It all began with an ornately decorated envelope, preserving its precious contents by means of a wax seal, arriving in the old tin letterbox at the bottom of my driveway mid-May. Romantic overtures waltzed off parchment card: ‘Ben McGarry’ had delightfully been handwritten in cursive calligraphy, replete with novel twists and coiled twirls. As the wax seal lifted, a story laced with a tenor of romanticism began unfolding: ‘St Cecilia’s Parish’ and ‘The Crane Estate’ danced off the invitation along with my name and address. Elizabeth, an American friend and fellow coinquilina in Rome, was tying the knot. Her fiancé, Tyler, was the lucky man for whom she’d fallen head over six-inch stiletto heels. Their love was being celebrated in September, destination: Boston.
Arrival in Boston: New Encounters
Several months later - after traveling half way around the globe - I arrived at Logan International airport, eventual destination: Massachusetts Avenue, Boston. The meaning of elation was realised in the arrivals terminal: following a near-fifty-hour journey via Vancouver, I saw Elizabeth walking toward me, five long years after our Roman adventure. The bride-to-be had not changed. The winds of age that ravage us all had not left any streaks on her youthful face. Her jubilant disposition was no less inspiring than it was five years earlier when we had shared the historic-cum-crumbling Roman apartment on Viale Giulio Cesare. Her solar smile and infectious laugh spread joy through the air, and filled me with utter delight. I’d made it in time to celebrate one of the most important days of her life.
Despite receiving regular reports on Tyler during the months preceding my arrival, I was nonetheless jittery about our initial encounter. Fifty hours of sleep deprivation contributed to the nervousness, a recipe for a delirium-induced disaster. As I walked through the front door of her chic apartment – complete with a quintessentially American-apartment-building bay window – the bearded man of equal height walked forward and laid on a generous man-hug. Every presentiment I’d conjured dissipated as I relaxed into the convivial pre-wedding atmosphere laced with exhilaration. The softness of his blue eyes matched the benevolence in his character, leading me to open a line of inquiry. As I gathered intel, the natural magic between them transpired: they were, unsurprisingly, perfectly suited.
In my delirious state on the way home from the airport, I’d failed to capture a vital piece of information relayed by Elizabeth: her cousins, Morena and Patrizia, were also staying. They spoke little to no English, so I’d best “ricominciare ad usare il tuo italiano.”
Although accustomed to speaking Italian with friends over Skype, it had become an infrequent practice, and no language comes easily when I’m barely conscious.
As we sat down to an American Brunch lovingly prepared by the doting couple, I sipped on my chute of mimosa as conversations developed. My elation heightened as the words that leapt out of the cousins’ mouths at lightning speed - darting across the warm air - were comprehended by the misfiring neurons of my fatigued brain. My responses were slow, and the neurotic perfectionist traits that often inhibit spontaneity and reasonableness prevented me from speaking unless I knew the phrase was going to be grammatically correct. With time, however, my confidence improved, thanks mostly to the champagne component of the lunchtime mimosa. The sisters from Rome were kind souls and graciously waited for me to catch up, generously permitting me to speak using a ‘mixed tongue’.
New England’s Historic Heart
With intermittent moments of respite, the proceeding days - leading up to the grand event – were spent discovering Boston and its alluring counterpart, Cape Cod. Elizabeth’s parents had recently retired to the Cape, a place synonymous with childhood family vacations. My only notion of the region was that conceived through crime thrillers, and romantic novels. Its defining feature, alluring visitors countrywide – aside from its idyllic Oceanside location – is the characteristic architecture. Typified by grey shingles - features trimmed in crisp white, the cottage style homes of varying sizes are one hundred percent unique to the region. Architecture aside, sunset chasing, culinary indulgence and relationship building – events that unfolded during our brief soiree on the Cape - provided the perfect initiation to New England living.
Returning to Boston to further engage in pre-wedding rituals of celebration was no less thrilling. Imbued by the convivial sentiment swirling through the air, I traipsed the streets of historic Boston, with a day trip to Salem. Dating to the mid-seventeenth century, the city - and other parts of the state of Massachusetts - are among some of the earliest non-indigenous settlements in U.S. history. Remnants of historical intrigue can be seen while walking the Freedom Trail, from Boston Common to the Bunker Hill Monument. A four-kilometre trek guided by a line etched into the ground, it took me past some of the city’s most prominent historical sites, including the Massachusetts State House, Faneuil Hall and the USS Constitution. Indulging on a lobster roll en route was but one of many pleasures yielded from conjuring the energy to walk the route.
Last Minute Pre-Wedding Sightseeing
Following a night of pre-wedding celebration at one of Boston’s finest Steakhouses, the important day arrived. Unlike the bride and her beloved groom, my morning was spent running around Little Italy and other prominent city neighbourhoods on a whirlwind tour guided by Matt, one of Elizabeth’s many unique friends. An American of French, Portuguese and Mexican descent, his eclectic nature and comedic attitude – aside from providing entertainment – helped unveil a Boston I didn’t know. Titbits of loosely factual words littered sentences, interwoven between terms of “Ole’ boy” endearment and moments of sobriety. Visiting the Algonquin Club – originally a prestigious gentleman’s social club – was the highlight of the tornado tour. Established in 1885, the esteemed club has played host to a series of local, national and international dignitaries who have enjoyed the secluded environment and regal decor. It’s a site I’d never have known to visit had it not been for my unconventional tour guide. An expectant father, the baby’s future is easily predictable: it will be replete with love and lots of laughter.
The Day, its Groom and his Beautiful Bride
Although home to an array of churches and cathedrals, Boston’s St Cecilia’s Parish is noteworthy: even in the absence of ecclesiastical inclinations, the ornately-decorated interior - replete with high ceilings and intricate trimmings - denotes architectural splendour. The décor set the perfect tone to complement the bride’s dress: skilfully crafted by the hands behind the Spanish name Provonias, its lace bodice stretched snugly to the thigh then gave way to an elegant flow of white fabric that bounced around her heels as she moved. After a few minutes, the couple moved to the side of the stage where they sat facing the priest. Smiles emerged on their happy faces as the storytelling antics of the priest, relayed in a thick Boston accent, proceeded. Following a few prayers and a procession of traditional Catholic rituals – including the singing of a verse by a beatific male voice – he kissed his Bostonian wife and they proceeded to the back of the church.
Upstate New England
As they wandered off into the heart of the city with their families and the rest of the bridal party, ready to plaster their smiles across the camera’s varied lenses, guests proceeded to buses parked nearby. Shortly after boarding, the champagne flowed and snacks passed to and fro. I got to know other guests who had flown across the country for the wedding. Despite the Friday afternoon departure time, the congestion leaving Boston was less extensive than expected. Those who didn’t watch Owen Wilson getting up to mischief in ‘Wedding Crashers’ on the screens above indulged in the resplendence of the New England countryside as it passed by.
As the buses moved languidly up the windy driveway to The Crane Estate, eyes popped out of sockets. Those asleep were bumped out of their dreams and faces became glued to the bus’s windows. At the top of a hill - set to a backdrop of the Atlantic - the eighty-eight-year-old mansion projected an image of stately elegance. After moving through the decadent interior, leaving coats in the cloak room and collecting place cards, we left the building to the jazzy tunes of a male voice. The landscape, fringed by Romanesque statues, plummeted - in a straight line - to the ocean in front. To the side of the building, past the waiters delivering trays of gastronomic delight, was the marquee festooned with lights, a dance floor, circular tables topped with perfectly selected décor and striking floral arrangements. Elizabeth’s design touch was evident in every detail.
The sun began setting to the side of the imperial building as the couple arrived. Guests, dressed in varied interpretations of formal attire, trickled from their respective posts littered around the landscape into the marquee. Following a three-course procession of culinary indulgence, hearts poured out sentimental memories, related by those nearest and dearest to the new couple. Tears dried and smiles returned following the traditional-cum-interpretative father of the bride dance with his beloved daughter. Ties and jackets came off as guests joined in, creating a colourful flurry of exuberant movement on the dance floor. The stars in the heavens above flickered light on the spark between Tyler and Elizabeth. The formalisation of their union had been ceremonious, and it befitted the love they exhibited for one another. It was a wedding befit for royalty, surrounded by kindred souls in idyllic surroundings – a perfect day, for a wonderful couple.
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The author stayed with friends in Boston.
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