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A weapon of war plays romance - how a police pipe band helped me find my wife and belong

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The Union County Police and Fire Pipes and Drums
The Union County Police and Fire Pipes and Drums
We run into each other socially often, but Arthur Hynes knows he will usually see me in his shop near three set dates each year.

The gentleman from the County Down owns a fine jewelry store in downtown Cranford and looks after his customers well. Artie’s also brilliant for a chat about almost anything, especially music and the arts.

He knows he will see me in December, most likely on Christmas Eve, when I am shopping for Honey Badger’s gift. Artie also expects me coming through his door the day before Cinco de Mayo, her birthday.

All the Irish silver Honey Badger wears is thanks to Artie and my credit card.

Each September, we will normally meet during the hurling and football finals and just before the 29th of the month, our wedding anniversary.

Honey Badger is never surprised when presented with a Hynes Jewelers bag. She’s sharp that way.  Seven years ago when we first meet she knew she was getting a husband and I hadn’t a clue. A wife was the furthest thing from my thoughts.

At the time, only a couple years back home after a decade in Europe, Los Angeles and New York City, I was still having a tough run of it settling into Elizabeth, New Jersey -- the city of my birth where I knew few.

Any expat or immigrant returning to their home place discovers there is much that’s not fun about coming home again.

So, I went out looking for connections with my new old home.

Thanks to the parents, we have the Irish connection. I went with that strength, my only lead.

A flyer on an office wall read that the Union County Police and Fire Pipes and Drums were hosting their annual pub night fund raiser at Roselle Catholic High School. I was bound to meet some kindred souls there, I thought.

Soon in the door that night seven years ago, the lads from the pipe band heartily greeted me as new friendships began to take root. In the packed hall, I meet old friends of the family and the night took on a warm, welcoming feel quickly.

While enjoying the craic with a few firemen and their wives, and a Jell-O shot as well I think, she came sashaying out of the crowd in her white blouse and blue jeans. The Scots-Irish beauty seemed a bit interested in this slightly less lost photographer.

We got on like a house on fire the rest of the evening as the Celtic rock band played and the pipes and drums performed in the background. I even got a phone number before our time together was through.

The scrap of paper with her name and details went straight into my pocket which I forgot about the next morning when I washed my jeans.

After a fair bit of panic and a scrambled series of phone calls to hopefully mutual friends, I had her number again. And I supposed she had mine all along.

Two years later, I was kilted up standing at a makeshift altar at the Elks in Union as Don Kozlowski piped her down the aisle to me.

Saturday marked our first five years as husband and wife. Our time together has had its up and downs but never between us. We’re grand. It’s everyone else who has issues. And we don’t pay them any mind.

Artie Hynes and I only saw each other once this September. It was at the slaughter of Galway in the hurling final Sunday. He watched the football final in Manhattan the week before and Honey Badger and I skipped gifts this year.

To mark our fifth anniversary, it was time and drinks with old friends in Brooklyn Friday night and a walkabout on our own in Manhattan Saturday afternoon finishing up with a fine meal in a French restaurant on 7th Avenue.

Honey Badger is now a full member piper of the Union County Police and Fire Pipes and Drums. And I am the band’s perpetual student piper and public relations man.

We are doing quite well together considering the historical start of things. Bagpipes were originally a weapon of war but they managed to play us together in love.

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