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Merry and I kicked off the warmer part of the year with the Hellenic Festival, even meeting up with a few people — Roman, David Newman (my beekeeping mentor), and Christina.

It was also the first time in years I attended the Pride Parade. I finally got to wear a “Free Dad Hugs” shirt; my car ended up a makeshift float. I kept close to my daughter to not seem like “Random Creepy Old Guy”. I tried not to initiate any contact first, while some held me in tears. The catharsis of non-judgment …

Merry came with me for the first time to Utica for St. John’s Day. The care and retirement facilities still weren’t ready for tours, but we enjoyed the eating, music (including some polkas), the parade — it was a beautiful weekend in general. We came early, bringing the dog (and staying at Red Roof as one of the only places that allowed pets and had vacancies). This enabled us to visit the Utica Zoo, which was both smaller and larger than we expected — and quite a bit of uphill walking. The eating establishments we patronized make me believe that Utica has few good restaurants, but many GREAT ones. Merry especially liked going to “Top of the Morning” for breakfasts, close enough to walk (though we didn’t).

This year was also the first time we went to the Renaissance Faire in Sterling. I honestly felt right at t home from the start. A broad interpretation and plenty of anachronisms, it was like a dream. And Merry heard me ask something she’d been waiting for for years. “I wish I had a sundial” … {hands me sundial} … “but what good is it if I don’t know which way is North?” {examines it to find it has a compass built into its base}. Yes, once again it was affirmed I married the right person. The only unpleasantry was the way the tickets and some of the food booths were run. But then it’s been a couple of years and they may have not anticipated the crowds. The one thing that caught Merry was the number of people wearing mushroom hats. Apparently, that’s a thing now. We were there for nearly two days, saw most of what we wanted, and I now have a few new hats, including a sharp tricorn one I hope to use Masonically at some point. It was a compliment that one or two people thought I worked there. We dressed the part, mostly with clothing we already had. I wore some of Merry’s scrub pants and she bought me a pirate-worthy shirt to boot. I made a wooden square to tick in a belt she bought me and got my first henna tattoo — a Square and Compasses in a configuration suitable for a Fellow of the Craft. And I finally got to use both the walking stick I made decades ago and the change purse from the Mali tribe I had bought in New York City even farther back.

Camp Stuczynski was another success at the Erie County Fair. There weren’t as many noteworthy shows or exhibits as most years, but we still enjoyed it. I even bought myself a Chinese outfit, feeling a bit guilty for having gold-embroidered dragons with five toes. Merry insisted I was entitled, and there isn’t currently an emperor, so …¬†We volunteered for the WNYHPA and Excalibur, but there was no usual potluck on the last night of the fair this year. People are still coming up to me saying they saw my prize-winning honey. The credit goes to our backyard bees, of course, and the local flora, mostly knotweed. These bees have been docile enough to manage without gloves or veil, though I usually (but not always) wear them. We shall be inundated with honey gain shortly.

I had a great first half of the year financially, but it was probably the estate that enabled us to do so much — that, and Merry’s uber-flexible schedule after two decades of frustration. But we’re out all the time mostly to catch up on not just closing the estate, but switching the sewing and guest rooms upstairs. In some ways, I’ve never been so content. Part of it is looking forward to our 25th Anniversary in Maine, and not worrying terribly much about the cost. But it’s still bittersweet. We now have no parents left. But at least Merry’s cousin is up and around again, and some peripheral family is closer than before, even if just a little and for however long.

This is also the year I started wearing suspenders and remediating a healthy yet enlarged prostate. Time marches on. But the former condition may reverse itself. I’ve continued to lose weight with Merry using what we’ve learned from the Noom app. My eating habits have changed, or at least shifted now that I’m more aware of them. But this year is also a continuation of my pandemic surge of reading. I can’t stop grabbing anything I can think of, including authors and classics you’d usually hope not to get assigned to read for school! Somehow, the great authors seemed always something other people referred to but no one actually read. I hope to channel much of this energy to more writing at some point. But for now, my next hump is the (belated) 125th anniversary of my Royal Arch Chapter at the start of October. Shortly after that, Maine.