Sunday, April 22, 2012
Mieka and Devi
A week ago today, my niece, Devi Takhar, married Victor Fraga. The venue for this blessed event was The River Mill, an 1873-vintage, 18,000 square foot, brick former chicory mill on the San Joaquin River, in French Camp, California. The place is a paradise of huge native oaks, rose-bordered paths, immaculately groomed flower beds, fountains and sculptures. Sitting smack up against the river levee, the grounds are moist and verdant and filled with birds and the smell of water. It is a perfect place, symbolically, for the union of two lives.
The day dawned bright and warm. This had been a matter of concern for the mountain branch of the family, as we had just experienced a snow storm two days before, which left our spring duds and flimsy sandals in question. As it was an 11 AM wedding, we set out early that morning with me in a white cotton voile skirt, embroidered fuchsia rayon blouse and sheepskin Uggs. I traipsed to the car holding my skirts out of the snow and my sandals in my hand.
We met up with my cousin Dorothy and her partner Jack and in the gorgeous Cadillac that his children had given him for his eightieth birthday, we descended from the snowy realms into the San Joaquin Valley, where all was blooming orchards and balmy breezes. We arrived at The River Mill an hour early and were detained by a militant staff from entering the gates of this earthly paradise, as wedding photos were being taken in the gardens.
So we stood in the parking lot as more and more members of both families arrived, until we were quite a mob of well-dressed folks, gathered into three groups: the Fraga family, all speaking Portuguese; the Takhar family, many speaking Punjabi; and we four, speaking in undertones that if we weren’t let in to use the restroom, and SOON, things could get difficult.
At last we were allowed in and we filed dutifully through the gardens and through a fountain-graced courtyard, into the truly beautiful building. We were told to take our seats immediately, as the wedding was about to take place, leaving a restroom visit impossible. So there we sat, having traveled for two hours and waiting for another, balancing on delicate ballroom chairs and full bladders.
They say all brides are beautiful, but Devi was truly stunning. The groom was handsome in his tux, the wedding party was lovely and the three little flower girls, in their frilly white dresses, adorable. The ceremony was mercifully short and the restroom close by, and all was right with the world.
In another huge room within the cavernous building we all were seated at round tables, a DJ commenced bombarding us with impossibly loud music and we were served a marvelous luncheon, while more and still more photographs were taken. There were his-family-only groupings and her-family-only-groupings and our-family-only-groupings which, compared to the former two, was piteously small, consisting of the bride and her sister, Mieka; their mother, Carolyn, who is also my sister; me; and our cousin Dorothy. I thought how much my parents would have enjoyed seeing their granddaughter marry, my mother, especially, who loved decorous events and who also loved her granddaughters.
And I thought especially of Devi’s father, who was not there to give her away or to dance the second dance with her, having died when she was eight. He was a brilliant man, a fine doctor and an ardent farmer and a loving father. His brother, a retired veterinarian, gave Devi away and danced that dance. The deepest moment of the entire event occurred when her uncle spoke to her while guiding her around the dance floor, and Devi put her head on his shoulder and wept. I imagined that he had said how proud and happy her father would have been.
In all, it was a fine day. It was wonderful to see my sister, who lives in Taos, New Mexico, even briefly. I always enjoy catching up with her late husband’s family, whose children have all grown up to become doctors or nurses or lawyers and are wonderfully intelligent and gracious adults. There were just enough flashily dressed young women for us old dames to gossip about, particularly two: one in a backless red jumpsuit and, quite evidently, nothing else, a fact which delighted David and Jack; and one in a skin-tight mini-skirt and legs from the ground up to here. Jack leaned toward Dorothy and whispered, “I’ll buy you one of those, if you’ll wear it!”
We piled back into the Cadi and motored home through the verdant hills, took a detour through the Red Hills to see the wildflowers, and arrived merrily and gratefully home. It was a fine wedding and a fine outing. But in considering how much goes into a wedding, both the planning and the execution, I was glad that David and I had bought our rings at Ben Fig, the local import store, walked up to the courthouse, and said our vows before a single, complete stranger. Either way you go about it, getting married is a huge turning point in one’s life, smiled upon by angels.