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When Dan broke up with the girl he’d been dating as long as I’d known him, I tried to take him out for Frosties and french fries. Everyone knows that the salty/sweet combination of milkshake-heavy fries is the perfect tonic for a broken heart, but Dan, the early rumblings of his culinary future whispering sense somewhere deep within him, would have none of it. He ate a burger and we laughed and chatted as we imagined other, better futures for him, and I dunked my fries alone.
So we have been, my friend and I – unlikely soul-siblings who met slinging coffee and became unpredictable allies. On the surface, Dan and I are the antithesis of each other – I am Pollyanna to his Kerouac. But at our cores, we are similar – intellectual feelers who spend an unusual amount of energy trying to logic ourselves out of our angst and glee, puzzle-makers with a brazen tendency to uproot our own lives in pursuit of making things “interesting,” people who are easily moved by tiny humans and good dogs and the general beauty of things. Dan became part of my family in weeks, or minutes, through bad jokes and good Muir quotes and a lovely understanding, and the part of me that has always looked for brothers welcomed him gladly.
That night, over tears and hope and french fries, I doubt either of us would have predicted we’d end up here. Because, though I’m certain he’d taken notice of her, and we’d both worked along side her for a year, neither of us could have seen Mel for what she was, what she would be, what they would become.
Melanie was a dance team retiree, a peppy 19 year old college student with alarmingly perfect hair and confidence for days. I liked her, but I didn’t see her – didn’t see her razor-sharp wit- the masterful, perfected kind usually reserved for 65 year old former vixens who sling smoke-stained zingers at men 20 years their junior and melt them to their knees. I didn’t see the core of fire and strength that would allow her to level the ebbing and tiding of Dan’s joy and malaise. I missed the glint of her massive intelligence, the way that pretty head can conjure up cultural references well beyond her years and then make a pillow out of curtains and strategically restructure your day planner while you and the rest of us are still stumbling around wondering why there isn’t any more coffee. I missed the incredibly loyal and marvelous friend hiding in that beautiful, slightly terrifying teenage girl.
But then Dan saw her. I sat with them on their first date and watched him see her, and I’ve been a believer ever since.
Each of us is both a runner and an anchor, and with grace and luck, we tether each other. I have watched, time and time again, as the runner in my friend leans into the anchor of this extraordinary girl – I’ve watched her love him with patience and grace and pull him to her as easily as magnets and gravity and home. I’ve watched him love her into her fullest, most stunning self – watched her become the magic he sees in her, watched him anchor her out of cautious detachment and into trust and adventure, watched him use his extraordinary ability to make others feel loved to nurture her into something secure and wonderful and precious and his. Love isn’t about finding the right person so much as helping to build them.
More than anything, I’ve watched them make each other laugh – laugh through crisis and celebration and trial and year after year after year. It has been my privilege to be loved by these two, and to watch them love each other.
And this summer, I get to stand up with them and say the words with them that will bind them to each other. And that will be my privilege as well, because I believe in these two. I believe marriage takes work and faith and help and great love, but I believe with all my heart they will have those things, they have them already, they will carry them on. Commitment, after all, is just the will to continue down the trail, around the next corner, through the next darkness – just the desire and steadfastness to stay the course and see what happens next. You, my forest-wandering friends- well, neither of you could ever resist a good adventure.
It is my honor to stand with you, for all the times you’ve stood with me, for the joy it is to watch you stand with each other. Yours is one of my very favorite love stories. And I love you so.