Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Redwood Wedding: Can Life Be Better Than This?

Katja and I at the Santa Cruz beach and boardwalk

Dear George,

We are recently back from Abra and Michael’s wedding in Santa Cruz. What a whirlwind! On Thursday we spent our first night in El Granada with our daughter-in-law K’s mom (Linda) and older sister (Jayme), plus Jayme’s kids Ben and Theo. Our son J and granddaughter V were already there. Then we drove down to Santa Cruz for three days of wedding events with my dear sister Vicki and our extended family. Abra. of course, is the youngest of three Levenson children and the final sibling to marry. From Santa Cruz we traveled up to Dixon to stay with Katja’s brother and sister-in-law, David and Susan, and their daughter Mandy. So we had three separate family mini-vacations. I’m putting some photos on Flickr which document our trip, but here are the highlights.

The ocean shore at Rockaway Beach, Pacifica

We flew into San Francisco, then drove down Highway 1, stopping for lunch at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica. This is the shoreline from the restaurant parking lot. Our whole trip along the coast was dominated by the ocean. For us landlocked Midwesterners, the Pacific is an awesome, virtually unbelievable presence -- a source of beauty and limitless adventures.

Katja, David, V, Linda, Theo, and Ben

Linda and Jayme share a large, attractive house on a hillside in El Granada overlooking the Pacific. It’s the first time we’ve visited them, and it was a happy reunion. Jayme’s kids are beautiful and bright – golden curly locks, quick wits, and an abundance of positive energy. We took in Ben’s graduation ceremony at his school, and Linda made a delicious spaghetti dinner. V, though still a pint-sized toddler, had clearly become close pals with her older cousins, and when we left she cried out, “Ben, Ben…”.

The Terrace Court Motel, Santa Cruz

We stayed in Santa Cruz at the Terrace Court Motel on Beach Street at the ocean’s edge, right near the end of the Santa Cruz wharf and a half block down from the famous Boardwalk. We loved being at the Terrace Court. It had a nostalgic 1950’s feel about it and was right at the center of Santa Cruz’s resort activity – sunbathers, swimmers, muscle men, beach volleyball players, fishermen, gift and snack shops, and all the rest.

K and V look over the sea lions at the Santa Cruz wharf

On Saturday we walked out on the wharf and checked out a platform which was the waterside gathering place for a couple of dozen sea lions. They put on an amazing show. There were babies, female cows, and dominant males, all piled on top of one another. The babies snuggled with their moms, while the males competed for space, barking at the top of their voices, snapping their jaws, and pushing one another off into the water. It was the equivalent of a 3-ring circus, and we watched for a long time. Looking at the warring males, V exclaimed to her parents, “Fight, fight!”

A grad school friend reads her toast to Abra & Michael

Michael and Abra both grew up in Santa Cruz and became high school sweethearts years ago. We were invited to the rehearsal dinner at Michael’s father Lance’s house, on the outskirts of the city in the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains. We met some of Abra and Michael’s friends who had traveled across the country from Princeton NJ for the occasion and chummed around with our various family members, including a lot of babies and little kids – the next generation. The many toasts to the engaged couple were funny and profound. Lance used his harmonica to convey his sentiments to his son and new daughter-in-law.

At the Skyview Flea Market, Santa Cruz

Early Saturday morning J and I went to the Skyview Flea Market at an old drive-in movie site. I’ve never missed the flea when visiting Santa Cruz since it’s far superior to anything Cincinnati offers (given a prevalence of hippy-era folks disposing of various esoteric goods). I didn’t find as much paper ephemera as usual, but just being there on a sunny morning had a good feeling about it.

Reception: K, V, Abra, Michael, friend

Abra and Michael’s wedding was at a redwood grove in the small mountain town of Felton about 8 or 9 miles outside of Santa Cruz. There were perhaps a hundred guests clustered around a circle of redwood trees. The ceremony was brief, but that was helpful since both the bride and groom were so emotional that they could barely get their vows out. Then people moved next door for an elegant buffet dinner and hours of socializing, dancing, and enjoyment. Vicki was filled with joy. I was reminded once again of how special weddings are: reconnecting, love, youth, commitment, dancing, families merging, and general merriment. Everybody felt deep affection for Abra and Michael.

K and V in the 54 degree ocean surf

Early Sunday morning J and K, along with Katja and I, took V out on the beach near the boardwalk. It was a vivid reminder of how joyous childhood can be. V was enthralled with the beach and the ocean. She ran around on the sand, whirling about in circles, then darting into the water, eventually sitting down and splashing it about. Then back onto the beach, grabbing fistfuls of wet sand to toss about, even eating a couple of mouthfuls. We all got caught up in the frolic.

Katja, J, K, and Linda

Vicki prepared a big brunch for the wedding guests on Sunday morning, and we were happy to be with everybody for a last get-together before our departure. We hung out with Judy and Steve, Vicki’s sister- and brother-in-law; Keith and Linda, old family friends; and, of course, J and K and our own family members. We love Vicki’s and George’s family and were happy to be with them on this joyous occasion.

David and Katja at the pool

On Sunday afternoon we made the three-hour trip up to David and Susan’s home in Dixon, just south of Sacramento. Katja hadn’t seen her brother and sister-in-law for several years, so it was another pleasurable reunion. David and Susan have a wonderful home (having moved years ago from just about the smallest house in San Francisco to the largest house in Dixon). Their college student daughter Mandy joined us, and, since we’d last seen her, she’d grown up to be a lovely young woman. We enjoyed martinis at the poolside and Susan’s delicious meals. David took us on a tour of the nearby college town of Davis which reminded us of Ann Arbor (if you toss in palm trees and a lot of flowers). Monday morning it was time to depart. We got on the airplane, promptly fell sleep, and had pleasant dreams all the way home.



G-Mail Comments

-Linda C (6-20): wonderful memories, must have been somewhat bittersweet without george. i would love to look at pics on flicker but i think i would need a password. thanks for staying over, it was nice to be together with our grandchild, who is amazing. when she came back here she wanted to get into the wrestling with the boys, fight fight she would cry out and then go and try to steal my lipstick. love linda

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