Opinion: Finding Meaning

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Memories From a New Family

Scout, serious about her role as flower girl, with proud parents April and Dave Dickson. Photo/Skip Hellewell

“Two households, both alike in dignity,” our son quoted to the Beautiful Wife and me in welcome. He was too clever with his greeting—we didn’t recognize the opening line from Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” The occasion was a first, the wedding of a grandchild, his daughter, for which we made the long trip to the other coast.

Jack and Elizabeth, the Romeo and Juliet of this story, met in their college social circle. Friends, at first, one suggested they do dinners together, using a fresh food delivery service with pre-portioned ingredients that they prepared. Their friendship grew into loveship in the everyday process of cooking and eating. Now the families of each were gathering for the wedding.

Our youngest granddaughter, Scout, was invited to be a flower girl. Just six years old and not yet comfortable with attention, she declined. However, her mother reported the opposite, and when the special dress arrived in the mail, and Scout tried it on, she was transformed and had a memorable time with her new flower-girl cousins.

The photographer, bristling with cameras, had a busy schedule that included portraits of the bride and groom with each of the four sets of grandparents. The BW was radiant; I was acceptable in my old suit. The last grandfather had recently lost his wife and, before the photo, lamented to the bride his sadness to pose without her. The bride, comprehending the contrast—she just starting her married life, this kind man grieving the end of his earthly marriage—was overcome with tears. When she had composed herself, the photos continued. This was a gathering of large families, but that one photo might be the most memorable.

There was a moment for the BW and me during the ceremony when our son walked his daughter down the aisle. In a flash, we remembered his wedding, then our own wedding and I took the BW’s hand as the circle of love passed before us. The reception opened with our son dancing with his daughter and the groom dancing with his mother. Others joined in until the dance floor was packed, and the music grew loud and lively. The wedding party was big, with a dozen bridesmaids and groomsmen and friends and family doing dances I didn’t recognize. But there was a slow dance, and the BW and I danced again, as we had years before. More memories.

I was introduced to an older couple, friends of our son, Marco from Guatemala, where I had spent time, and Mercedes from Peru. They were good people; Mercedes ran a program that helped immigrant youth with college. It took her a moment to connect us with our son and granddaughter, we spoke in Spanish, and the music was loud. Still, she became emotional, telling how our granddaughter Elizabeth ran a study program to help immigrant students stay in college while our son and wife provided support. We knew little of this, so it was a memorable surprise.

The kids danced into the night, but the music finally stopped, and the newlyweds slipped away to become a new family. The BW and I are home again, back in the reassuring rhythm of daily life but treasuring memories from the creation of a new family. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.”  Email: [email protected].

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