests, to have a chance to meet a little bit before the crazyness of the wedding itself. Of course, with the late departure, we weren’t exactly early for dinner. (The predicted driving time of 7 hours proved to be about accurate.) But we did make it while people were still there.
Mind you, Beth wasn’t actually there at that point. That, combined with the name on the door—neither Beth’s nor her fiancé’s—threw us off a little. But then Beth’s Mom Judy recognized me. “You must be Cathy! I’ve been reading your letters for years!”
Thus welcomed, I also met Rick, the fiancé, who seemed like a really great, friendly guy. And not long after, Beth herself. Who was just how I expected her to be, really. And that’s a good thing.
But as noted, late arrival, so the gathering did break up not too much later. We went to check into the same Holiday Inn where most guests were staying, and were quite pleased with the large and bright room. But we were also still hungry, so we went to the Red Lobster across the road. Very friendly waitress, and the food would have been decent, had it not been doused in what seemed like an ocean’s worth of salt. Oh well.
We had most of the day to ourselves before the wedding, so we went to the mall! And did get a few Christmas gifts there. But Jean was soon restless, so we headed into the “historic downtown” to see if that was more interesting. We did stumble upon a really great toy store there and acquired a few more gifts for the nieces, nephews, and friend’s kids. (We were puzzling over our duty-free spending limit, which we later looked up. It’s $400 for being away 48 hours. So no problem.)
Then lunch, for which we’d targeted an Italian restaurant listed under the “fine dining” section for Richmond. It was actually quite good and a really nice space.
Then we went to check out the local museum, which had some interesting items, like a mummy. Jean was particularly taken with the collection of classic cars. (I had no idea electric cars dated so far back. And rotary-dial car phones!)
Then back to the hotel for a bit of time in the hot tub (why is it always so hard to find the dial that controls the agitator for hotel hot tubs? We had to give up for this one) before getting ready for the big event.
Wedding ceremony, dinner, and dancing were all co-located at the Country Club, another rather attractive space. Everyone in the wedding party looked lovely. The ceremony was very nice, with a personable minister presiding. My favorite was the quirky touch of having a “best dog” as part of the wedding party. (This is a dog Beth has been sitting for for years.)
There was no arranged seating for dinner, so we took the approach of seeking out a table of others who didn’t seem to know too many people, and asking about sitting with them. That worked out well. We first joined a colleague of Beth’s (from the college) and his wife, who were quite pleasant. Then we were joined by high school friend of Beth’s and her husband: Elaine and Scott. I was more on their side of the table, so ended up talking more with them. She’d managed to keep in touch with Beth since leaving Indiana after high school, but not too much with other high school friends, whom she was hoping to spot. (“I wish they were wearing name tags.”) Husband Scott was a school counselor for grade 3 children. He and Elaine have five children themselves.
Oh, and Scott kind of looked like Johnny Depp, which was interesting. Elaine was quite attractive also. The children must be beautiful.
Anyway, the fine buffet dinner was followed by some of the briefest wedding toasts I’ve ever heard in my life, then the first dance (which Elaine said Beth was really nervous about, but she did fine), then general dancing. D-J was good, playing a variety of music, and Jean and I got to practice the few jive moves we still remember. (We’ve actually signed up for dance classes in the new year, to get some of that refreshed.)
A few more quirky touches I enjoyed: Having jars of various types of candy (tootsie rolls, M&Ms, rock candy, that sort of thing) available for “the kids” to bag—then watching the many “big kids” also indulge once the smaller ones were done. And getting a demonstration of hula-hoop technique from one of Beth’s friends. Quite impressive, actually—though we didn’t quite catch on video.
Eventually I did get to talk to Beth, and her Mom, a bit more, which was good. And I got photographic proof of the meeting:
We had taken the Monday off, giving us two days to head back, which was nice. So we had a leisurely departure after breakfast, where we saw Rick and Beth one more time. We’d considered various routes, but finally settled on going back up the same way, through Ohio, but heading in through Windsor this time, in order to visit the Pelee Island region a bit (without actually going on that island).
The drive went fine. No weather issues, and the only somewhat hairy part was finding the border crossing in Detroit. That was complicated a bit by construction, so the GPS instructions couldn’t be followed exactly. Once we’d found ourselves, we were amused by all the signs saying “Following the detour signs; not your GPS instructions.”
We used Billy’s Best Bottles from last year as a guide, and stopped in Amherstburg first. We stayed in a little motel, which was older but fine, and had a really good dinner at a place called Caldwell’s Grant, that specializes in local cuisine. While there we had a moment of concern when Jean’s sister called him on his cell phone, as that was an unusual thing to do. Eventually it turned out that while Jean’s Mom was in hospital, it wasn’t a heart attack as they had feared earlier, but something much less serious. So they wanted to get in touch to basically tell him not to worry. (He also spoke to his Mom.)
(When we did get home, we had 10 messages from various siblings, all fairly vague on the reasons why they were calling…)
The next day we visited some wineries. The first we stopped at was D’Angelo. Though their website said they opened at 10:00, they weren’t open when we got there around 10:45. We later found out we can’t taste wine before 11:00 anyway, though. So no iced Foch for us.
Next, after almost despairing of locating it, we did get to Sanson, which was open. We tried a few wines here, then bought two bottles each of our favorites, which were the Sauvignon Blanc and the Baco Noir. They also had some organic meats on offer, and we bought some of those.
She recommended Viewpointe winery to us, so we went there next. That’s a beautiful site which must be a great place to picnic at in the summer. This time of year, we were the only ones there. We came out of here with four bottles as well: two of the Auxerrois, a white usually used in blends, that has an interesting floral flavor, and the Cabernet Merlot.
Finally, we visited Mastronardi, whose wines we’d enjoyed at Caldwell’s Grant the night before. And here we left with seven bottles: two Gewurtz (in a more off-dry style), two Cabernet Franc, one Merlot, one Syrah (more of a French style), and a very nice sparkling wine.
But that was enough! Next business was lunch, but that proved a bit tricky, as many restaurants are closed on Monday. We finally ended up at a “family” restaurant in Leamington. Though that term tends to make me leery, they actually did a find job of the sandwiches we had. The drive home was a bit dreery with fog, but went fine. We got in around 5:00.
So it was a nice getaway, and although not an intense first meeting, it was good to finally have one after 30 years! Maybe we won’t wait quite so long for the next. (And maybe, just maybe, I’ll even get on Facebook so we can keep in a bit more regular touch that way.)