Not all memories are old memories, not all nostalgia papered over by the passage of years. Just over a month ago, during our last trip home to New Hampshire, we we fortunate enough to be able to attend the wedding of our nephew, my first godson Albert to his fantastic wife Marissa. They're not your usual kids - heck, her bridal procession was the Deep Space Nine theme, and the ceremony was presided over by my father, the original Albert Pace. So, naturally, they got married at a castle. New Hampshire has a few of them, and this one is in Windham, Salem's second bedroom.
Built in 1915 at a cost of $1.25 million (in 1915 dollars) by the eccentric antique collector Edward Searles, the 20-room edifice was designed to evoke the Stanton Harcourt Manor in Oxon, England (Searles claimed Harcourt ancestry). It really is a castle, complete with crenellated walls, flagstoned courtyards, and a tower where ravens roost. It was like going to a wedding written by George R.R. Martin, but with a happy ending. But as cool as the venue was, it was setting for the stone, the white-gold band housing the glittering gem of family.
You're all as aware as I am that time accelerates with age - childhood lasts forever, while years evaporate in a twinkling come maturity. I'm firmly convinced that the only way to slow time's relentless appetite is to surround ourselves with those we care about and continually invest in the relationships that comprise our lives. (Social media, for all of its warts, has been a lifeline for me in this regard during this nearly-over exile.) And as the days stream past, it gets harder and harder to gather together with those who mean the most to us, our family and closest friends.
And so I cherish the memory of being at Searles Castle in May of 2017 because of who was there. Sarah and I were lucky enough to spend a golden evening with my folks, my brother Al and his wife Stefani (and of course Albie and Marissa), and with a family gathering the likes of which we haven't known for a long time, and perhaps may never again. Cousins (Tom and Buddy and Erin) and their spouses (Kerry and Jessica and Tom), aunts and uncles, in-laws like Jackie Lemaire. Friends who are essentially family, like Heather and Colin Woods, or Emily Forgy. Walking reminders of the ties that bind.
People ask me sometimes why I love New Hampshire so much. The answer is both complicated and simple. I love New Hampshire for its history and culture, for its work ethic and fierce independence, for its towns and lakes and forests. But most simply, and fundamentally, New Hampshire is home. New Hampshire is family, whether by blood or bond. And nothing means more than that.