On April 29, 2012 I stood at the top of a charming little brick staircase in Acworth, Georgia and looked out to my best friend of twenty-four years in her gorgeous white sparkling wedding gown, arm in arm with her father. Her groom was at the end of the aisle waiting for her with anticipation. It was that sparkle in his eyes, the tears of joy, and the smile of love and happiness that every girl dreams of seeing when she looks at her future husband’s face on her wedding day.
Let’s go back a year and a half ago. I received a text message on Sunday afternoon, November 28, 2010, close to sunset, while on the runway departing at the Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta, Georgia. The plane began to rev its engine and prepare for take-off when I looked down at my phone: a photo of a beautiful nine stone white gold engagement ring. I scrolled down and it read, “He proposed!!!! Be my Maid of Honor!” I was suddenly filled with excitement because I could not have been happier for her, but instantly I thought to myself “I have to give a toast. What will I say?! This is huge.” I knew that I would have to come up with the perfect thing to say. She is my best friend, and we have known each other forever. The whole flight home I thought of what to say on her wedding day and a date wasn’t even set at the time. I spent time lying in bed at night even up until the day of the wedding, wide-eyed and restless, even moments and seconds before I would be called up on stage to deliver the perfect toast.
The rehearsal day came, and before I knew it I was back in Atlanta, my home town of Woodstock, where we grew up as little kids until I moved to California thirteen years later. This was a lot more surreal than playing house when we were little kids and dressing up, pretending to be in a wedding. This was the real deal: the big day everyone talks about, the stories I read in novels, the romantic movies I watched, and the love songs I hear on the radio. This was it. No turning back!
Luckily, no one tripped, and no one fell, only the tears of joy from the bride and groom’s family and friends. After the wedding we went into the old mill where the reception was being held. It was a beautiful dark wooded building on the inside and well-lit by the dimmed lights that hung from the ceiling. Two by two, arm in arm we walked out on to the dance floor as the DJ announced the bridal and groomsmen party to the other wedding guests. Afterwards we all sat down at our assigned table, had dinner and socialized with the other guests.
“Don’t be nervous. You will do great. Just smile.” I said to myself. The crowd turned their attention to the front of the room where I stood in a navy blue, knee-length bride’s maid’s dress with the bride and groom looking fabulous as ever, and the best man looking handsome in his grey and navy suit. The moment had finally come that I had anticipated for over a year!
The best man went first. His toast was perfect. He didn’t have anything formally prepared and neither did I, so I felt confident that since he did so well without a script I could too. The moment came as fast as a freight train going two hundred miles an hour down the tracks. He finished his toast and passed the microphone off to me. I froze. “Where do I begin,” I thought to myself. All of the sudden I was so incredibly nervous, more nervous than I have ever been in all my 24 years. The words swam out of my mouth as I boasted about my best friend, and how special she is. I expressed how lucky the groom was, and how exciting it was to celebrate their special day with them.
Everyone told me not to have a script and I listened to them. I wish now that I would have went ahead and jotted a few points down, but I know even then I would had felt like I didn’t say enough or left something out. Even though it was the toughest two minutes I endured, the smile on my best friend’s face reassured me that it did not matter what I said, but what mattered was that I stood by her side on her big day.
We lit our sparklers and held them high in the warm southern night sky. It was time to say goodbye before they took off for their honeymoon to Cancun, Mexico. I was standing towards the end of the line of guests with my sparklers in hand when they got into the limo and I told them, “Don’t forget to wear lots of sunscreen and avoid drinking the water down there! I love you guys! Have a safe trip and text me when you get there.” I kissed them both on the cheek, smiled, and shut the door to the shiny black limo.
Tears of joy rolled down the sides of my face as I drank in every emotion, every memory of growing up together, every boy who broke her heart, and taking it all in. In those few moments I reminded myself that even though I live two thousand two hundred and forty miles away from her, on the other side of the country, distance is only a measure of miles and time. It does not consist of physical absence, because the people we care for the most are always the closest to our hearts, and the memories we have are only a flashback away.