For many in the Farmington Valley, Oct. 29 will go down in history books as the day of the freak October nor’easter that led to extensive power outages in the state of Connecticut.
But for Avon residents Melissa Burwood, 41, the day has even more significance.
That day, she and her boyfriend Stan Dreslinski, 51, a Pittsburgh, PA, native, mutually decided to marry.
Despite being stranded without power for several days, that time was enjoyable for them because they were together.
“He said, ‘As far as I’m concerned, you’re already my wife and I’m your husband,’" Burwood said. “Now we’re making it official.”
They have set their wedding date for another meaningful day – Christmas Eve.
“We didn’t realize until after we picked it,” Burwood said, as they were scrambling to find a Saturday that her daughter, Jackie, 23, was available to fly up from Virginia Beach. "Everything’s been kind of a fluke since. We’ve been flying by the seat of our pants.”
The Oct. 29 storm did a lot of damage to trees in People’s State Forest in Barkhampstead, so the outdoorsy couple's original plan to have it there Dec. 3 was toppled.
Beach Rock in New Hartford, where Burwood lived for many years, was on the table as a back-up venue. That’s where Burwood and Dreslinski went on their first official date on Feb. 25, 2011, after forming a friendship at the Legere Group in Avon, where they both were engineer drafters.
“As soon as our first date happened, we both knew, yes, this was going to happen,” Burwood said.
Dreslinski was hired there Oct. 29, 2009. Burwood was laid off and her last day was Oct. 29, 2010. She had been at the woodworking company for 11 years.
“Everything is Oct. 29,” Burwood said.
Worried about snow, they decided against having a wedding in the woods. So, they chose the next place that came to mind — in Avon.
When John D’Arcangelo — who started the family ice cream shop in Simsbury in 2003 and opened the Avon location in 2006 — received a call from Burwood’s 17-year-old daughter, Jessie, an Avon High School student, he was surprised.
“Her daughter called out of the blue and said [her mother] wanted to get married here,” D’Arcangelo said. “I thought it was a hoax.”
But the decision was natural for Burwood, who has been coming to J. Foster's for a long time and is a fan of the ice cream. It wasn’t until Burwood came in and mentioned that she had met him before at , where she worked for four months, that he accepted it was real.
“We’ve made wedding cakes for people, but this is the most unusual request we’ve had here,” D’Arcangelo said.
Burwood is finding that few of the events in her life over the past few years have been just coincidental.
She started having intuitions that came to pass. For instance, at one point, she got the feeling her on-and-off ex-boyfriend of 26 years was going to contact her in six months. She wrote him a book about everything he did for her to say goodbye. When he did indeed contact her, she mailed him the book for closure.
She is devoted to moving on from the past and looking to the future.
“Everything that has happened in my life led to Stan. He is it. He is amazing,” she said. “We are two peas in a pod…. He lets me be me…. He loves me, me, who I am, not who he wants me to be.”
Even her wedding dress was waiting for her in in the Westfarms Mall. After no success at finding a dress at other stores and trying several on, she went to try on more in the dressing room there. A wedding dress was left inside and as soon as she saw it, she knew that was the one. The light blue dress — with silver sheen and one-inch straps, as well as a form-fitting style at the top that is looser on the bottom — fit perfectly.
"It just happened, no rhyme or reason," she said.
But nothing fits better than Burwood and Dreslinski, both Scorpios. Burwood said her fiancé puts her at ease with his joking nature, laughing with her instead of making fun of her for her “stupid little quirks.” She recalled a time they were driving to his former house in Florence, MA, and she stopped at a stop sign for a long time on empty roads.
“He turned to me and said, ‘Are you waiting for it to turn green?’” Burwood said.
Yet a green light, it shall be. Burwood has done nothing but move ahead lately. A few weeks ago, she was hired at J Con Woodworking in Canton, and now she can look forward to her wedding.
The noon wedding Saturday will be small, just the bride and groom, as well as Burwood’s two daughters and their boyfriends. Justice of the Peace Arthur Atwood will marry the happy couple.
Afterward, they will, of course, have some ice cream — either Graham Central Station, a graham cracker and chocolate blend, or coffee ice cream for Burwood and probably toasted almond for her soon-to-be husband, which are the couple's respective favorite flavors.
“You can’t go into J. Foster’s and not have ice cream,” Burwood said.
Afterward, they will celebrate with dinner at in Canton before a quiet Christmas Eve just to themselves
Burwood’s parents don’t even know yet. Burwood will tell her father, Robert Burwood, and his wife, Margot Burwood, when she goes to their New Hartford home for Christmas Day. And, she will tell her mother, Kathy Carr, who lives in Windsor Locks, soon. Carr will be away for the holidays, escorting one of her clients at , to be with family in Seattle this weekend.
“We didn’t’ want a big wedding,” said Burwood, which is why she isn't officially telling anyone until after, though one of her six siblings already found out.
This will be a Christmas to remember, Burwood said. “This is the best Christmas present I could have."