Wedding amidst a family weekend

My cousin Paul got married this weekend, and unlike the last two family events, this one was in Bellingham (less than 90 minutes north of our home), not Southern California. That meant other family members made the trip to Washington, including my parents.

We kept my parents busy during their stay, having at least one gathering each day.

Friday, 19-Aug

Even though they had car trouble, my parents made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. On the way to pick them up, I dropped by Uwajimaya to get some things I would need for Monday's dinner. I had thought about shopping on the way back from the airport but decided against that, since I wouldn't have easy access to the northbound express lanes, leaving us to sit in the mainline traffic. Indeed, there was quite a bit of congestion once we hit Boeing Field, continuing all the way to downtown. Smooth sailing after we got on the express lanes, though.

Once we got to the house, we had a bit of time to relax and for my parents to get settled a bit. We then got back into the car to drive to University Village to meet my cousin Janet and her husband Jim for dinner. Melody was also going to meet us at the restaurant. Melody and I were happy that they offered half-sized entrées since we knew we wouldn't be able to finish full-sized ones.

Jim and Janet were several weeks into their summer road trip. They started in Indianapolis, went to the Los Angeles area (for the family reunion), up through Yosemite and San Francisco with some of their family, back down to the Los Angeles area for my aunt's 88th birthday, then up to the Seattle area on their way to the wedding in Bellingham. We had heard they were in a bad car accident, so we got the details from them; they avoided a head-on collision with a car that had crossed the median, but their left rear wheel was broken off at the axle. Unfortunately, the other driver was killed after colliding with the car behind Janet and Jim. They had thought about whether they were going to just head home, but they were able to get a rental large enough to carry everything that was in their now-totaled car, so after an extra day or two to deal with everything, they continued north. They had found a replacement car for sale, but it was in Bakersfield, so they would have to drive a long way after the wedding in Bellingham to check it out. They also told us other stories from their trip, and it sounds like they're having a great time overall.

After dinner, we proceeded to our house where we showed off the yard and gave them samples from our huckleberry bushes, then continued chatting over dessert. We had a really great time with them since the other two events made it hard to have two-on-two time with people.

Saturday, 20-Aug

This was to be a day of cooking. Mostly for dinner, but a little bit for Monday, too. After breakfast, I started brining a brisket and prepped some peaches for dessert (about half got macerated in peach schnapps, the rest roasted and set aside to cool). We made a quick trip to the market to pick up our weekly produce, then grilled corn from our CSA bag for lunch. After that, more cooking. The oven was scheduled to bake a peach cake, followed immediately by finishing up the brisket, followed immediately by cornbread. We got a late start on the cake, which naturally pushed everything else back. Then the brisket took quite a bit longer to cook than anticipated, so I just sliced off the ends which were done so the cornbread wouldn’t be too late. After that was done, the brisket went back in. Since people shouldn't be in the house without eating, I put out some cookies and fudge from the freezer for snacks.

In the middle of all the things in the oven, I put together the cole slaw and barbecue sauce. I also made some tofu for Monday's dinner.

Kellen and Noël arrived and got a chance to chat with my parents, then Tynor and Lindsay showed up not long after that. Everyone gathered in the living room for conversation while Melody and I were finishing things up. Dinner was finally ready, and we started passing food around. As the brisket plate emptied, I pulled the rest of the brisket out, cut a few more slices, and people were able to have more. Everything turned out well, and people seemed to be enjoying the food and the company. Since this was my birthday dinner (early since my parents were in town), everyone sang as dessert was served. My mom later commented on how people weren’t singing in the same key, not realizing that’s part of the tradition (and the charm).

Sunday, 21-Aug

The reason for my parents being in town, Paul and Josh’s wedding, had arrived. The wedding was to begin in the mid-afternoon, but we left early to have brunch with the Snapps. Since we needed to take two cars, Tynor picked up Kellen and Noël, and each time we checked the map, they were a few miles ahead of us.

Brunch and Boardwalk

Stan had talked with the owner of Skylark’s Hidden Cafe, the place he was thinking we could go to, and let us know the restaurant would switch over to the lunch menu about 15 minutes after we were to be seated. Fortunately, we all arrived early. We went upstairs and enjoyed good food and better conversation.

After brunch, the Snapps were off to Oregon, while we found a place for my parents to hang out and relax while the rest of us went for a walk. Since the restaurant and the wedding were both in the Fairhaven district, we knew the boardwalk would be a good route, especially since it was a short distance from Skylark’s.

While not crowded, there were still several people walking along the boardwalk and the trail. The part which goes out over the water was quite windy, but other than that, it was quite calm and nice weather, with great views.

The wedding

After we got back, we proceeded to drive the few miles to Lairmont Manor, the wedding venue. We lucked out and got very close parking spaces, then went inside to change clothes. Of course, there were already several family members there, especially Kathy and Irland’s families. We chatted and looked around, seeing the impressive array of cakes (more about those later), in addition to the cake for the grooms themselves, complete with a hand-made Pokémon cake topper.

It was time to be seated for the ceremony, which was simple and touching. There were things which were so appropriate for the playful theme of the day, from the signs at the back which both read, “Groom's Side” to flower girls wielding soap bubble guns. Both Paul and Josh had words for each other which came both from the heart and from the funny bone, with gaming references liberally sprinkled throughout the ceremony. Noël put it best when she said it was so nerdy, and that she loved it.

The grooms wanted a group photo of all the guests, so we did that. We also took family group photos, even though Kellen, Noël, and Tynor had just reached the front of the line for the bar. We all got back in the line after photos, then found our table.

The puzzles

We knew there would be puzzles (customized for the guests at each table), and as each table completed them, they got to choose one of the various cakes. Of the four puzzles, we pretty readily solved three of them but had trouble getting an angle on the fourth until Noël made an educated guess. We then found the table with the final keys but thought we needed to use the clues provided with our solutions to find a physical key. We wandered around without luck. We did run across Paul, who said that one of our answers didn't look right; we tried solving it again, but only made some headway.

At this point, Noël took a look at the lock boxes and realized that two of our hints pointed to one of the boxes. She tried the combination from a third hint, and the box opened. We later figured out the answer to the fourth hint, but never did work out the reasoning; that particular puzzle was about Downtown Seattle and Capitol Hill, too!

The final puzzle in the box involved many small pieces of paper, so we went inside to find a breeze-free place to work. We figured out the solution, told the puzzle master the answer, and got our flag to put into a cake. There were a couple other people trying to choose among the cakes, so Noël started reading off what was left. We all said, “That one!” after she read the first one, dark chocolate with strawberry mousse filling and vanilla frosting. High fives followed.

Food and toast

During the time we were doing the puzzles, dinner was being served. We scarfed down food while solving but did take the time to savor the meal, especially after we had secured our cake. While we were eating, Janet dropped by to confirm that we were the table which took the cake they had wanted. We said she was welcome to come by to taste it, and she assured us that she would.

It was time for toasts, and the first was my dad who did the banzai toast (the same one I did at Kellen and Noël's wedding). This completed the trifecta of him giving the banzai toast for each of Kathy and Irland's kids. Sake was provided to everyone, and my dad encouraged the guests to be enthusiastic, and the crowd gave their all when shouting the “Banzai!”s. Other toasts were given by Paul's sister Kara, Josh's sister, a close friend of his, and Irland.

Cake time had arrived. Each table was served the cake they chose, but in this case, that meant that the cake was delivered to the table. I was nominated to cut and plate the cake, and I managed to do so without making too much of a mess. It was as good as we thought it would be. True to her word, Janet showed up with Kathy, both with forks in hand. They also brought samples of not only their cakes but some from another table, too. After that, I shopped our cake around a bit, so we only had a little bit left. Other guests wandered by wanting to sample ours, and since we were pretty full by that point, we convinced them to just take them. It wasn't a difficult sell.

Dancing and driving

We watched the first dance and the mother/groom dances, then had fun when everyone else got onto the dance floor. The kids seemed to be really enjoying themselves, as well as many adults. After the dancers started thinning out, we realized what time it was and decided it was time to start heading back, so we began our goodbyes.

It took, unsurprisingly, quite a while to bid everyone farewell, but we eventually got to the car. As we were loading up, Irland rushed up carrying a bag of nori popcorn, which we hadn't realized was there. Melody thought that was a fitting touch, having family giving us one final thing of food.

Traffic was pretty light, other than in Everett. Everyone was able to nap a bit (except for me), which they appreciated.

Monday, 22-Aug

After a very busy weekend, it was nice to have a relaxing day. The only thing we had planned was lunch with a business friend of my parents', so we met Dave at Northgate. It was fun for them to catch up on what's been going on.

After returning to the house, we hung out and didn't do very much in the early afternoon. I went out for a walk later in the day, then harvested a pint of blueberries and a half pint of strawberries. Dinner was pretty simple, miso soba with the tofu I had made on Saturday. We finished off Saturday's peach cake for dessert. No singing this time.

Tuesday, 23-Aug

It was an uneventful trip to drop my parents off at the airport. They made it back, and fortunately, their car did well enough that they were able to make it home. I also heard from Janet that they bought the car in Bakersfield, so they were all set with transportation, too.


Our family has gotten together several times this summer, all for big occasions, running the gamut of celebrations: a reunion, a landmark birthday, and a wedding. My cousin Jim had asked where we were meeting in two more weeks, and it indeed will seem strange to not see family again for quite a while.

It's been not quite a year since Kellen and Noël were married, and it's difficult to not draw parallels. Just as that wedding perfectly matched the personalities of the bride and groom, Paul and Josh's wedding reflected the personalities of the two grooms. It combined their passions (Josh's science background even made a cameo during the ceremony) and brought everyone else along for the ride. They were both grinning ear to ear all afternoon, and their happiness was infectious.

Of all my cousins, Kathy is the one I've seen the most often in the past decade or so, and I often see Paul when she's in town. It's hard to miss his love of cooking, graphics, and gaming, especially after you've talked with him for more than a few minutes.

The first time I met Josh was one time that Kathy and Irland were in town, and several of us went out to brunch. Paul and Josh were obviously a bit nervous, but it didn't take long for them to relax. It took Josh only a few seconds to show how much teaching means to him, and how devoted he is to not only his students but education in the broadest sense. It was also very clear how these two clicked.

I'm sure my parents had at least some reservations about traveling, but I tried to not pack too much into each day, and they seemed to enjoy just having time to sit and to, as we used to say in my day, “veg out.” I do know they wanted to be at the wedding to support Paul, Josh, and the families and are glad that they came. I'm also glad that, if nothing else, they were able to get another glimpse into our everyday lives.