I hesitated writing this month’s article for as long as I could because it felt as though every day brought life altering changes in a year that has already pushed us well over the edge of normalcy in a multitude of ways. The insurrection attempt we all witnessed on January 6 potentially will be remembered in our nation’s history as an event as scary and horrific as 9/11. And, at least for me, every day since that Capitol attack has felt like waiting for the other shoe to drop. What inexplicable act of violence might happen today? So, at the risk of writing anything woefully dated by the time it went to print, I opted to wait until after the inauguration was over, watching with the hope that it would be a safe, coup-free day and a peaceful transition of power could be achieved. Letting out a sigh of relief that it appeared to go off without a hitch, procrastination is now no longer an option and it’s time to get back to business.
We recently received a big batch of old family photos and I was particularly struck by the photo shown here. It’s a picture of my wife’s grandparents (so my grandparents-in-law?), Victoria and Alfred Harris, taken on their honeymoon in 1927. They traveled from London to Lido Beach near Venice, Italy where they met and befriended a handful of fellow honeymooners. I thought it was a befitting shot for our February issue, appropriate to commemorate Valentine’s Day and the romance that they shared for well over 65 years. But also to embrace the optimism that comes from a honeymoon phase of anything new whether it’s a relationship, school year, job, even a new government administration. There’s always something rather exciting about those first few weeks when all the faults and foibles haven’t been exposed yet. Everything is open to discovery and exploration, unsullied by experience and cynicism. To their descendants, Victoria and Alf Harris embodied the romantic ideal of a bygone era. They married young after a whirlwind courtship and sailed to New York from England, three sons in tow, in 1939.They embarked on a new life in this foreign country, far from the familiarity of family and friends yet also from the danger and horrors of Europe during a time of war. They traveled further west in 1944 and found their forever home on Glenbarr Avenue in Cheviot Hills, where they lived until they both died in 1986 and 2008, respectively. There was much to celebrate during those Glenbarr years and to their three sons, eight grandchildren, twelve great grandchildren and all of us who married into the family, their marriage was an inspiration in stability and partnership, glamour and romance.
As awesome as my wife’s and my honeymoon was, I don’t think a trip like that could even be possible today. We managed to find an over-water hut on the tiniest island off the coast of the second tiniest island in Tahiti- so small that it was only accessible by boat and could only accommodate 18 people total at one time, and that included the staff. There were no hard line phones, no televisions and this predated iPhones by at least a decade. It was May, 2001 so no one was concerned about the safety issues that became the norm after 9/11 and for two weeks we were essentially cut off from the rest of the world. But like Alf and Victoria, we became friends with another couple who happened to be honeymooning on the island, too. They taught us a card game that they promised would be so good, we’d never want to play anything else. And they were right. For the past twenty years, we’ve taught it to friends and our boys and will always be grateful to that random couple on the tiniest island in the most remote speck on earth forgiving us this lifelong gift.
Maybe this month you’ll get the gift of the Covid vaccine which will lead to the bigger gift of getting to spend time with your loved ones again, free from the worry of getting infected. Perhaps this will be the last Valentine’s Day you’ll be stuck eating cheap take-out at home and next year you’ll get the pleasure of experiencing an over-priced restaurant dinner instead! We have all had to endure this quarantine bubble for so long and we are all exhausted but I am optimistic that brighter days are ahead. The honeymoon phase, if you will, of a new year and a new administration and a new hope for a future full of promise.
So, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I hope you’ll join me in embracing this period of love in the air and agree that just because it’s called ‘the honeymoon phase,’ does not necessarily mean that the gloss has to fade. Sure, the passage of time naturally lends itself to routine and a bit of monotony but why not extend this exciting, hopeful period as long as we can? We’ve already faced down an attack on our Capitol this year. We can do anything!