Don't you wish there was a Money Fairy? She would generously (or perhaps even sassily) bestow cash upon deserving recipients for non-emergent but still pressing desires. If there were a Money Fairy, and she had come to visit me a few months ago, I would have asked her for the requisite cash to attend two weddings this summer.
First, I would have hightailed it to Colleen Smith's wedding, which was on July 21st in Colorado. Colleen was part of my circle of friends in high school. Oh Colleen, how shall I describe thee? Colleen is one of those girls who looks just as good in rock climbing gear as in a formal ballgown with elbow-length gloves (although she'd much prefer the climbing gear, thankyouverymuch!)
She was such a tomboy in 7th, 8th, and even 9th grade. She hated wearing skirts, heels, and wouldn't be caught dead in makeup. She was all legs, rather scrawny even, with braces and long hair kept in a ponytail or a bun. She didn't give a rip about fashion and only thought boys were of any use to compete with. She was so athletic, really smart (although somewhat self-denigrating about it), and had brass balls even as a 13 year old. That girl was tough. I was amazed by her. Starting somewhere around 10th grade, Colleen got less tomboy and more girly. She started wearing distinctly feminine clothes that showed off the knock-out body she had rapidly acquired over a summer. She had boys lined up wanting to go out with her, and she was (in my memory) always dating someone. She was practical and not too moony and mushy about it all. She could swear like a sailor and still look cute doing it. She LOVED music and had many, many CDs. (CDs, children, are what existed before music was all in mp3 form on iPods and the like). Guys felt at home around her and treated her as one of their own. She was loyal to us, her friends, but not above calling us out on our crap if needs be. She let herself get emotional when she had to, although she usually had a very devil-may-care attitude. We haven't talked much since we parted ways after high school. A few catch-up phone calls now and then, and it always seemed that she was living life in the fast and fabulous lane: being an ace salesperson, taking time off to travel the world, climbing, living life to the fullest.
She called me this past winter, in January or February, to tell me that she was getting married. It was exciting to hear her gush, not unlike the way she used to gush at the many sleepovers we had back in high school. I had been the first of our circle of friends to marry, and Rebecca looked to be up next in August 2012; and now Colleen was jumping in with both feet.
That brings me to Rebecca, who got married today. I really would have needed the Money Fairy's help for this one, because she got married in England, home country of her (now) husband, Claude. They met several years ago when Rebecca was taking a year abroad to study in England. Their love story has some twists and turns and I honestly am not sure I have all the details straight, certainly not enough to recount them here. But they've been living and working in California for the past few years and are tying the knot. Rebecca was my closest friend in junior high and high school. We bonded pretty early on and were constantly in contact. I think I must have spent the night at her house almost on a weekly or at least biweekly basis; since she was an only child it made more sense for me to go there than to have her come to my noisy and crowded casa. We talked on the phone multiple nights a week and emailed daily, perhaps even multiple times a day. My parents were flabbergasted that we could POSSIBLY have that much to talk about! "Didn't you just spend all day at school with her?" my mom would ask in an incredulous stage whisper while I was tying up the family phone line talking to Rebecca. I would shoo her away; she didn't understand. Who could understand? Even though we certainly had our differences, Rebecca and I also "got" each other, and she provided a welcome relief from the obnoxiousness of teenage brothers and a sister who was cute but--at 12 years my junior--not exactly peer/friend material. We also spent a good deal of time (at least during the junior high years) revelling in our nerdiness and unpopular status. Not that I really enjoyed being teased, unliked, and unlooked upon by the popular ones, but it was nice to have a friend there in the trenches with me.
And what did we talk about? Boys, of course, and how stupid they were. Stupid, heartless, brainless, exasperating boys. While I had many different crushes (in varying degrees of hopeless intensity) throughout the six years that we were together at Burroughs, for Rebecca there was only one. As you might guess, he's not the one who watched her walk down the aisle today towards him; he's not the one who took her hand in his and promised to love her forever more. He got married a few years ago to someone who didn't go to our high school. But back when we were in the thick of high school, Rebecca dreamed of being married to him someday. We talked about our future husbands: I was sure I'd meet mine in college, just like my parents did. She was not sure in terms of certainty that she'd marry her crush; after all, she was practical enough to realize that they would likely go to separate colleges. But she loved him with the kind of ardent, unrequited (mostly?) love that only a teenager can. We graduated and for our first year of college (especially the first few months) kept up with daily emails and frequent phone calls. I remember talking to her often on the hall phone, which was conveniently located in a closet with the water heater. We discussed college life, college guys (who were not nearly as sophisticated as we'd hoped they'd be), and the hard work of making new friends, real friends. I had a rough few months. It took me a while to find my set of friends who would see me through college, and it was similar for Rebecca. We both did, though, and our communication levels dropped off after that first year as we became busier with our own school schedules and also with our new friend groups. After college our contact was sporadic, usually in the form of long emails trying to catch up on everything. Although her goal in junior high had been to go into medicine and practice in a small town somewhere (and have a son named Kevin in honor of Kevin from The Wonder Years), she ended up working on a PhD and becoming a Shakespeare specialist. She and Claude visited us for a few hours while they happened to be in town in March of 2011. I think I had already heard of their engagement at the time but it was quite thrilling to see them both in person and think, "This really is happening, and not at all the way we imagined way back in 8th grade!" I was planning to save up for a plane ticket, but then later in the summer discovered that I was pregnant with Max, which would pretty much put the kibosh on international travel.
If I were at her reception and called upon to make a toast, I think I would say something like this:
I'd like to quote Derek Webb's song title, "Love Is Different Than You Think." That title says it all. We spent so many hours giggling and dreaming and wondering what our futures would hold as far as love was concerned. I know that my love story was nothing like what I had imagined, and I'm sure you would say the same of yours. Dare I say, they are better than what we imagined. We, who were SO insecure in our appearances, have found husbands who think we're beautiful and perfect and love us just as much when we have bed head and dark circles under our eyes as when we're dressed up to the nines. We, who were so hungry to be understood, have found husbands who--when we rant, cry, dither, and fume--are there with arms to hold us and ears to hear us. We, who just couldn't wait for our respective first kisses, now have husbands who are more than happy to oblige with kisses all the time. We, who were so uncertain about what the future held for us in terms of careers, have husbands who support us, respect us, engage in witty and urbane academic banter with us, and cheer us on when the workload seems insurmountable. We, who were all too aware of our flaws and failings, found men who became equally aware, perhaps more aware than we ourselves, and loved us anyway. Love is different than we thought it would be; better than we could have dreamed. May your marriage be even better in the coming years than you can even now imagine or expect it to be. Cheers to Rebecca and Claude!