Ring-ing in the new year

Well, it happened. Nine and a half years after our first date at Festival du Loup, JF asked me to marry him. We’re excited and happy. And slightly terrified at the prospect of planning a big, boozy, Lafontaine-style party.

This is us, right after he asked me.

This is us, right after he asked me.

A lot of people are surprised at this news. I was too! For years I hoped – but didn’t expect – to officially commit to the world’s handsomest Franco-Ontarian engineer.

Before you ask, yes I thought of proposing to him. But I wanted him to want to get married, and uncertainty meant waiting. Which, when you’re with the world’s handsomest Franco-Ontarian engineer, isn’t so bad, really.

Just look at how handsome he is. xo

Just look at how handsome he is. xo

In any case, he timed his proposal beautifully. We were in the lush gardens of a Portuguese castle, by a waterfall. The sun was setting. We’d spent a lovely week in Lisbon together. We were relaxed and full of delicious custard tarts.

The proposal, however, was a bit more authentic. He was wearing his ugliest toque. We were walking up a big hill, so I was sweating and wheezing. I had to pee. As we swung by the waterfall, JF grabbed my hand and said: “so pickle, wanna get married?” I was confused, so he added (for clarity): “wanna get married soon?”

Ring. Check!

Ring. Check!

I laughed, then hugged him and cried. Then – in true JF fashion – he gave me a spreadsheet of ring options. We settled on a simple and pretty pearl, or, as I’ve come to think about it, shiny clam poop.

When I told my avo we were getting married, she said: “that’s nice – and it’s good for the one up there” (she pointed to heaven) and then continued to discuss her arthritis.

That about sums it up. It won’t change much, but it is nice. And it’ll be lovely to have people —friends, family, government, and sure, God—recognize that we’re pleasantly stuck together for life.

Another one of us in Portugal, just for kicks.

Another one of us in Portugal, just for kicks.

Família

An older woman sits on a deck

My grandma. Her name is Micaela and I was named after her.

Ask my Portuguese grandma how she’s doing and her response (delivered with a thick
accent) will almost always be one of the following:

  • Still alive,
  • Above ground, or
  • Fine.

Hardly cheerful, but certainly honest. I wish I had the license for brutal truth telling she currently carries in her giant, practical black purse.

When she was visiting her hometown of Algarvia a few years ago, she ran into an acquaintance on the way to church. He was bent over with old age and barely able to walk. She said to him: “You’re still alive? If I had your health I’d rather be dead.” He passed away later that week.

That kind of earnestness can be tough – especially when directed at me – but I wouldn’t trade my avò in for a hundred ladies of Fatima.

Until I was about 14, I’d go to her house in Perkinsfield every day after school with my sisters. She’d serve us bean soup, giblet stew, bacalhau or shake n’ bake – always with a side of homemade bread and practical advice, washed down with coca-cola.

Avò, my sister Alicia, and my cousins Priscilla and Nathanael. Oh, and a baby bathtub full of dough.

Avò, my sister Alicia, and my cousins Priscilla and Nathanael. Oh, and a baby bathtub full of dough.

After eating twice our weight in her immaculate kitchen we’d watch Sailor Moon from her floral couches and play backgammon with our uncle John (a.k.a. João). Then she’d bundle us up, kiss us on the head, and send us across the yard to our house so we could get ready for bed.

Avò always says that family is the most important thing. When I think about how much she’s done for me, it’s clear she lives by that affirmation.

Spending time with my grandma today reminds me of the deep tunnels my family has dug into my heart. Some memories are etched onto my brain forever, squished tight against some kind of giant, pulsing affection node.

Love like that can never hold a stain or wrinkle – kind of like her table linens. So even though I no longer eat giblet stew, I’m grateful to be able to drive 15 minutes to her place for a cup of tea and a story about the old country.

Me and my grandma, outside her house

I think we look alike, don’t you?