This weekend was one of “those” weekends. Beautiful weather, filled with family and friends and burgers for almost every meal. Lots and lots of Vitamin C. One of those weekends that can only happen in New England. Where the weather has sucked for months and BOOM, all the sudden, all is right in the world. The beers go down a little quicker and smiles are seen all over. And everyone wakes up after it’s over looking like a lobster.
My wife and I took our daughters to our annual trip into the North End of Boston. My words here could never do it justice, but it basically a small neighborhood with the best food in the world. The best bakeries and little Italian restaurants. There are a million little apartments and just a sea of people. Lots of tourists, but also lots of local Italians. I love hearing how they talk. Something about their accents or whatever it is reminds me of my Grandparents. There is a simplicity in that. Being transported to a place where you can picture your Grandmother hanging out one of the windows yelling that dinner was ready. No doubt some type of pasta and sauce with meatballs was to be consumed. The smells are intoxicating. Every few steps your nose is hit with another smell, fresh bread being made, or the hint of a lemon sauce, or of course the smell of tomatoes mixing with basil and many other flavors.
We watch as people flood to the “famous places” like a Mike’s or a Modern Pastry and we laugh because we have been given some of the secrets. My parents did a tour of the North End with a local and they were shown all the secret spots. All the spots that the locals LOVE. My parents passed that knowledge down to us, so we feel like a part of the community.
The best meal I ever ate was in the North End many years ago. I have since brought my daughters to that restaurant and my youngest agrees with me and talks about the meal with her mouth watering. The meal is cooked the same as it was the first time I ate it. NOTHING HAS CHANGED. When you are in the this place you feel like you have been transported to what Italy must be like. Or, for me, I picture my Grandparents as kids, running around the streets playing stickball or hop scotch before heading to Catholic school. Being in this place is good for my soul.
We drive in on a Sunday around 10 or so, park in the same lot, get a cup of coffee and sit and watch all the interesting people that pass by. We then head to get a slice of pizza from a spot we love, do a little more people watching before heading to our favorite bakery for a dessert. There is nothing incredible unique or special about what we do for the few hours we are in there. We are just pausing life for a few hours and just being together. At one point as I finished my coffee I asked my wife if she wanted to move to the next place and she said “Relax, we have nowhere to be” and I smiled. In our relationship she is the person I am always trying to get to just stop and enjoy the moment. She is always worried about the million things going on in our lives so it was nice to just see her completely at peace with herself in that moment.
On the morning before we leave to head into the North End there is a different energy in our house. The kids are sharing clothes and makeup instead of yelling and slamming doors. There is a really good playful energy with everyone. I ask about which sneaker will match my outfit and they laugh and tell me to change my shirt and wear a third pair of shoes I hadn’t even considered. But, we are all on each others teams. We lose sight of that a lot during the craziness that is our lives. Of course, the second we got home I yelled at them to clean their rooms and they remembered why they hate me. But, for those few hours, those precious few hours, we treated each other like we were the four most important people in each others lives.
Life isn’t perfect, but there are many moments mixed in there that are. For a few hours on a Sunday morning my life was perfect. Every once in a while it is nice to be reminded why you choose these people. To remember that you could be anywhere in the world, but that in those moments you are exactly where you want to be.
My kids are older now so they have lots of choices on where to go and what to do. So, when they chose to spend time with my wife and I it is a little bit more special. The conversations aren’t about Elmo and Mickey, they are real conversations where they get to know who their Mom and Dad really are. And we get to see their personalities come to life. We get a glimpse into their future. When my wife and I see a couple pushing a stroller or fighting with a kid to get him to put on his coat we both laugh and talk about how we don’t miss that part of life. We got to experience all that twice, and now we get to just hang out with these two interesting humans and share our lives together. We don’t miss it because I think we both really enjoy who these two beautiful people are becoming.
Ten years ago, while watching a dumb Disneyland sing-along video for the 500th time I could never had imagined how great this journey would turn out to be. Life takes you in some strange places, but, as always, I am just lucky to have my favorite three people in the car for the ride with me.