We were all but lost on our way to the rehearsal dinner. Despite having been given directions that included the phrase “turn right after the giant blow up gorilla [at the car dealership]” and doing our best to navigate rush hour Albuquerque traffic, we were running late.
One windy side road led to another and we were losing confidence we were headed the right way. At one point, Jeff — the punctual half of our marriage — motioned to the dashboard clock and mused aloud, “you better let them know we’re gonna be late.”
“It’s OK,” I said without hesitation. “I know these people. We might be the first ones there.”
It’s OK, I know these people.
I smiled as I caught myself saying it. Here I was on an unfamiliar road in an unfamiliar city halfway across the country for a wedding filled almost entirely with people I’d never met — and none of it could overshadow the simplicity and familiarity of being there with her. My best friend.
I know these people.
As predicted, we were a few minutes late, but – also as predicted – so was nearly everyone else. Lonette was already there and we had time to hug and squeal and carry on before the rest of the wedding party arrived. I hadn’t seen her in a few years and only a handful of times since high school, but we have one of those truly rare, low-maintenance, genuine, supportive friendships. We don’t skip a beat.
When my brother Tom died six years ago, I was so supported by friends all over the world, but I’ll never forget Lonette appearing out of the crowd at the funeral. I hadn’t asked her to come, and she didn’t tell me she’d be there – she just was. She was comforting and distracting and exactly what I needed. I remember hugging her and ugly crying into her shoulder. “I can’t believe you’re here.” She gave me a sad smile and replied, “where else would I be today?”
Months ago, when she’d asked me to be part of her big day, I was delighted to accept. The other end of the emotional spectrum of course, but now it was my turn to be there when life came calling.
As wedding plans unfolded, I learned I was getting a two-for-one deal. Glenn! The third amigo! Lonette and I met in junior high while Glenn moved to town in high school — and the three of us were nearly inseparable. The two of them were a year ahead of me in school, and attended the same college — but they both came back for my high school graduation that May. This past weekend at the wedding we combined our collective memories and we think it was the last time the three of us were physically together in one place. Over 13 years ago.
For 13 years we’ve supported each other from afar. Through school, relationships, illness, deaths, births — and everything else your 20s seem to throw at you. Since the moment I knew we’d all actually be together for the weekend I was desperate to get to them both. And it felt like home to finally be there.
I smiled through tears as I watched Glenn escort Lonette down that aisle, and the entire wedding was beautiful and perfect and special. These kinds of things are always a whirlwind and somewhere in the dancing and the laughing and the cowboy boots, the time flew. Every time Lonette would squeeze my hand and say, “thank you so much for being here,” I just smiled as if to say “where else would I be today?”
Click any photo to enlarge.
It was perfect, and we swore not to let another 13 years go by before we laugh together in person again.
Caught up in the sentiment and nostalgia of the weekend, I came straight home and dug through boxes of old photos. What I found, my friends, is cold hard proof that some friendships can survive sickness. And hardship. And distance. And time. But WE survived some seriously bad hair.