On April 27th, I attended the best going-away party that there ever was and ever will be.
Our good friends R&M are moving to Holland this May, so they decided to hosted a party to say farewell to all their Pittsburgh friends and family.
I met R&M through my husband J, who worked with M’s brother many moons ago. When J first told me he wanted me to meet some of his friends, I was so worried that they’d think I was weird. But then I met them, and I realized that R&M were weird themselves – in all the best possible ways.
Back then, I was still pretty unsure of myself and my direction in life. And when I looked at R&M, who are 7-10 years older than me, I felt like they were the kind of people who simply had their shit together. Even though they hated their apartment and their jobs, they were working to better their situation, and doing it on their own terms. They had been dating/engaged/living together since 1999, but had no immediate plans to marry. They just weren’t the kind of people who did things traditionally. But they were kind, welcoming, accepting, hard-working, and hilarious, and quickly became a regular fixture of our social circle.
Over the next eleven years, J and I watched countless hockey games with R&M and shared countless beers and hysterical laughs at our local bar. They were there my mom got sick, when J and I got engaged and married, and when we bought our house. They came to our Halloween parties and barbecues and invited us to their house warming party when they finally were able to move out of the apartment they’d loathed for so long. Behind the scenes, R&M worked together to stop smoking and lose a ton of weight, and R obtained his Bachelor’s degree. A few years later, M obtained her Master’s. All the while, they talked frequently about M’s home in Holland, where they visited regularly throughout the years.
And now they’re finally doing it. The dream that they’d talked about for as long we we’ve known them became a reality last fall when they purchased one-way tickets to the Netherlands and put the gears in motion to make a monumental move. Though I am of course beyond sad to see them go, I am also beyond happy.
Because even though I now know R&M’s struggles, I still feel like they truly did always have their shit together. They always knew where they were headed as individuals and as a couple, and they didn’t let anyone or anything stand in their way. They encountered naysayers, roadblocks, and heartaches as they worked towards their goal, but they finally achieved it. And people like this, friends like these, are the reasons I stay hopeful. It makes me believe in true love and the possibility of accomplishing your dreams, no matter how un-traditionally you may pursue the path or how many people may scoff in your face.
So on that Saturday in April, R&M gathered thirty or forty of their closest friends and family at their beautifully remodeled house for one last party. The food was delectable, the alcohol flowing, and the laughter loud, as usual. But everyone was waiting with bated breath for the “3:30 surprise” that M had posted about in the Facebook invite a few weeks prior.
At some point during the party, R&M and a handful of close friend disappeared upstairs almost unnoticed. R returned to the living room a few moments later, dressed in a dark blue suit complete with custom cuff links and a bow tie. He stood in the center of the living room, called for everyone’s attention, and began by thanking everyone for coming. He went on to explain that April 27th is a holiday in Holland, one in which most everyone has off work. “This is great because M and I will always have our wedding anniversary off – because we’re getting married, right here, in three minutes.”
The house exploded in cheers and applause, and then M appeared at the top of the staircase, glowing in a tea-length rose-gold dress, metallic heels, and a spray of white feathers in her hair. She joined R in front of their fireplace, grasping her bouquet orange tulips, and their friend/caterer/officiant performed the sweetest, most heartfelt wedding ceremony I’ve ever seen. R&M shared the same vows, which they wrote together, and were the most beautiful words I’d ever heard exchanged, especially the part where they promised to be each other’s favorite everything.
I watched from the staircase with tears rolling down my face as they laughed and exchanged rings and kissed to seal a promise that had been going strong for twenty years.
It was over in less than ten minutes. The guests were mostly clad in jeans, the photographer was a co-worker, the cake said “Bon Voyage” instead of “congratulations,” and their pit bull/ Great Dane mix milled around their feet as they were declared married by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It was the best wedding I’d ever had the pleasure of witnessing.
Saying good-bye to R&M is going to be so hard. For me, it gives new meaning to the term bittersweet, because I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy for two people to leave my life as regular fixtures. We’ll of course stay in touch via Facebook and such, and they’ve already invited us to come visit, but I know it won’t be the same. Still, I can’t think of two people who deserve their dreams as much as R&M. And I really believe that our friendships can stay strong despite the miles and ocean that will soon be separating us.