Saturday, November 5, 2005

At the Wedding

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My best friend Di got married this weekend to her "missing half". She spent a long time looking for him but they just landed together somehow, as people often do, in the workplace where their romance smoldered and then kindled for several years before an inevitable proposal (Valentine's Day, of course). It is uncanny how suitable they are for each other and how happy they will be: a life of travel, urban and suburban amenities, a love of dogs, and above all, tremendous senses of humor. Neither has ever been married before and they come together without all of the baggage that one can bring along in middle life--and Di doesn't even have to cook! (And gosh, yes, we are now firmly in our middle years, even though I still feel like a twenty-five year old!)

I have known Di since I moved to New Hampshire in 1974. Our friendship really didn't take off until high school but when it did we became friends for life--even if that friendship somehow morphs and changes along the way, a childhood friendship can always be revisited in whatever guise. Twenty years ago this past August, on August 4 in fact, Di, myself and a guy named Tod (a friend of a friend who would become a very close friend to both of us) moved into a renovated fifth floor walk-up apartment at 43 Joy Street, Boston, MA 02114. On the downward slope towards Cambridge Street, and thus the less fashionable side of the hill, we were excited with our own place, its proximity to everything, and our first post-college apartment. (Even though I graduated in 1984, I spent a year traveling and working at the Kernel Bakery in Peterborough--see ROBERT, THE KERNEL BAKER blog posting.)

Our rent for a small three-bedroom apartment with shared living room, galley kitchen and eating area was $1,100 and divided by three we each paid $366.66 per month. Di had the front bedroom overlooking the street, Tod had the largest middle room with no windows but his own bathroom, and I had a small (no more than 7 x 9) back bedroom with two windows and southeastern exposure. It was quiet and cozy with just enough room for my futon on the floor, a small bookcase, and I think a chair. It was smaller than my college dorm room but it was my first adult home.

I only stayed at Joy Street for a year before becoming resident guide at the Gibson House on Beacon Street, a short walk away in the Back Bay, but I would come and go from that apartment--as other tenants would, too--over the next several years, even after moving to New Hampshire. Di was always the glue that bound a changing group of roommates. Later she moved to Myrtle Street, shared an apartment with another high school friend, and soon after that broke out on her own. She rented a one room studio in a converted Back Bay apartment for over 13 years--I came and went from this apartment, too, on occasion and met a changing group of neighbors in the building, many of whom were at the wedding last night. (My husband and I sat at the table with most of Di's old apartment neighbors, and another friend from high school with whom I was glad to reconnect. I asked Encarnita, Gail and Nancy, all personalities in their own right, if it wasn't the same any more without Di in the building--they all said a forlorn looking "No, it isn't..." Wherever she is, Di always seems to be the glue, the connection.)

Di joined a venture capital firm and rose in the ranks and truly became the single urban girl. Our lives became juxtaposed and perhaps we grew envious of each other as she continued to travel, to come and go as she pleased, and with a salary that enabled her to buy Maude Frizon shoes and to regularly frequent the cosmetic counters at Nieman Marcus. Meanwhile, I married my childhood sweetheart from New Hampshire, retired from full time museum work, settled down to a comfortable life, had two more children. We saw each other at her parents' house in our hometown in New Hampshire and occasionally I came to Boston. My daughter is her goddaughter and the link has continued for another generation. I look back at these twenty years, nearly half our lifetime ago, and am amazed at how far we have come and at the women we are today. Di's single girl-in-the city life ended in August 2005, twenty years after she moved to Boston, when she moved out to the suburbs to begin her pre-married life.

The wedding was incredible--every detail thought about and some avoided altogether (there was quiet music, elegant flowers and appetizers, a short and simple service--but no photographer and no dancing and no tacky wedding traditions, either). The ceremony was short and sweet and took place in a Back Bay mansion--we cleared out of the ballroom and the room was set up for dinner. An evening wedding, dinner began at the civilized hour of 9pm after a civilized cocktail hour and fun additions such as a roaming magician and vials filled with M&Ms that told us at what table to sit. (M&Ms had been a prevailing theme leading up to the wedding and throughout.)

Our daughter was the youngest person invited and technically the only "child" at 17. She was also invited to sit at the head table, next to a dignitary who presided over the ceremony and who was able to come at the last minute after a few scheduling glitches were changed. He and his wife couldn't have been more pleasant and it is likely we will see them again on the national stage in a few years. (His connection to Di and Tom was work-related and his words about them couldn't have been more appropriate or perceptive.) Di's brother had been given "notary status" for the event but in the end it wasn't needed. Her sister was a lovely maid of honor and her wheat tones complimented Di's blue suit. Their Dad said to Temple, "Wouldn't Liz just love all this?" I know Di's mother would have approved whole-heartedly and without reservations.

I have never been to such an elegant urban wedding--so different from many country weddings (which have their own special qualities, too--my husband and I, like so many other family members, had our reception in the barn at the Gray Goose Farm--I wouldn't have had it any other way). Out-of-town guests and the bridal party/family all stayed at the Four Seasons. That was a lovely experience and treat, too. The bride and groom gave each of us a box of goodies that they had assembled: a tote bag with an M&M theme, spa robes, a CD of their favorite music, M&M cookies, bottled water (those mini bars are expensive!) and of course, M&Ms.

The whole experience was like a fairy tale come true and I've gotten jaded and sarcastic enough over the years to never think I would say such a thing. We have all been to our share of "throw away" weddings, the ones you know where so much expense is being wasted on something that likely won't last. But Di and Tom will have a happy life together--they are proof that you can find each other in later years, sometimes you just have to wait for the right person to come along and knock your socks off. And they both did just that. They are, indeed, each other's better half.

This afternoon after a lovely post-wedding brunch we came home to a balmy November day, as it had been in Boston. There was a decided "post ball" let down, the feeling of a passing on, and change in the air. It is much the same feeling I had when I brought our son Henry home from the hospital in mid-November eight years ago: something in the house had changed and there was a bittersweet quality to that change, almost a palpable homesickness, even though I was home. We are also approaching the closing on the farm this week which, while getting easier to acknowledge, sits around me like a shroud--I asked Di's sister and father at brunch about their old house, the one where I had spent so much time in high school and where they lived as a family for over twenty years--did they miss it? No. Their "new" home, purchased in the early 1990s, is only a mile away from their old one, right in a historic village setting, less lonely than the other one, smaller, just as historic, and oddly enough, it immediately seemed like their home when they moved in. This is, no doubt, because Diane's parents were there, as were their familiar things. (I am learning, or at least attempting to learn, that the concept of home is more about the people than the buildings.) This Thursday, on the day of our scheduled closing (which I do not have to attend for various reasons), my daugther and I are going to fete Di with a post-wedding lunch and get-together down near her house as their honeymoon had to be postponed due to work complications (but good complications).

In the post-wedding haze of "back to my own life", I found myself feeling envy for my old friend and her new life. We will no doubt continue to monitor each other from our suburban and rural realms, each feeling our own bits of envy from time to time and at others, total bliss and contentment. In her new life with Tom, I couldn't have wished a better scenario for my dear friend. There is no one more deserving of a "happy ending".

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