In literature, the Green World is a place/space outside of the everyday world. In the Green World, anything can happen, especially transformations and metamorphoses. A classic example is the forest in _A Midsummer Night’s Dream_– it is far removed from the dusty, rule-burdened streets of Athens. Love is found, shuffled, lost, and re-discovered. Identities are shifted and created; all is possible.
For me, being in my classes at Webster, in my beloved English department: it was my Green World. And not only did I find myself, and become more of myself than I had ever been, I was blessed to find some of the best friends of my life. And because I met my girlfriends from church at around the same time, and my roommates soon after– these relationship feel to me like they’re all of the same energy, giving me the same kinds of strength.
Obviously, the best part of the wedding, of getting married, is considering and planning a ceremony that will join my life and future to Matt’s. But I think the very next best thing, before flowers and beauty and inspiration, would be the blessing of being able to surround myself with my beloved friends, from all the different parts of my life.
It’s time to introduce my side of the bridal party: the bridespeople. I love these friends dearly. I’ll begin with those I’ve known the longest.
Jamie Leigh is my baby sister, the apple of my eye. I was six when she was born, and wanted to name her “Rainbow.” (I’m actually surprised my parents didn’t go along with that idea…) I’ve spent hours of my life braiding her hair, teaching her to read, worrying about her and spoiling her as best I could. And she is a brilliant, strong, and successful young woman. You might remember the photos of her own wedding last year, at Burning Man.
For Jamie’s fifth birthday, my best friend Janet and I dressed up as a clown team– oh, the hours we spent practicing our act, and planning what we would wear. Here is is a photo of Janet, behind a beaming Jamie. I first met Janet in fourth grade; she lived up the street from me, and we spent days and months riding our bikes all over town, including down Beer Can Alley. We swam all summer long, and enjoyed the incredible swing she had in her yard. She’s my oldest childhood friend, and is lending me her gorgeous cathedral-length wedding veil as my “something borrowed.”
In this photograph, we are at her engagement party.
I wish I could remember when, the year— maybe 1999 or 2000, but at some point, I was very lucky to meet two wonderful women. We formed fast friendships, and over the years, I have lost count of the times I have been thankful for their presence in my life. This is Amy, and her husband Mike. Amy is the kind of friend everyone should have, and the kind of woman, mother, sister, and friend I aspire to be. She is funny, brilliant, and caring, and has been with me through some really tough periods in my life.
Here we are at a New Year’s Eve party.
Around the same time I met and befriended Amy, we also met and befriended Jennifer. We were inseparable at church events, and I have so many good memories related to making sandwiches and driving them in my breaking-down car to a shelter in the city. We’d laugh until we were sick, and gossip, and catch up on our weeks.
Clearly, we also went to lots of parties together. Jennifer also grew up in Southern Illinois, so we understand a common history in each other. For years, we sang in the church choir together, whispering between songs, sharing our lives, and getting scolded for talking by the choirmaster. Have you begun to notice that my friends are also all gorgeous? Wait until you see how lovely they look in their dresses!
In 1998, my little cousin Catherine Jean (Caty) was born, the youngest cousin by far, into a family full of girl cousins. Our Grammy always remarks how much Caty reminds her of me as a child, and of Jamie as a child. She is an excellent reader, plays tennis and golf (!), is very smart and good, and has already been a flower girl twice–it’s time to be a junior bridesmaid!
Here is Caty at one of my parties, with a special festive head-dressing for the occasion.
A recent school picture of Caty.
When I began at college, I was an education major– I didn’t even know, at that time, that one could major in English. Once I made this discovery, so many things fell into place. Nick was also a double major, and we had a few semesters with nearly identical schedules– walking from mindless, insensible “teaching of reading” classes into the heady Green World of contemporary short fiction. In this photo, he and Kim and I are at the Contemporary Art Museum in Chicago; at the time, we three were planning to go to Haiti as part of a group, and were sort of testing out whether we could travel together. It was an early stage in our friendship– to convince them of my friendliness, I have made each of us individualized pies, and monograms in pastry. These are wrapped and ribboned, in front of us for this photo. They became friends with me despite this, I think.
Kim and I were also part of a large group in this amazingly difficult historical linguistics class. Before each class, many of us would meet in the basement to go over our crazy homework assignments, and talk about our instructor, the other classmates, and everything else. Kim and Nick and I survived Haiti, by the way. And as I grew stronger and more Stephanie by the semester, they were there.
Pictured here with me and Kim is Tom, another who has experienced the Green World, and another member of that historical linguistics class.
Erin is also part of the Green World, and was also in that historical linguistics class. Clearly, deciphering Old English does fast friendships make. In this photo, Matt and I are with Erin and her two gorgeous girls, Celia and Adele.
This photo was taken the night before Kim, Nick, and I went to Haiti. Along with us and Erin and Tom are Angelo (who once came in disguise to visit Kim and me in Prague) and yet another classmate from that linguistics class.
After Prague, I did a term at Oxford, where I met Macy. She and I (and French Caroline) were floormates, and we would leave our doors open at all hours, for revelry, gossiping, work, nail-painting, and so forth. We had a powerful, unstoppable energy between us. I was strong and brilliant and brave; the days were gilded, lengthy, and monumental. There’s a river there, hanging with yellow, and we were so beautiful and creative.
Macy is in the middle– here we are, with Caroline. I think we’re in Stratford-upon-Avon here.
Here we are at a High Table (where the faculty sit in robes on a dais at the top of the room, and the butlers come around and serve us very rich food.) Macy writes amazing fiction, and gives off radiance where-ever she goes.
I’m realizing–as I look at these photos and describe all my dear friends–how they and their energies have helped make me who I am.
And, in my first year teaching, I moved in with Jodut. Luckily for me, her Teach for America roommate had freaked out over locker assignments in the first week of school– so she needed a roommate, and it was me. Cue my introduction to _Sex & the City_, and her introduction to fancy stationery and lots of ribbons and feathers. We’d shop together, cook together, and survived two burglaries together. In our second year as roommates, we moved in with another pair of teacher roommates, into a giant sprawling apartment, Essex House (the Sex Ho for short.)
Here is the entire Sex Ho crew; Tom and Eric are groomsmen, on Matt’s side. This picture was actually taken by Nick– we are sitting in a place where he was bartender.
And there you have them: the bridespeople. Dear, dear friends who have changed my life, informed who I am, made me braver and stronger, supported me, challenged me, and inspired me. They are steadfast, they are brilliant, they are amazing. I couldn’t be luckier to be surrounded by them on my wedding day.