“Michael and Kat,
When you first announced that you were having a destination wedding that involved a 2-1/2 hour airplane flight and then a drive longer than the flight itself, in my mind I couldn’t stop thinking of the “F” word, yes that’s right, the “F” word…but it wasn’t the “F” word you are all thinking about. It was the word FAMILY. That word, FAMILY, is so full of layers that evoke so much emotion in all of us…”
That was how I started out my speech last Friday night at my nephew’s wedding in Careyes, Mexico.
I had spent the previous 2 days making and baking 34 challahs for the Shabbat dinner we would be having on the beach the Friday before the wedding.
In customs after landing in Puerto Vallarta, a very astute and beautiful Black Labrador was relentlessly trying to get into my suitcase where I had packed the 34 challahs for the 17 tables there would be at the dinner that night. The customs agent firmly holding the lab back on his leash politely asked me, “Señora, do you have food on you?” “Yes I do” I said. “What is it?” he asked, I responded simply, “Baked bread.” He said, “We are going to have to inspect it.” A young lady agent and I walked over to a table where we lifted up the suitcase. I didn’t unzip it all the way fearing she would have to go through each loaf, so I opened it just enough for her to catch a quick glimpse as I pulled out one of the loaves in its aluminum foil container. I showed it to her and she asked me if it contained any meat, to which I responded “Para nada,” absolutely not. She asked, “what are the ingredients?” “Sugar, yeast, water, eggs, oil, salt and flour”. She said “O.K. go ahead,” and I quickly zipped up the suitcase and made my way to the exit!
About 3 hours later and a bit car sick, the 10 of us arrived at the casitas (houses) at Costa Careyes. We delivered the challahs to Michael, my nephew, went quickly to get changed, and then went down to Shabbat dinner on the beach at Playa Rosa. I kissed Michael and Kat (his fiancée) and my cousins Mark, Leah, Claudia, Fernando and Jenni. Then there were my cousins’ precious children Dan, Orly, Gabriel and Diego. I hugged and held my cherished Aunt Fressia closely. To be there with my husband and all of our children, and to greet family and friends from near and far on that beach was beautiful, and sharing in the experience of that Shabbat dinner was such a special and meaningful way to kick off the weekend with FAMILY.
We were all quite worried about Grandma Helen, Michael’s 99 year-old grandmother who had wanted to be there for her only grandchild’s wedding. Helen had never been out of the U.S. and had applied for a passport for the first time in her life just a few months before. She had gotten very sick and dehydrated on the ride from the airport, but thankfully began to feel better upon her arrival at the venue.
The next day we were free to hang out at the beach. In the middle of the day, Ariela, our daughter, said “Mom, we have a surprise for you and Dad in a few minutes.” I asked if we should go up and change, but she said “No”. Ten minutes later a boat pulled up to the edge of the beach and our kids said, “Here is your surprise, let’s go, let’s get on the boat!” “OK Captain Crunchy (that’s what the boat captain called himself) Let’s go.” All ten of us on board, we took off for the next beach cove over, Playa Blanca. This was the spot where I had met my husband 38 years earlier. In the ocean, in front of the sands of Playa Blanca, our kids pulled out a bucket with a bottle of champagne. They opened the bottle and poured champagne for all of us. They made toasts to us and said, “Dad, tell us about the first time you met Mom.” My husband, Isaac, proceeded to tell them the story, and I followed with my version of that fateful day we first met at Playa Blanca in Mexico, all those years ago. There it was again that special and magic moment shared with FAMILY.
While the family still slept on the morning of the wedding I tiptoed out the front door. I hadn’t gotten the chance to meet my cousin Jenni’s baby, Danielle, so I went on a mission to find their villa (which was not easy). I descended stairs, crossed a beach, ascended stairs and boarded a funicular in their search. I finally found their place and I met beautiful little Danielle; my heart melted as I looked at my cousin’s beautiful little blue-eyed baby daughter. Upon my return, Juana our cook/housekeeper was already in the midst of preparing a typical Mexican breakfast of huevos revueltos a la Mexicana, scrambled eggs Mexican style served with warm corn tortillas, guacamole, and salsa, accompanied by wonderful hot Mexican coffee. One at a time, the delicious aroma beckoned sleepy person after sleepy person to the table. We all wiped our dishes clean and went off to get ready for the wedding.
Shuttles would be taking groups to the wedding venue, Cuixmala, which was a 20 minute ride away. We were on the 1:30 Shuttle. We really didn’t know what to expect, but when we arrived at Casa Cuixmala, our jaws dropped and we understood why this was Michael and Kat’s dream wedding venue .
The interior of this palace was just as spectacular as the exterior. We were offered drinks and hors d’oeuvres while a talented Mexican trio played so many of my favorite romantic Mexican songs (boleros, to which I know all of the lyrics). I was bursting with joy to be here in this dream setting with my immediate and extended family to celebrate the wedding of my very special nephew. After photos we were told to make our way down to the beach, so we descended the many many stairs, and there beyond the pool stood the beautiful and perfect chuppah, right on the beach.
The moment came, the procession began. Grandma Helen fully recovered, was sitting front row center.
Out walked the Rabbi, followed by Michael, the groom, looking happy and serene, flanked by my beaming brother Gary and beautiful sister-in-law Michele.
Then came the best man (my son Aaron) and maid of honor followed by the rest of the bridal party, culminating with the gorgeous bride, Katerina and her proud parents, Faina and Michael.
The groom stepped forward, took his bride-to-be, and together they walked toward the marriage canopy. The Rabbi chanted and spoke, blessings were bestowed, vows were made, Michael broke the glass, and there at a most perfect time and place, on that Mexican beach, my dear nephew Michael married his beloved Kat.
We formed a cocoon of love and we held Michael and Kat warmly within. The magic of that moment surrounded by cherished FAMILY and friends from near and far, will remain etched within each and every heart of those of us who were fortunate to be there to share in that real life fairy tale.
P.S. Part 2 coming soon: The party and 34 Challah recipe.