Family redefined

The odds were a million to one. Two young couples from different parts of the state plan their weddings for the same day and meet on a honeymoon package tour of Southern Florida. The calendar date, November 8, 1980, determined a chance meeting that brought two families together for life, creating a unique bond lasting forty-one years and still counting.

Before we met these friends and they became our family, fate decided to throw us together. The morning after our wedding, we left the honeymoon suite at the Hilton Hotel at Logan airport and boarded the shuttle to the terminal to start our seven-day trip to Florida.

On the shuttle, we sat across from a young couple who looked about the same age as us. They were extremely well dressed. In those days you wore your Sunday Best when you were traveling by airplane. Casual glances were exchanged where they noticed we were dressed in jeans and outdoor vest jackets. My wife and I were going for a more comfortable look. 

At the airport terminal, we took our seats in the Paragon Tours waiting area. A young woman, one half of the dressed-up couple from the shuttle bus, cautiously approached us. 

“Excuse me, is this the waiting area for Paragon Tours?” she asked.

“Yes, I think so,” I answered, unaware this person would soon become a major part of our lives.

“Thank you,” she said and walked back to where her husband was standing.

Coincidentally, we met again later that night on the first stop of our tour, an Orlando saloon-themed bar called Rosie O’Grady’s. The place was packed with tourists, but my wife and I were lucky enough to get a table. The couple from the airport shuttle walked past looking for a place to sit. I waved them over as we had extra room in our booth. They were happy to have a place to sit.

Introductions were exchanged. George and Tina were from New Bedford by way of Portugal. They were married on November 8th, the same day we were. They were on the same seven day tour of southern Florida. After many pitchers of beer and a couple of Flaming Hurricanes, a friendship was forged. Not everyone can say they spent their honeymoon with another couple. 

When the trip came to an end and our plane landed in Boston, we said our goodbyes at the airport. We promised to stay in touch with our newfound friends. And we did. On our first anniversary we had dinner at the legendary Hilltop Steak House in Saugus. “Four for Kansas City” in 1980 turned into an annual tradition. Anniversary dinners were replaced with weekends on Cape Cod every November. Soon summertime camping trips in southern New England became annual events as well. 

Things changed when George and Tina welcomed a baby girl, Katelyn. We still managed to get together. We have some great photos of baby Katie from our early camping trips – Katelyn in a playpen in the woods wearing socks on her hands because the June weather turned surprisingly cold.

My wife and I had no children in the early years of our marriage. George and Tina soon added a son, Matthew, to their family. I was over the moon when I was asked to be the baby’s godfather. I knew how much that meant in the Portuguese tradition. When I found out Matthew’s middle name was Scott, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was a proud Padrinho.

The following year, we had a baby of our own. Our son, Joseph, is a year younger than Matthew, and the boys are good friends to this day.

This past October, we planned an impromptu family reunion with our friends who now reside in North Dartmouth. These days it is impossible to get everyone together in one place at the same time, but somehow we made it happen. Tina graciously prepared a Portuguese feast for us, and my family brought some delicacies of our own. Having everyone gathered together was better than any Thanksgiving holiday. When Tina’s brother stopped by with their mom, there were four generations under one roof. The only people missing were my son Max and his wife Hiromi who reside in Tokyo so they had a good excuse. I’m hoping they will be here for the next reunion. There definitely will be more to come. The group photo we took of our combined families is priceless beyond words.

After many years of anniversary dinners, vacations to the cape, cruises, camping trips and casual sleepovers, our tradition continues. For this year’s anniversary, we attended the New England Christmas Festival at Mohegan Sun Casino followed by a delicious dinner at Riccardi’s restaurant in New Bedford.

Forty-one years have passed. We’re all grandparents now. Our children have children of their own. Lives intertwined because of a chance meeting on a tour of southern Florida by two young couples who had no idea what they were getting into a such a young age. Looking back, I guess we did something right. All you need is love. And our families are living proof.

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