I know I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about Woodman’s of Essex, not in a bad way but not in the way that makes Google happy. I would argue that while I have spent much of my time talking about the Woodman’s as individuals who make up a family that makes up a family owned seafood restaurant of the same name for nearly 100 years. This incredible accomplishment is something that interests me because it has been around for 100 years, but also because of the individuals who have kept it going. Woodman’s of Essex the restaurant is merely the stage for the Woodman family of Essex. Why? Because Woodman’s of Essex is a family whether you are a woodman by direct lines or not. They take care of each other regardless of politics (restaurant or national or local or family) and will rise up to defend one another without question. Why? Because this is what they do and how they have been taught to be and treat each other through the generations. They know each other’s weaknesses and yet choose to focus on people’s strengths. They may not always do the popular thing, but they do the right thing for that family member even if it is painful for everyone. The Woodman’s, as a restaurant and as a family, bring you in and take care of you. I am not talking about financially (lord knows they are generous to a fault) or with physical things, but with their hearts and their love and support. My family has been on the receiving end of this side of the Woodman’s for more than 40 years. Every member of my immediate family has felt and does feel the love from the Woodman’s. They take care of us, love us no matter, tell us we have screwed up but ask to the table anyway. Hopefully we return the same feeling to them (just not on the same scale since there are only 5 in my family and like 1,000 Woodman’s).
Last night I went to a wedding rehearsal dinner for a member of the family. As a side note/simple observation, if you have read my other blog entries you will see a recurring theme. This is a family that loves a gathering and is not selfish about welcoming others into the mix. Anyway, this wedding rehearsal was for Vanessa and Franco. Vanessa, as most of you know by now, is the eldest daughter of Doug (gen 3) and Maureen, which makes her part of the Woodman family’s gen 4. Tomorrow afternoon, Vanessa will be marrying Franco who she met while living in Mexico many years ago and fell in love. They would have several journeys as their life together began, but neither of them could predict how the journey home to her family, friends and life would play out. It didn’t really matter to Franco. He knew what he faced coming to this country, to Essex to the Woodman family (well maybe not the family because no one can ever be prepared for that). He did not have a grasp of English, or what he would do when he arrived. That did not matter because what he did know was that he loved Vanessa and that is all that mattered.
The same determination could be found in several members of Franco’s family who came from Mexico to attend the wedding of their much loved son, no matter what. They were going to be here for their son’s wedding day, to the women they knew and loved like their own. Their arrival was part excitement, part nervous and part fear in some ways. The biggest hurdle was going to be both families communicating with each other. One side did not speak or understand English, and the other side never stops talking so on the surface it might work out ok. How do you tell these delightful, wonderful people their son is loved by so many people outside throughout the community? How you make them understand they are now part of a family world that-well, let’s face it, most people looking in would deny existed. This is where the Woodman family, along with some very special friends, stepped up to show who they are.
The bride’s family show the same openness, love, support and enthusiasm they show to anyone who is important to someone they love. There were no awkward moments, pauses in the conversation that seemed so worrisome a week before. The groom’s family were relaxed, laughing, smiling and beaming with pride and comfort that their son was part of a community that loved him and would watch over him like they had done. All of us felt thee energy and love being welcomed with open arms by at the rehearsal.
What I saw from my perch behind the bar table off the kitchen was two families celebrating the love between a son and daughter and how the two families share that love and become one family. I saw three generations of Woodman’s engaging, welcoming embracing three generations of Morales. Everyone knew what the others felt in their hearts. Family members and friends focusing on the strengths and not the weakness.