Then there was that day in January when that happened...
|I found myself laughing hysterically a little bit ago. Laughing like a mad man, but silently. I was on the metro, so I had to keep from having my burst of laughter freak everyone around me. Even had to put a hand to my mouth to stop the laughs from becoming audible. I imagine though, I'm probably not the weirdest person to ride public transport and have a bunch of people wonder if all my marbles are still intact.
Something caught my eye out the window, that instantly reminded me of one of the many happy days I had in my past. A day spent with a smile etched on my face, and so much delight to fill my heart and make my sides hurt.
Before my wife and I were married, we spent a handful of weekends looking for a place to hold the wedding ceremony. In the time we dated, before I proposed, we sort of developed this playful quirk of lightly shoving each other with our shoulders. I don't really remember when it started or why, but we just found ourselves doing it all the time.
On this day though - the one I recalled as I rode the metro - to the dismay of Jessie, I (by no ill intent) shoved her into a flower bed; and she herself tripped over the short garden fencing, sending my lovely girl back first into a bed of bushy plants. I laughed and laughed. She let out this clumsy feminine squeal, and my glee prolonged, much like it does now...
It was sometime in January. It wasn't that cold though, which was a little strange, given the fact that it's San Francisco. I mean, it was cold in the morning, but as the sun rose over the city, the cool afternoon was quickly turning to a warm dry winter day.
It's Saturday. Jessie and I usually have the weekends together (somewhat). I manage the pub later on in the evening, but for most of the day, it's just my fiancé and I to have the time together. These days, the task at hand is searching for the right place to hold the celebration.
Jessie was committed to plan the whole ceremony, reception and venue location by ourselves. Managing her demanding career and sorting out this big task though, she later felt it was a better idea to hire a wedding planner. I try to help out as best I could, but what do I know about planning a wedding. I don't know this flower arrangement from the other one. I don't know what table setting is right for an outdoor event.
So, Jessie found a wedding planner a couple of weeks back, and the two - along with the bird-brained ideas I came up with - began to sort out the details and location possibilities. Stephanie (the wedding planner, who would later become Jessie's good friend) is set to meet us this afternoon. After a couple of visits to a few local venues in the city, Jessie is rather excited to check out some places Steph was going to show us in the northern bay area.
To be honest, I really don't see what the big deal is in finding the perfect location for a simple ceremony. I mean, it's not like it's a house that we are looking for to live in - where it might make sense to pick a place that's not sketchy, or full of rats. It's just a wedding, right? But I guess that's just the "man" in me thinking this logic. One who knew nothing of perfect locations for our event. Of course, I didn't express this to Jessie, she would kill me if she heard me say this.
I guess I have this mindset that spending endless hours looking for a place to get married is a lot like shopping with women. You girls get lost in the endless stores of clothing and accessories, trying to decide on the perfect combination.
It's not total drag though, because this means I get to drive around all day with a beautiful girl to my right. I always do enjoy sharing a drive with Jessie there next to me. There's always something to laugh about during our rides, something to enjoy weather it's just the two of us or with others in the car. Though usually when Matt is with us, he and I just act like fools, which often makes Jessie (and whatever girl Matt is seeing at the time) wonder if we are really insane, or just acting.
Arriving in the upper west end area of the bay, Homestead Valley, we meet the wedding planner. Stephanie was well aware of what kind of place Jessie and I were looking for, so she said there were some places here by the hills that we might like.
"The scenic view is amazing," Stephanie remarked.
One of the first places we take a look at, is this drab grassy area that's part of an old church. Pretty boring, I thought. There's nothing too spectacular about this location. To me, it just seems like an oversized back yard.
There's a path that leads from the church doors to the center of the (I'll just call it) yard, where this, sort of, ugly wooden alter stands. It looks like it was made by a high school kid in wood shop - and not the most talented of the lads. I try to disguise the look of distaste on my face with a simple "oh." Jessie though, has trouble hiding her lack of excitement for this view. She frowns and covers her nose slightly, like there's an open garbage dumpster near by. I believe she may have muted the word "ugly" as well.
I will say however, the walls that surrounded the place was the only thing note worthy. Vines covered the enclosure almost entirely, giving them this cool green color that sort of blends with the grass. I didn't notice this before. There weren't many leaves on the vines, they were just a rich green color, that of a snake, almost.
Even though the walls were a nice late discovery, this place was ultimately a no for the both of us.
After leaving the church, we drive what seems like three or four blocks down to another disappointing site that looks like a community park at the end of a cul-de-sac. Jessie and I look at each other, pull the same head shake (of disapproval), and signal to Steph without even getting out of my truck.
It's the forth or fifth place we arrive at now. The last couple have been lack luster to say the least - a theme forming for the afternoon. Stephanie has us pull into this big mansion styled house. Posh British gates greet us as we enter this long driveway that leads to a white house with blue trim, that can rightly be described as "royal quarters." Maybe this is just how I see it.
"Oh, this has promise," Jessie comments right away.
Stephanie explains to us about this house - how it's maintained as a landmark of sort. Some dignitary that lived here a long time ago. Part of the history of the bay city's founding. The garden area on the back half of the property, Steph goes on to say, is available to host receptions, galas, catered events and other upscale festivities. Fancy, basically.
Making our way to the lot we're here to see, the pathway that leads to it has several rose archways that alternate between bright red flowers and pink & white versions.
A short walk to the back side of this house, we see the whole area seems to be a lower level from our standpoint. Weird, I thought, because as we drove in, it didn't seem like this place sat on a slope or hill.
Looking down from the hand of this magnificent medieval inspired rail, the whole field is covered in well manicured grass and all sorts of colorful flowers. This place was looking pretty awesome already (to me at least), due to the difference in height.
Thinking about it some more, this place reminds me of a garden area you might see at a museum, such as the Getty in LA or the Smithsonian to the east.
Intricate designs of colorful yellow and white flowers form a visible spiral pattern. There's a slight gap between two intertwined flower beds that forms a path leading to the center where there seems to be a rectangular bench seat.
Just a regular bench?
It strikes me odd though, that they had a plain ol' bench like that. Given the design, I figured a they would have gone with a circular one or a crescent shape. Still, it was a very nice place...
We walk to the right of this terrace where we come to this big wide staircase. Grand? No. But, it certainly did flow with the 6th century style of this place that I'm beginning to notice.
Stopping at the bottom of the steps to look at these flower arrangements closer, Jessie comments on how pretty this place is.
"It's so peaceful here, and so beautiful."
She jokingly remarks about having a place like this outside of our house. I ponder this for a second...then I feel Jessie nudge me on the shoulder with hers - initiating our fun little shoving thing. I just give her an eye brow lift, and reply with an elbow nudge.
...Look at her though. Jessie just looks so beautiful next to me, standing here in this garden surrounded by colorful flowers. She left her sunglasses in the car, so the bright sunlight makes her squint slightly.
Looking at Jessie's squinty eyes as she looks at all the flowers, I think of how lucky I am to have this girl who is so cool. She, who's not only fun enough to take part in this - albeit childish and - playful shoving game, but also be the one to start it...
Stephanie further explains to us how the owner had this whole area, that was just a big expanse of field grass, converted to these spiral patterns because it is suppose to symbolize constant movement. Yeah, I was actually paying attention to this, as Stephanie spoke of the choice for such a design. She quotes from the notes she has, as is from the brochure I still hold in my hand.
"As everything is constantly moving and evolving, this place, this garden, is one where you can sit and stop for a moment. The spiral motion of progress slows in this oasis of pure nature. Or at least it it feels like it slows down."
There are similar beds to the left of us and the right, as we're still just down from the stairs. Across from us is another long bed of flowers that, while it doesn't hold the same spiral shape, it's just as grand with many other colored flowers. Very pretty.
Steph leads us to the right, past all this intricate landscape, to a more uniformed walk-through with square patches of flowers and furry bushes to the sides of this narrow path we walk along.
At the sides of our feet, at the edges of these beds of flowers and plants, small border fencing keeps the colorful nature from encroaching on the narrow pathway. A very nice design added to this place, that is really starting to look more and more like a botanical garden then the back of some fancy landmark house...
A couple of segments of flower patches, and we come to an old fashioned lamppost in the center of the walk. The path circles around both sides and continues on. Inches and about to pass it, Jessie gives me a half light, half determined shove so that I run into the pole.
Wouldn't you know it, I miss it, and I see Jessie with a smile so clever and give her a slight playful shove right back.
It was, by no means, a forceful shove, but Jessie takes a step over to center herself, and catches her boot on the small eight inch, or so, fencing.
We still have the forward momentum as we continue to walk on. Jessie tries to shove me into the lamppost, I miss it, we walk past and I shove her back. She continues to walk as the toe of her boot gets wedged in the opening of the mini fence...
I don't know how Jess manages to get her foot caught on the thing, but as she's still trying to move foreword - and can't do so without her right step, she just falls into the flowers.
Her arms go flailing in the air, looking for something to hold on to as she lets out a clumsy squeal, then disappears back first into the shrubs.
I start laughing and laughing. It's simply hilarious the way she screams and vanishes, leaving her arms visible only for seconds. The plants and flowers are about knee high, and for that short moment, you couldn't tell that Jessie was even there. The shrubs had swallowed her up.
It's like something out of a cartoon though - the way she starts yelling out to me for help - as she tries to get up. What's even more humorous is as Jessie's trying to get up, before I reach her, her legs are now the only visible part of her. She rustles the flower plants trying to right herself, but it just seems like she wresting a small animal trapped in the shrubs.
The movement of the flowers, the squeals from Jessie, it's just so comical; and even though I might be making her mad as I continue to laugh while I pull her out, I can't help it...
Once out of the flowers, Jessie doesn't seem to be mad. She's just irritated that her back is all wet from the moisture of the plants. Her jacket has a few spots of dirt, but they wipe off easily. Plus, it's brown, so any stain will be camouflaged, right?
"You idiot! Look at my jacket!" Jessie shouts, as I help dust it off. Maybe she is slightly mad...
Jess though, isn't the type of girl to hold this half hearted anger for too long. I ask her if she's okay, while picking the dry brush out of her hair. She gives me a little smirk, lightly chuckles and brushes off the whole thing as a clumsy moment - we've had a few of those in the time we've been together.
A giant smile on my face, still at this moment, I give Jessie a hug as we look at the trampled flowers she left behind. Even begins to laugh as she sees a somewhat formed outline of where she fell into the plants.
"Awww," Jessie switches tone, "the flowers, look at them."
Stephanie didn't see Jess comically trample the garden plants. A confused look on her face, she asks what had happened, and like two children caught sneaking a snack out of the cabinet before dinner; Jessie and I tried to play this all off by commenting on how Jessie had a giant bug on her - hence her disheveled hair and the brushing of her coat - that she was allergic to. She's not really allergic to any bugs though, especially "giant" ones that aren't really there.
"Oh my god, are you okay?" Stephanie worries.
"Yeah, no yeah, were okay, she's fine, the thing is gone."
Just don't look at the wrecked garden flowers, I think to myself, as I look at Jessie who still smiles at our little incident. She also reassures Steph that everything's okay and gives me a wide eyed response as to say "that was close."
There's still a couple of blades of grass in Jessie's hair. I feather them off of her and think how amazing this woman is that I'm with. Were it a different girl, or and ex-girlfriend, they would have been furious for accidentally being shoved into a bed of grass and flowers. But Jessie, well, I just think I'm so unbelievably lucky that she's here with me.
"Shall we continue then?" Stephanie questions. And so we did...
The garden blocks cleared to this spacious gray concrete paved open area that was half shaded by these wooden cross beams. While I really find the three foot cobble stoned mini wall that encloses the place kind of cool - keeping in line with the medieval aesthetic of the place, the cross beam shading really reminds me of such a half roof found at the Home Depot garden centers. This would always be the thinking if we do choose this location.
We look at the place a few minutes more, talk about the arrangement of what would go and could go where - as this was the most promising venue we had been to so far. By the end of the day though, we declined on this place, and we ended up in the same place we had begun. We still couldn't find a suitable place Jessie and I both agreed on. We headed back to the city.
Weeks later, one of our friends would suggest that we hold the wedding in the lawn field of her parent's estate in the north bay area. Just east of where were visited on this day.
This idea would be just the turn we needed, and this was just the place Jess and I would say our "I do's."
Even though none of the sights we visited on this Saturday ended up "making the cut," I still look back (think back), and smile. Just, smile, and laugh; oh I laugh. Jessie tripping into the flowers and being swallowed into the brush & plants is still one of the funniest things I remember to this day. I also think back of how lucky we were that Jessie didn't hurt herself. Who knows what could have been there that she could have hit her head on - a sprinkler head, a thick stump or a stray rock. Maybe an actual giant bug that Jess was in fact allergic to.
I'm glad I got to enjoy these moments of happiness...and now that it's all gone, at least I can still think back...and remember how it was. How it felt to laugh, and how it felt to smile deep, from with in my soul...