For most of the last two weeks I — like my students — have been focused on keeping my head above water in summer school. Our schedule is a pretty intense Monday-Thursday and each of my classes is a 2-1/2 hour meeting.
But Jayne and I took an extra-long weekend last week to go to a wedding in the Orlando, Fla., area. It was my first trip back to the state since we moved from Pensacola to Pittsburgh just ahead of Hurricane Andrew late in the summer of 1992. (Jayne’s last trip was more recent, as she had embarked from Miami on a cruise to Key West and Cancun with her mom late in 2007.)
I’m fond of hot weather and beaches, so I’ve loved Florida since I first set foot in the state to attend graduate school at the University of Florida in Gainesville in September 1974. (Yes, I decided to go to a school having never set foot on its campus. I can’t imagine that happening now — I spoke on our campus early last week with a nice young lady and her parents from Naples, Fla., visiting colleges in North Carolina and Virginia in anticipation of starting her college career in the fall of NEXT year, standard operating procedure these days.)
And we’ve always looked back fondly on our time on the Gulf Coast from 1989-1992, living in the Mobile/Pensacola area.
So I enjoyed our brief stay in Florida, a trip which always includes a stop at a Welcome Center for free orange juice. (Jayne broached the possibility that economic hard times might have cut back this visitors’ benefit, but I’m glad to say the state has its funding priorities in order.) A Florida welcome in June also includes the blast furnace-like wave of hot air that greets you every time you get out of your car or leave a building. I love it.
We didn’t have much time to do any touristy things there, as our purpose was to participate in the wedding festivities of Jenni Thomas and Albert Pavon, two fine young University of Florida graduates, in Apopka. It was the first time we had met the groom, but we’ve known Jenni since she was an energetic toddler. Her parents, Jim and Elaine Thomas, are long-time friends of my sister-in-law, Cara, and we’ve also gotten to know them well over the years. Jim is a Methodist minister, having served at several churches in Florida over the past two decades. The wedding took place at his church.
Jim and Elaine, along with their son Jake, were at our wedding in 1985 (before Jenni was born), so it seemed like a neat continuation of the circle that we were there for Jenni’s wedding.
I’ve always felt that couples should have the wedding THEY want, one that reflects their personalities and interests. Jenni and Albert’s wedding was in keeping with that, with non-traditional music choices. But it was certainly in keeping with their history as a couple –starting out as “just friends” — and reflected the importance in their lives of their faith.
I particularly enjoyed the recessional, which was “Somewhere Out There,” from the movie “An American Tail,” because of a memory it brought back. Elaine, Jake and Jenni spent a few days with us when we lived in Mobile, and one of the things I remember from that visit was little Jenni watching that movie on video — according to her mom, the first time the 2-1/2 year old had ever gotten engaged in a movie. She urged Fievel, the mouse protagonist, to “Wun, Fievel, wun for your wife” as he was pursued by malevolent cats.
As a result of my cooking efforts on the grill during that visit, I’ve been known ever since to Jake and Jenni as “The Hamburger Man.”
Anyway, it was a beautiful ceremony and grown-up looking Jenni was a lovely bride, and we were pleasantly surprised to be asked to be in some of the wedding pictures.
On the way there and back Jayne and I made stops in Savannah, our first visit to that seaport city in more than 25 years. It’s a great place for seafood and we enjoyed meals at The Pirates House (which I remembered from attending a conference there back in 1980) and The River House, right on the waterfront. I wish we had had time to stay longer — lots of atmosphere in its beautiful Historic District, with its British-style squares.