It was Asheville wedding weekend. Asheville: still gorgeous, even with most of the leaves in blankets on the city sidewalks instead of up high in the branches.
Two weddings in three weekends. One was at the coast, on the North Carolina sound at sunset. The other was high up on a mountaintop farm, with the bride and groom walking down the aisle to fiddle music in the golden light of late afternoon. Both of these lovely couples involve grad school friends, so I’ve had more time than usual lately to catch up with this crowd and reminisce. And it’s been good for the soul.
Grad school wasn’t all that long ago, but it feels like a world away. We spent three and a half years in the same room together, working sixteen hour days at our drafting boards. We got to know each other well, very well indeed. We struggled with sleep deprivation, architectural hazing, and the accursed design school plotters. We entertained ourselves during the long, late hours with stories of our lives in the outside world, before we gave it all up for the all-consuming studio culture. We figured out how to do linear perspectives, and study as a team, and pool our intellectual resources so that we could all achieve more. We bought each other Cheez-Its and band-aids and beers and coffees. We made a Christmas tree out of rejected models and draft-dots. We counseled each other through bad design reviews, and we seriously celebrated successes. Large ones, and small ones. We collaborated. We grew. Sometimes we disagreed. But it was a powerful thing, to be in the trenches together for that long, and to watch our collective evolution. One day, we were doe-eyed, bewildered first-years struggling to glue basswood sticks together. And then, seven semesters later, we were designers.
We were so isolated, at times, by our crushing workload, that I think we all feared we would have trouble with normalcy, should it ever happen to cross our paths again. During our craziest semester, a week before Christmas break, we all realized at 3:00 a.m. that we would each be Most Annoying Person at our respective holiday gatherings, having nothing to talk about other than which glue works best on basswood sticks. (It’s Elmer’s, FYI.) We had to divide and conquer. “Andrews! You’re in charge of learning a joke. Wagner! You’re on politics. Come up with something intelligent to say about politics. Cochran! What’s going on in the art world? Alexander! Find a sitcom on Hulu and catch us up on the main characters. Stanislaw and Ransmeier! Figure out what the kids are listening to, and let’s download a CD on ITunes. Weiss! Find out what’s going on in social justice. Rogers! Bring us back a cocktail recipe. We’ll share all of this during our next all-nighter.” It was a crazy period of time. It was not normal. But I don’t regret it.
And so, two years later, it is all the more gratifying to see that normalcy is returning to this group, and that people are engaging in real-world things. Most notably, significant others, and babies, and weddings. This weekend, a couple of our ladies were there, but the gentlemen of our class turned out in full force. The Dream Team. They are the kind of men that keep my faith in men intact. And they are ridiculously fun. They look sharp in suits. And they can all dance.
So we gathered together to watch Siler and Sarah walk down the aisle, and it was perfect. They’ll have their own stories to tell about all of that. I’ll share my favorite part, though. One of the bridesmaids delivered a flawless toast, in which she read aloud a g-mail chat between herself and the bride, saved from two years earlier. The bridesmaid had been at an Old Crow Medicine Show concert with the bride and groom, who were high school prom dates but had not dated during the intervening decade. I’m paraphrasing, but it was something like this:
Bridesmaid, via keyboard: “By the way, Siler is still in love with you.”
Bride types back: “Do you think so? How did you know? Did he tell you that?”
Bridesmaid again: “No. But he’d marry you right this second. I’m sure of it.”
Bride: “How do I facilitate that?”
And two years later, they’re married and in the middle of a barn amongst friends and family, hearing this forgotten exchange read back to them, and the crowd toasted and cheered. At that moment, the bluegrass band kicked up the fiddlin-est, most rollicking version of “Wagon Wheel” that anyone has ever done, and we were all on our feet.
I don’t dance, as a general rule. But ask me during Wagon Wheel, and I will say yes any day of the week, and twice on Saturdays. The architecture crowd stormed the dance floor. Ben’s lovely wife was out of town with their newborn, and I really missed her. But since Ben had some free time, he decided to take me on as a project. I have just now learned that anyone can look like a good dancer, if someone who can actually dance is leading.
“Here’s how it’s going to happen,” he said. “Out, in, out, spin, and I’m going to dip you. None of this halfway business. I’m talking all the way down to the floor. Plant your inside foot. Plank yourself out. Throw your outside foot up in the air. You’re wearing freakin’ red cowboy boots. Let’s do this. I’ll get you an inch from the floor, but I’ll reel you back in. Do you trust me?”
Well. As I mentioned, these gentlemen of architecture have propped me up when I was at my lowest, and been beside me during some of my highest points. They’ve literally pulled me up off the ground when I’ve fallen, and pushed me to get better at what I do well, and amazed me with each of their individual superpowers, and kept me laughing through most of it. I love them like brothers. So when Ben said, “Do you trust me?” I said, “Hell yes.” And we executed a seriously impressive horizontal floor dip, which I don’t think anyone saw. Doesn’t matter. I did something I didn’t know I could do, which is a lot of what graduate school and the two years since have taught me. And it’s because of teamwork and trust.
And so: the two happy couples our group celebrated this month have just taken the ultimate trust fall, into married life. Teamwork at the highest level. Cheers and huge love to all four of you, from all of us.