Three days. October 18th. February 15th. January 7th. Three fateful days that erased the loneliness. The emptiness. My past. It started innocently enough. A phone call, extended conversation and hope. Infinite potential, possibility. The chance to dream again. It started with a day and turned into my future. My now.
W and I talked. And talked. We set a day and time and date. Our first date. It was cancelled. We set another one. Cancelled again. It didn’t seem like it was meant to be. Like all those dates before, missed moments before. So we made one last date scheduled for October 18th of that year. One last chance. I held my breath and took a leap of faith and landed at the very beginning. Of us. The story of us.
I knew it that night. We met and shared food and drinks and stories. Our life before now. We talked into the late night and lost track of time. Everything felt perfect. When we left the restaurant we made our way back to my place. We sat outside in the car and just talked. How did I know this was different? I just did. And I told her.
We dated for months. Drove back and forth each night, driving hours every day to visit and return for work the next day. My friend’s thought I was crazy but I couldn’t spend a day without her. Nothing could get between me and my W. That included a snowstorm for the ages, one that stalled progress and took me 8 hours to drive from my place to hers. It was around this time that I heard about the book, “He’s just not into you.” And it’s true. Men will make any sacrifice to see a woman he likes. I did. Over and over again. She did too.
Half a year into dating and W and I were sitting in my place outside Toronto. Like a bolt from the skies that struck us, we both talked about moving in together. Simultaneously. We weighed the pros and cons. And, like it often does, our hearts led the way. We immediately planned the move and our life together. Now cemented as one. Within a month we packed up all her worldly belongings and made the trip down the highway and into my life forever.
The parade of firsts came one by one. Our first date became our first place which turned into our first vacation together. It was about this time that her friends started talking to her about getting married. They tried to convince her that I’d propose on that vacation. We flew into Mexico and enjoyed seven of the best days I had ever experienced. Everything was in harmony that week. Our schedules, our lives. If I didn’t already know it, and I did, than this trip reassured me. And all my deepest feelings.
One month later the supposed most romantic day on the calendar came around. Romantics know the real truth. It’s not bought and packaged and sold on one day. Love is a verb. An action. It’s proven and shown and lived every single day. Her friends dropped hints. He’ll propose on Valentine’s day for sure. Everyone does! But as Wendy came to know me, I don’t do things by the book. My life isn’t scripted, so this day wouldn’t be either.
It was this year that our government introduced a new holiday. Family day. It fell the day after Valentine’s that year so we had a long weekend to soak up. Fall into. An extra day to celebrate. An extra reason to celebrate. So we did. As Valentine’s day came to a close we lied awake in bed talking about our plans the next day. It’s what we did. What we do. We planned a morning of exercise and breakfast and then we’d take the day as it came to us. All scripted.
February 15th. We woke up to just another day. No ordinary day. W opened up the back door to let our dog out. She turned around to see me in my coat. Where are you going, she asked? I handed her a long, slim brown envelope. Glued shut. Inside was a map, directions and another smaller envelope not to be opened until she made the destination. I looked at her and said, “Do not open this until I leave. Don’t call me. Just follow the directions. I’ll see you later and I love you.” But, but…
I had this day planned for months. But really, I had this day planned from that very first date. One long sequence of events. It started with an early morning manicure/pedicure appointment. Bye bye love. Hello love. One hour or so had elapsed. I wished I could see her face. I walked into that salon, handed the owner another slim, brown envelope with instructions to hand it to her when she left. I handed W a coffee and pulled out my new camcorder. I asked her a few questions and she looked completely confused. I love you, I said. And walked out the door.
W was handed that envelope when she left. She must have been because she showed up as planned. This time a massage, because she loves massages. I knew the timing, down to a tee. I had been there before planning it all out. No mistakes, not for my girl. While she was being pampered I drove to her favourite Thai place to pick up her favourite meal and then picked up her favourite bottle of wine. Within minutes I was back at the spa setting up her table. She was ten minutes from finishing and had no clue I was there, just steps outside her room. Opened the bottle and poured a glass. Lit a candle and left. But not before handing the girl at the counter one more brown envelope.
Time was my friend. After driving back home I waited. Nervous and anxious and ready. As the time ticked down for her return I ran a bath. Poured a glass of wine. Lit candles through the house and scattered flowers everywhere. One final envelope with money for an outfit of her choice and a date for dinner. That night. I shut the door, taped a note on the door and left. Waited outside. I sat in my car a block away, camera rolling, and taped W driving home and reading the note. And she disappeared into the house.
I had a few hours, finally. Time to consume all that had taken place. Time to prepare for the most important moment in my life. I spent a few hours relaxing at my parents before getting ready and dressed. And I made that drive back home. I sat in my car in the driveway and took a few deep breaths. I opened the door, called to W upstairs and told her to give me one final moment.
Hidden behind the couch was a picture we had taken in Mexico a month sooner, the two of us outside a cute little chapel. I had it blown up and laminated with the words I Will Love You Forever written alongside it. Now fully prepared I called for her to come downstairs. I told her to open the rolled up laminated paper. I will never forget the look on her face as she saw that picture and read those words. When she turned to me I was on bended knee and said those fateful words.
For one brief moment I didn`t want the moment to end. I wanted to forever remember this time and space in time. Just us sharing in a moment we`d never forget. “Of course!“ She immediately called her mom. Her parents were in Niagara Falls, had planned to be so for months. Wendy knew that. “Mom, I`m getting married!! Michael just proposed to me.“ Her mom was ecstatic but sad she was so far away. “We`ll check out first thing in the morning and drive to see you. I can`t wait see you and see your ring honey.“ Wendy was so excited for that next day and the chance to share the moment with her mother.
The phone call ended and I told W we had to be on our way for our dinner date. I had reservations ready for us across town. So we got in the car, celebrating along the way, and made our way into the restaurant. Our reservation was in fifteen minutes so I told W we should head downstairs and grab a drink at the bar first. We made our way down the stairs, W oblivious to anything other than her ring. Her smile lit up the entire place. We turned the corner into the bar when she first noticed them. Our parents sitting at the bar waiting to celebrate with us. W and her mom embraced and my father and soon to be father-in-law shook my hands. I hugged my mom and we went upstairs. All of us. One big family.
We planned the wedding that night. At least the start of the plans. Our destination wedding in Mexico nearly a year later. January 7th. The third day I`ll never forget. Could never forget. No matter what, we were going and our parents were going. Anything on top of that would be a bonus. Time flew. A year elapsed in a breath and blink of an eye. One full year now upon us and ready for us.
I remember the 15 of us boarding the flight to Mexico. Real early morning. We landed hours later and grabbed our luggage and left the airport as a group. The doors opened up and that warm Mexico air washed over us. Our drivers were waiting and within minutes we had filled two vans to whisk us away to our resort. The day was only half over and here we were, a few days from getting married.
It was a beautiful week. We shared meals and moments as a group. Days bled into others. The whole while we counted down the days. When that Thursday rolled around the excitement of the week had finally hit me. All of us. W and her mom were off in the morning for a salon appointment. The rest of the group enjoyed the day by themselves. I was alone. By myself. A chance to relax and reflect. So I did. I ate alone and enjoyed time by myself to think of the moment upon me. The moment I thought would never happen until I met W. Marrying my everything.
Our ceremony was taking place on the beach by the ocean at 4pm. An hour before sunset. By mid afternoon I was in my room showering and getting ready. I sent a gift to her parents room for her. She sent one back. I`m an emotional man so I probably cried more times than I could count that day. I was anxious. Ready. By four o`clock the group of friends and family were gathered by the chairs, waiting for us. I looked everywhere for a glimpse of W, but she was kept back. When the first song played my mom and I made our long walk down the beach. She stood beside my dad, behind me. My whole life was about this one moment. This chance. A leap of faith taken two years before.
I heard the second song start. I saw W and her mom atop the hill. I was so happy at that moment that my emotions ran wild on me. I had never seen a sight so beautiful in all my life. I`m a very lucky man, my wife is stunning. But at that very moment she looked unlike any other time in our life together. She took my breath away. I whispered in her ear and the next few minutes were a blur. I cried. Cried. We exchanged personal vows. And, within minutes, we were married. Husband and wife.
We celebrated that night. Dinner as a group. Speeches. One big party. People say getting married is the most important day of your life. And they`re right. It`s something I look back upon with pride and elation. January 7th, the day I can never forget. All because of her. Two years married, two years blissfully aware of how fortunate I am. Like that day three years ago, I don`t need one day to let my wife know how much I love her. I tell her everyday. But especially today.
February 15th. I asked W to marry me on this day, three years ago today. The wheels were in motion because of this day. The best thing I ever did. Me and She. The story of us.
As you read this W, I hope it brings you back. And it reminds you of how much I love you. And cherish our lives together. Those three days shaped everything we have today. But on this day I want you to remember that you will never be alone again. Ever again.
COQ AU VIN PINOT NOIR
- 2 chicken thighs and legs
- 50 grams unsalted butter
- splash of olive oil
- 150 grams pancetta, cubed
- 150 grams pearl onions, halved
- 250 grams button mushrooms, cleaned and halved
- 6 thyme sprigs, leaves removed
- 1 tbsp. tomato paste
- 200 ml Pinot Noir
- 300 ml chicken stock
- 1/8 cup sour cream
- 1 bay leaf
- kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- Pat each chicken piece dry. Season with salt and pepper.
- Melt half the butter and the oil in a large saute pan over medium-hight heat. Once hot, add the chicken pieces and cook until golden brown on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and set the chicken aside.
- Place the pancetta back into the pan and saute until golden, about 2 minutes. Set aside until later.
- Pour off the fat and add in the remaining butter. Once it starts to brown, add in the mushrooms and pearl onions and cook over medium heat until browned, about 4-5 minutes. Add in the wine, stock, thyme and tomato paste. Stir to combine. Bring up to a boil and add the chicken and pancetta and bay leaf to the pan. Cover and reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked to 165F degrees.
- Remove the chicken and reduce the sauce by a third, which should take about 15 minutes. Once the sauce has thickened, add in the sour cream and adjust the seasoning. Add the chicken back in and serve.
- Serves 2.