I was 10 years old when I attended a wedding for the first time. Uncle Mike (Chavez), my Mom’s younger brother was marrying Charlene Gallegos. The wedding was in Charlene’s hometown of Cuba, halfway between Albuquerque, my home, and Farmington, where most of my Mom’s family, including Uncle Mike, lived at the time.
That was 35 years ago, which is hard to believe. Instead of celebrating their anniversary this past weekend, Mike and Charlene had other plans. Instead, they gave away their daughter’s hand in marriage – to another native of Cuba. Their only daughter, Adrienne Chavez (my cousin), was married Saturday to Aaron Atencio at a nice ceremony at the Prairie Star restaurant in Santa Ana Pueblo.
|Adrienne and Aaron|
|Aunt Charlene escorted by cousin Eric Chavez|
I’m sure Adrienne is tired of hearing it, but the main topic of discussion during the past week was everyone’s memories of her as the sweet little girl who was always at the center of attention at family get-togethers in Farmington, usually at Grandma Lola’s house, or at Aunt Fran’s. My favorite memory is 5-year-old Adrienne prancing around in a Wonder Woman costume.
Apparently, Adrienne has moved on from her days as a little princess, though she looked like a princess at her wedding this weekend. Her Maid of Honor (and sister-in-law) Hedy described during her toast to the bride how Adrienne no longer has pink furnishings and posters of Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears, as she did when they first got to know each other. Influenced by her now-husband, Aaron, Adrienne is now more likely to sport camouflage and have hunting bows in her home.
|Jay, Cindy and Louie Cabrales|
Aside from looking forward to the wedding itself, I was excited about seeing relatives I hadn’t seen in a long time. Our cousins, Sharon and Anthony Scarinci flew in a week before from Tampa, FL, and stayed with my parents. We had a great time visiting with them, first over drinks at Sandia Resort with Uncle Mike and Aunt Charlene, my cousin Mike, his wife Hedy and daughter Phoebe, and Adrienne and Aaron. My wife, Yvette, loved listening to all of the family stories. And my daughters, Carin and Isabella, embraced the role as big cousins to little Phoebe, who followed them everywhere.
I didn’t hear anyone really talk about my late Aunt Fran. But I’m she wasn’t forgotten. My Grandma and Grandpa are also gone, which was sad because they cherished their little Adrienne and would have loved to see her get married.
We got a kick out of our memories of going to Aunt Fran’s for the Fourth of July. Her husband, J.D. Hackney, had an amazing collection of 8-track tapes and, eventually, video-cassette tapes with the latest movies he recorded from his satellite dish. Cousin Anthony joked about the large satellite in J.D.’s backyard – something few people had at the time – and how the mechanical gears made so much noise when the dish moved to align with the satellite in the sky.
|Nicholas, Sharon and Anthony Scarini|
Later, during the week leading up to the wedding, Anthony repeated a tradition he started many years ago. He prepared homemade lasagna, amazing sauce, and meatballs. My cousin, Cindy and her son, Louie, had driven down from Colorado by that time, and they joined us for the feast at my parents’ home.
Other relatives, including my Uncle Louie and his wife Debbie came from Farmington.
Their daughter, Sarah, flew in from South Carolina. J.D. and his fiancé, Jeannie,
arrived from Tampa, as did Sharon and Anthony’s oldest son, Nicholas. J.D.’s
daughter, Jennifer, also drove down from Farmington. My cousin Eric was there
with his family, including his son and a newborn granddaughter.
|Sarah, Debbie and Louie Chavez|
|Lalo Chavez and Eloisa|
I was really hoping to see my late Grandpa Louie’s brother and sister. Unfortunately, Aunt Perla wasn’t able to make it from Grants. But Uncle Lalo was there, with her friend, Eloisa. I didn’t get to talk to him a lot, but I did get to share a toast and a drink with him and Uncle Mike. He had a Jack and Coke; Uncle Mike and I had a glass of 18-year-old MacAllan scotch. We toasted to “Tio Lalo.”
We missed Uncle Ralph, Aunt Holly and cousin Javier, who live in Seattle, Cousin Kiki in Tampa, and the California branch of our Chavez family. Maybe we can find time for a larger family reunion soon. We all used to get together fairly often in Las Vegas, NV, when my brother played baseball for the UNM Lobos. They played a series each year in Vegas, and it was a good reason for family to make the trip. It seems like without our grandparents, and without Aunt Fran to do the planning, we don’t make it happen.
|Isabella and Carin Gallegos|
|Mom and Dad dancing|
Adrienne’s wedding was a good reminder of the importance of family. She has her Chavez roots from Cubero and Gallegos roots from Cuba. It was nice to see her husband, Aaron, share the celebration with his family from Cuba. And I thoroughly enjoyed seeing my own daughters connect with relatives and experience traditions like La Marcha, and seeing their own mom and dad, and their grandparents dancing to some Country two-step. It seems like just yesterday that I had that experience at the parish hall in Cuba, following Uncle Mike and Aunt Charlene’s wedding.