It happened — my little sister married her long-time boyfriend. It was a beautiful day filled with laughter, glitter, and tears. Lots and lots of happy tears. As Maid of Honor, I was required to give a speech, something that did not daunt me in the slightest. Perhaps I would have been more nervous if I hadn’t been logging hours of presenting time between conference presentations and teaching. Still, it took me hours and a poetic friend to finally feel as though I had perfected my speech.
Things changed as the wedding drew nearer and I started running through my speech for the last couple of times before officially reading it — suddenly I couldn’t get through the speech without choking up. I had worked so hard to pack emotion into the speech so that everyone else would be able to relate to what I was saying, that my words suddenly had too much meaning for me to get through. Still, I didn’t feel nervous. It’s just a speech I told myself, no big deal. I’ve spoken in front of crowds hundreds of times, I can do this.
Fast forward to just after the ceremony, after briefly stopping traffic to capture a couple photos on a local bridge, and just after walking into the reception. I hand the microphone to my Dad so he can welcome everyone and say thank you for coming. As he hands the microphone to my Mom so she can say a few words as well, I notice tears in his eyes. My mom wipes her eyes as she hands the microphone to me and all I can think is sh!t. How am I supposed to get through a 2-minute speech when they could barely get through 20 seconds?
Two lines in it happened, a lump formed in my throat and I struggled to breathe. Mutterings of you can do it came from all around me. My mom came up to comfort me and I (more politely than I remember) informed her that if she touches me I’ll cry. For a brief moment, I considered passing the speech off to the bridesmaid to my right. Then I took a breath and continued the speech, one word at a time.
As I continued to read what I had written, my words gained strength and conviction. I made people laugh and later learned that many in the room had cried with me. Giving that speech was harder than any speech or presentation that I had to do simply because I had created an intimate moment between myself, my sister and her new husband that was being shared with the world. I had accidentally made my feelings raw and real in a way that I had not mentally prepared myself to do, dropping walls that I hadn’t realized were in place and opening the room to experience with me the true joy that comes with being an older sister.
This one word a time mentality is not something that I came up with on the fly, it’s a mentality that I have used to get myself through numerous difficult situations. It all started when I starting knitting things more complicated than a simple garter scarf. Staring at patterns that seemed complex and intricate, I was reminded by a fellow knitter than knitting is the manipulation of stitches to create a larger object. Fair Isle, braided cables, socks heels, and intarsia are all possible because the knitter makes one stitch after another. Even beautiful lace patterns are made up of a combination of knits and purls (with a couple of yarn overs thrown in here and there).
The one stitch at a time mentality transformed me as a knitter. I was suddenly willing to take on projects that were just outside my skill level and later made me more willing to modify patterns. It’s gotten me through hard races (one step at a time), heartbreak (one day at a time), a speech (one word at a time) and I’m sure it will get me through many other moments of my life. I will always strive to remind myself that even when something feels too big and impossible, it can be broken down into manageable parts.
My Maid of Honor speech:
Over the years that Sara and Ty have loved one another, many of us have been witness the beautiful moments—both large and small—that they have shared. They have both graduated high school and set their sights on impassioned futures. They have traveled together—enjoying adventures that have taken them from the sunny beaches of Bermuda to various snowy ski slopes of New England, bought a house which they have transformed into a loving home, and so much more. I have observed Ty support and empower my Sister in challenging her fears, pushing her to harness the courage and strength we have all seen within her. I have watched my sister fuel Ty’s passions, supporting and encouraging him to consider all the possibilities he is capable of.
When I was a little girl, I was obsessed in my desire for a sister. I never wavered in my pleas to my mother, and was enthralled as Sara was brought into the world. And all that I ever dreamt a perfect sister could be, stands before us. Mom, Dad, you made the best little sister anyone could have hoped for. I was brought up being told to look after my sister, to protect her, and to keep her out of trouble. And here she stand at 22—relatively intact, beautiful, intelligent, funny, and kind. And as much as I wish to take credit, the true credit belongs to her for being the beautiful human she has grown to be.
On the flip side, I did not ask for a brother—but I got one. I never had any expectations or ideas as to what a brother should be or would be like. But over the years, Ty, you have quickly filled that place in my heart and shown me what joy a brother can bring. Ty, I am so happy to have you officially take the role in my life. As your older sister, I pass the mantel to you. Look at the young woman sitting beside you— treasure her, adore her, and grow in your affection for all the facets that make her who she is. Look after her, and remember this includes holding her hand in public and taking millions of pictures together just because you know it will make her smile. Protect her, sometimes this will mean turning on a light in a dark room in case there are monsters and sometimes this will mean holding her tight while watching a scary movie pretending you’re not frightened as well. Finally, do not lose sight of why you fell in love. The years of marriage will be a journey both vast and winding—and it is by constantly reinforcing your love for one another that you will weather the storms and relish the springs.
Thank you for inviting us to see you off on this path you have chosen to travel together and I hope that your days are filled with a resounding happiness and contentment. Please raise your glasses to Sara and Ty, congratulations on your new marriage. May you have a long and happy life together.