If you don’t like Mexicans, why did you move here?
— Bumper sticker, San Pancho, Mexico
Ben is like Tom, only mature.
— Comment from a long time family friend
We all want our children to exceed us; I just thought it would take a little longer. –My toast at Ben’s wedding
San Francisco, nicknamed San Pancho, is a little town of about a thousand, on the Pacific Ocean an hour north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It is a beautiful place to get married. Our son Ben and his sweetheart Erin invited fifty lucky folks to witness and participate in their wedding this past Thanksgiving. Instead of a holiday of tepid turkey, dry stuffing, surly relatives, and endless football games, we enjoyed a moving, joyful ceremony on the beach at sunset.
The “kids” (each 28) met during their first year of college and have been together ever since. Organizationally I would have difficulty getting three couples together for a pot luck. Erin and Ben planned, coordinated and hosted a stupendous week in a foreign country 2,000 miles away. Their younger friends went snorkeling, horseback riding on the beach, and exploring the local night life. They also lined up enough adventure and challenge to delight the crew of potentially grumpy old people. There were welcome parties, swimming in an infinity pool a hundred feet above the ocean, a rehearsal dinner, lunches, and free time (read naps) for those so inclined. There was a wild bachelor party that through a comedy of errors my invitation was lost. Except for that, the flow of events was seamless.
I hesitate to draw attention to San Pancho. While some ex-pats blend right in, there are the gauche, like the gringo who had a private 9 hole golf course built for his own very occasional use. The economic slowdown has derailed a number of planned developments. In one case there is a wrought iron gate supported by impressive stone arches. Alas it is not protecting anything, but one day it will be very exclusive.
The local Mexican community seems to take the boom and bust in stride. The only bridge into town was washed out in the last rains. Fortunately the river is dry now and cars (but not trucks) can make it through the gully. It seems that the twenty founding families have intermarried and make up most of the one thousand residents. The next generation simply finds an unoccupied portion of family land and without benefit of building codes or inspection, builds a small home.
The pace is slow. Everybody knows everybody. The pool man’s sister is a nurse. She can send her husband, who works at the restaurant you ate at last night, on an errand to get you the medicine you need. The tailor is married to the house keeper whose brother is a mechanic who can fix the flat tire you got attempting to navigate the cobblestone road. The informal network of goods and services puts Craig’s List to shame.
It was Erin’s parents, Linda and Julian, who first introduced the kids to the village of San Pancho. Linda, JoAnne and I were at the same university together (although we did not know each other then) and Julian’s New Jersey high school was a rival of mine. It took our children falling in love to bring us together. Their generosity made so much of the wedding possible, and they are a rollicking good time.
We were able to invite Jay and Cheryl, our oldest and closest Minnesota friends, who have known Ben all his life. Whether the four of us were sitting poolside overlooking the ocean, shopping at a local market, bumping over the rutted streets, or watching the dance moves of the younger wedding guests, our eyes would meet, and the unstated message would be, “I cannot believe we are here. I sure didn’t see this coming when we met 33 years ago.”
At this point I might get mawkishly sentimental and metaphoric about the bumps on the road of life, but I am still too happy looking at wedding photos and awaiting the honeymooners’ return.
Tom H. Cook is just a dad. Ben is a Barton and South High grad, and his wife Erin (that’s the first time I have written that) loves Minneapolis; wise woman.