An Unremarkably Casual Thing // Kinfolk Magazine Volume 3

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At this moment, life is a whirlwind.

Eight days from now I will marry the best friend I have ever known. She is a rare find and I am the luckiest of treasure hunters. It is a remarkably exciting time, brimming with anticipation and activity. But make no mistake—it is a whirlwind. We are spinning with every emotion: we are happy and sentimental, confident and nervous, focused and scattered, but mostly we are busy. Busy with preparations for the guests, for the ceremony, the parties, the honeymoon, the lifetime we wake up to when the carnival dust settles. I suppose every couple that has put on a wedding will relate to this. And yet, as crazy as it all is, it’s hard to get frustrated when working toward such a special moment. Like tired parents on Christmas Eve setting the stage for the magic of Christmas morning, we continue to work to make every detail glow. It is a lovely kind of storm we are in.

As I write this I am, frankly, overwhelmed by the wealth of things left on our still-to-do list. There are centerpieces to finish making, neckties to buy, programs to print, and twinkling lights to hang. Yet, as consider all there is left to do before we close the dating chapter of our life and open the married one, I can’t help but recall how our story first began—back before the bouquets and the giant cake and the first dance and the waiters with trays of champagne. Back before we were even friends. Long before the wind turned all around us.

It had started, years ago, with a lunch. Just one shared meal: an unremarkably casual thing.

“Just lunch?” she had asked with a raised eyebrow and faux suspicion. “Yeah, it could be fun. I know about this local farm that makes these incredible homemade sandwiches and muffins; I’ve been looking for an excuse to go out there,” I replied. An excuse to go out there? An excuse to have lunch—really? But, then again, I suppose all first dates are a kind of pretense—an excuse to secure the undivided attention of another, scaffolding for potentially bigger things. Risky business. Small jumps from tall bluffs.

As we snaked along the narrow Ozark Mountain roads we talked comfortably, sharing a new level of confidence, careful not to betray any frailties of character, while also doing our best to be honest. I told her about Europe and she told me all about her dad. She wore a blue top over olive skin and she smiled as easily as she breathed. She was a newly discovered country, an unfolding brown-eyed mystery. An increasingly bright and playful spirit grew between us—we weren’t ready to talk about it but we couldn’t ignore it. So we ordered lunch. And then we ate very well: shiitake mushrooms grown in the dark of the farm’s old barn, homemade fruit-infused barbecue sauce, the infamous blueberry “thunder muffin,” fresh and warm and paired with homemade vanilla bean ice cream. It was hillbilly joie de vivre. We ate and talked and ate and laughed, the whole time watching blackbirds dive in and out of the dusty aisles of berry trees. We sat for hours. We talked to the farmer. We drank iced tea. We were in no kind of hurry.

At some point (maybe when the sky began leaning toward dusk), sitting there at a crooked wooden picnic table, something changed. Lunch had become something else—a metamorphosis had occurred. Our simple shared meal, the unremarkably casual thing, had opened the door to a new idea—that the two of us could become friends. Perhaps even great friends. The kind of friends who could happily share many more long meals together, and share long hours of undivided attention, telling tall tales and daily truths. The kind of friends who find the many unremarkably casual things of life transfigured into deep moments of joy, simply because they are shared with one another.

Nothing was decided while driving away from the farm that June day; we made no specific commitments, no future plans, and we had no idea what would come next. We had shared a lunch and we couldn’t have known, then, about the coming years of work that would be built into our friendship: the long-distance phone calls, the plane tickets, the handmade gifts, the maturing of expectations, the surrendering of fears, the shared successes, and the forgiveness of failings. Work has been done, is being done, and will be done until we are parted by death. As a work in progress friendship is never finished—our love is a shape shifter, a garden for tending, a working title, a remarkably un-casual thing.

I do not know what would have happened if we hadn’t gone to the farm that first day or where our lives will go from here. Right now I can barely see past our still-to-do list and our much-anticipated honeymoon getaway. But I can clearly see where we first began to believe in the mystery of a forever kind of friendship: a golden summer day, two souls willing to give undivided attention, birds and berries and a belief in becoming something new. A great adventure story begun years ago with a lunch—the first in a lifetime of meals shared together.

Reprinted with kind permission of Kinfolk Magazine.