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Prompted By Honeymoon

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First a word about “honeymoon”. We were at a fabulous wedding in England last October. The father of the bride began his toast holding up a bottle of mead. He commented that it was the custom in old Saxon English days to offer newlyweds bottles of mead, also known as honey wine, since it is made with fermented honey rather than grapes. The couple were provided with a month’s worth of mead, or one full cycle of the moon, as it was thought to boost fertility (at least drinking it the couple would overcome natural shyness and have a lot fun). Thus, “honey” wine, paired with a moon’s cycle of drinking it was a “honeymoon” and that is the derivation of the word! We all loved that story.

Dan and I were married at my home temple in Oak Park, Michigan on Sunday, June 16, 1974, 45 years ago. My newly-ordained brother co-officiated with the rabbi I’d known my whole life. My father told me what his budget was, so I opted for a rather simple but nice early afternoon ceremony with only passed hor d’oeuvres, sweets and a wedding cake, no sit-down dinner and a good-sized check to start our married life. The Featured photo shows us in our “going away” outfits.

We honeymooned driving through Canada, making our way back to Boston. Our wedding night was spent at the luxurious Hotel Pontchartrain courtesy of my Uncle Lew and Aunt Ann. Uncle Lew was their lawyer. The hotel was downtown, right at the mouth of the Ambassador Bridge, crossing over to Canada (no border control in those days; we used to go to Windsor, Ontario for dinner on occasion, passports not required), where we were headed the next morning, our Toyota loaded to the brim with wedding presents.

We came down to the dining room for an elegant dinner, our first as a married couple. We chose chateaubriand, a delicious steak for two. The waiter, with a white serving napkin draped over his arm, smiled and remarked, “That’s a cool deal!” We could barely suppress our amusement, but the dinner was exceptional and went on to the room bill. Thank you again, Uncle Lew and Aunt Ann. The whole experience was wonderful and a very “cool deal” for us.

Back in the room, I slipped into what I thought was just what a beautiful, blushing bride should wear: a flowing pink, lacy negligee, again purchased for me by my Aunt Ann (whose grown daughter had children my age: four boys. Aunt Ann, my mother’s oldest sister, always treated me like a grandchild. My own grandparents were all gone). Dan and I had been virtually living together for the past year, as he came over to my dorm room every night. He didn’t fall for this notion of romance, took one look at me and said, “Take that ridiculous thing off!” I was crushed. That was not how I wanted the evening to play out. I wanted romance, he wanted something else. He got what he wanted, but was lucky to, after that comment.

Bright and early the next morning we drove into Canada to Stratford, Ontario and the Shakespeare  Festival. I had been many times with my family and loved the place. It seemed like a great way to start the trip. That night we saw “Love’s Labour’s Lost”, not one of Shakespeare’s best known, but the Festival always does a great job with production and staging and gets first class talent.

We continued on to a resort outside of Toronto called the Guild Inn. I had stayed there a few years earlier with my parents. It had seemed nicer then. Now the tennis courts were cracked (at this point I still tried to play tennis) and the weather didn’t cooperate. The view of Lake Ontario was fogged in. We went into Toronto and spent the day at the Science Museum. On June 20, we spent the day at Ontario Place and in the evening met up with my parents and brother, also visiting Canada. My dad treated all of us to a nice meal at Hungarian Village. It was actually pleasant to see them mid-way through our trip. My brother would soon start his PhD at Brown University and be too busy to surface for years.

On to Canada’s capital: Ottawa. We saw the capital building and the changing of the guard; a mini-version of what goes on in front of Buckingham Palace. We knew it would be a long time before we got there. There were loans to be paid, grad school for Dan to get through, I still had to get a job. This was a budget honeymoon.

Next stop: Montreal. We had dinner at the the Chateau Champlain, which was quite lovely. This was the most European of all the cities we visited and we toured around. On Sunday, we visited “Man and his World”, which is what “Expo ’67”, the big World’s Fair, became. Dan and his father had biked up there when he was younger. He was curious to see it again. This is the only place on our entire honeymoon where we took a photo of each other.

The symbol for Expo ’67 was the big geodesic dome which is in the background of Dan’s photo. I still was using my little Kodak Instamatic camera, which didn’t take great photos.

That night we had dinner at Moishe’s, a Montreal institution. We took a bus tour of the city the next day, and capped off the entire trip with dinner at the Hotel Bonaventure, an elegant treat.

I had visited Niagara Falls with my parents and brother on my way home from Brandeis just six weeks earlier, so didn’t feel the need to do that honeymoon cliché. We were tired from being on the road from hotel to hotel and drove straight through from Montreal to Newton, MA. We stayed with Dan’s parents for a few days while we set up our Waltham apartment. The honeymoon was over. Dan was back at work and I began looking for a job in earnest.

Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Tags: Hotel Pontchartrain, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa


  1. John Shutkin says:

    Sincere thanks, Betsy — probably for many of us — by starting out your story with the derivation of the term “honeymoon.” I had never thought about it before, and it perfectly sets the stage, despite its anachronism, for this week’s prompt. I mean, who drinks mead these days, let alone views the honeymoon as a time to start a family?

    And I very much enjoyed your particular honeymoon story. As I am sure other honeymoon stories will also touch on, there is something anti-climactic (pun semi-intended) for us all about it, given that virginal innocence was hardly in vogue anymore. Still, I guess a feeling of “business as usual” is better than a total freak-out, painful disaster.

    And, speaking of times long gone, I also really enjoyed you reminding us of those good old days of completely casual border crossings in and out of Canada. And also loved the reference to those little Kodak Instamatics. They used film, right?

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      45 years was a long time ago, John. Crossing into Canada was so easy and yes, there was a time when we used film, had to finish the roll and wait to get it DEVELOPED! How quaint, as you say. Positively archaic!

  2. Marian says:

    Great details, Betsy. I particularly like the “Man and his World” in Montreal, having visited the original expo, along with Moishe’s, one of my favorite delis anywhere. My younger brother, who would have been about eight at the time, gave his compliments to their chef!

  3. Suzy says:

    Wow, Betsy, happy 45th anniversary! If this had been last week’s prompt, we could have been reading your story on your anniversary. Love the explanation of the etymology of “honeymoon,” thanks for that.

    Sounds like you had a nice honeymoon, although how rude of Dan to diss your beautiful lacy negligee. He should have admired it, and you, and then sensuously removed it, rather than saying “take that ridiculous thing off!” I would NOT have given him what he wanted after a comment like that! But you’ve made it through 45 years, probably because you are more forgiving than I am.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Isn’t the honeymoon derivation fun? We loved that toast, so I had to share it here.

      Thanks for the sympathy. Obviously, 45 years has not taken the sting out of Dan’s comment, but he made up for it some years later when I was living in Chicago, but came in for his company holiday party, which was also my birthday weekend. I wrote about it some time ago. That was the time when I bought the disco dress and we stayed at a suite at the old Ritz on Newbury St. He gave me a beautiful peignoir set for my birthday and Balanchine’s Guide to the Ballet foe Chanukah (I took ballet class at the time). We went to dinner in the dining room overlooking the Public Garden and it began to snow. It as very romantic.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    Betsy, like others who have commented, I really enjoyed your description of the origin of “honeymoon.” I learned something new — thanks! I was also married at a temple in Oak Park, Beth Shalom, 50 years ago by the rabbi I knew growing up and the current rabbi. We had a reception in the social hall (translation: basement). We also had “going away outfits.” In fact, ours were pictured in my story about our first date. I also remember the Hotel Pontchartrain and crossing into Windsor all of the time. Like you, I had fancy negligee that I actually just tossed after letting several of my granddaughters play dress-up in it. And like you, it was a bit of a joke. Your honeymoon in Canada sounds great. As a fellow Motown girl, I have been to all of those places.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I am sitting with the man who gave the honeymoon toast right nw, so will pass along the compliment.

      Thanks for backing up all my Detroit and Canadian memories, kindred spirit. Motown was a fun place to grow up.

  5. Risa Nye says:

    These are all so much fun to read! My going away outfit (which I made myself) was a skirt about that short and a matching jacket. Also, a black hat. I don’t know why I thought that was such a cool idea. Enjoyed reading your honeymoon story!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      The “going away” outfit was a thing, wasn’t it, Risa? I’m sure ours were similar (I didn’t do hats, my head is so small, I look ridiculous in hats). I had worn my two weeks earlier to my brother’s ordination as well. It got some good use that year.

  6. What a lavish and wise ‘budget’ honeymoon, Betsy! And what a story about your romantic honeymoon night attire. The groom deserved to be cut off for that remark, that’s for sure! But then I suppose you’d be missing out, too! Ah, such dilemma.

    Montreal sounds like a great place to honeymoon, and you found some wonderful spots to enjoy. Then back to job hunting. Ah… real life!

    And thanks for supplying the source of the word honey moon. A great origin tale!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I made my groom rub my sore feet (standing at the alter in high heels was another sort of trial), to earn his reward after that remark, so it all worked out. Montreal was certainly the highlight of the trip before we had to return to reality.

      Glad you enjoyed my “honeymoon” derivation story. As I said, we all enjoyed it a lot too, so I’m happy to pass it along.

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