I have travelled to Manitoulin Island every year since well, forever, for the August long weekend. On the island, it’s called Haweater weekend, and it’s a homecoming for all the eaters of hawberries, which is basically no one since you only ever see hawberries in jams and jellies in the various gift shops, and only tourists buy those jams.
You don’t have to do anything hawberry-related to enjoy Haweater. It’s just a bunch of fun festival stuff, beer tent, powwow and some fireworks. It’s the island, people, not NYC. My sister in law is weirdly crazy about fireworks so we always go, and it’s become a fun family tradition.
I’ve stomped all over Manitoulin and I’ve yet to come across some enchanted meadow of hawberries, however, poison ivy, and the now-ubiquitous herbaceous asshole wild parsnip, are limiting my meadow romps (and cutting way down on my comfort levels with nature pees), so maybe the hawberries are all over the place just out of reach.
And now I feel silly. Just did a quick Wikipedia search and realized my northern bias. I’ve been looking for hawberries on the ground, like wild blueberries, and hawberries actually grown on hawthorn shrubs, which are quite tall. The berries served as the only food source for the pioneers who settled on the island, hence the haweater label. Winters on the island are pretty tough to begin with. Throw in some sour berries as your only food source and you’ve got a recipe for some real misery.
Also, the Latin name sounds like a disease:
But I digress. This post isn’t about botany, it’s about ceremony. Anniversaries, specifically. On Haweater weekend, my husband’s family gathered at the cottage to celebrate his parents 50th anniversary. It was just like my in-laws, lovely and low-key, with lots of great meals on the deck followed by someone opening another bottle of wine to accompany the long conversations. Fifty years is a significant accomplishment. Trevor’s brother and his wife are coming up on 25 years. Trevor and I will have our 18th anniversary soon, on the same weekend that we will celebrate his parents with extended family and friends. There’s some real longevity and stick-to-it-iveness in this family, and mine as well. My parents have been married for 46 years.
While we were busy adding up the years spent together, I realized that this September marks another important anniversary date for me, although not one that Hallmark typically covers. It’ll be twenty years since I started my Masters program at the University of Waterloo, where I met two people who would become life-long friends.
My parents were moving me into the graduate students residence. It was my first time away from home. My dad was fretting about how we could possibly stuff all the clothes I’d brought into my tiny dorm closet. A friendly house-mate introduced herself. Before she left, my mom said, you should really try to get to know that Rebecca, she seems like a really nice girl. Rebecca told me later that watching my dad grumbling down the hall, trailing a black feather boa from an overstuffed box made her think we should definitely get to know one another.
My mom was right (it’s annoying how often that’s true). Rebecca and I, despite having only lived in the same city for that one semester at grad school, have remained very close. We are looking forward to our annual cottage week with her and her family in August, where we throw seven kids and a dog into a small cabin and have a blast.
Rebecca is the master of long-term friendship, and referred to me for about ten years as her “new friend.”
A few weeks later, I met my friend Rosanne. We were both taking a truly awful literary criticism class. I didn’t get to know her really well until the winter term, when we were both hired as co-op students at federal government jobs in Ottawa. The gravitus of the work environment meant non-work time was like recess. We would play a game of elevator chicken where we’d work all kinds of goofy dance moves and see who could go the longest before putting on a deadpan expression when the doors opened to let others on. To this day, we bust a ridiculous move wherever we are when we hear a good tune, to the embarrassment of our teenagers.
We never did find out whether there were cameras in the elevators, but the commissionaires were always very friendly with us.
We wondered about proposals, if and when they might come (they did, for all three of us, at the exact right time). I was with Rosanne the day she met her husband Mario. One of my first conversations with Rebecca was about how we each had a serious boyfriend and were talking marriage. I met Joe the same week hauling Bec’s futon in his white truck. We were so honoured to be godparents to their beautiful daughter. These four people are family to us as well.
We attended each other’s weddings and the births of our children. There’s an incredible amount of comfort (and short-cuts) in having friends who have known you through all the stages of your life. These women have been there through thick and thin (I’m thick; they’re both annoying thin), sickness and health. We never stood up and promised to be there for each other, but we managed it just the same.
Anyone would be lucky to have one friend like Rosanne or Rebecca; I’m unbelievably lucky to have two, not to mention all the extra awesome people these two bring along with. Their terrific kids and husbands, plus additional friends, generously shared. So, I’m reflecting on my blessings, the friendship of these wonderful people, having our older generation with us and spending time with them, as well as getting to know the younger generation, like my new niece and the lovely young ladies my nephews have brought home.
And if any young people are reading this, and don’t mind a bit of advice, be good to your friends. They are life’s gold.
Mostly just wishing these wonderful people a very happy friend-iversary. Here’s to twenty more.