As for many Chicagoans in their mid-20s, for me, this past spring and early summer has meant two things: weddings and moving…and, well, more weddings. While moving is a time when one must decide which memories to hold onto, weddings are a time to make new ones. All of these events have cycled me through a strange whirlwind of emotions and nostalgia.
I began this wedding-moving-wedding journey as far back as April with a bachelorette weekend in Miami, followed by standing up at two weddings in Las Vegas and in Denver (a week apart), two moves—my own and my parents’ move—with another wedding coming up in July. As half-Jew Chelsea Handler would say: What a “hot mess.”
Aside from realizing my hatred for bridesmaid dress tailors, airline blackout dates and red-eye flights after long nights of wedding-related debauchery, I also realized how much I missed my friends and how much our lives have changed in a matter of four years since college. Instead of gabbing on about cute boys in our com arts class, we found ourselves gossiping about the latest engagements and knock-ups; instead of stressing about what we want to be when we grow up, we’re actually out there working—and praying our plans pan out.
My trip to Miami offered a reunion with friends I hadn’t seen since graduation and awakened a side of me that I missed. I remembered what it was like to have a night out with the girls that felt like a true escape. Work was thousands of miles and several days away. I could be myself with people who knew me inside and out, because we’d spent days and nights romping around Madison, WI in college.
The wedding in Las Vegas took me back nearly eight years. My college roommate of four years married the boy she met in our dorm freshman year. My other old roommate and I recounted years' worth of memories in our rehearsal dinner speeches. I talked about sitting in my pajamas in the dorm room counseling the now-groom on how to woo the bride. After eight years, their families are like extensions of my own—particularly because they’re Jewish. Their extended relatives knew my life story, though I’d only met them a couple times. It was such a wholesome, hamish love fest set in wild Las Vegas. It felt as though I had taken much of the couple’s journey along with them, making their wedding an unexpectedly emotional milestone. Yes, I sobbed.
The Vegas wedding, and also the one in Denver, while wonderful, also made me a bit sad. I realized I was closing a chapter on our friendships, on our youth, on our carefree days. First comes love, then comes marriage, then come babies…
I also began thinking about how little we actually change, despite these milestones. Just this week, I snail mailed one of my bat mitzvah invitations from 1997 to my friend in New York City. She was curious to see it after our late night chat in Denver before the wedding, during which we reminisced about our bat mitzvahs. We compared notes about the food, dessert table, theme and giveaways, and we agreed we wish we could burn the photos, which immortalized our awkward selves at 13.
Similarly, I spent a recent evening with friends watching a “Say Yes to the Dress” marathon and making boxed chocolate cake, which we dedicated to Bethenny Frankel of the Bravo TV shows “Bethenny Getting Married” and “Real Housewives of New York.” On the cake, we wrote in blue icing, “Mazel Tov Bethenny.” (We’re still debating sending the photographic evidence to Bravo.) I hate to say this, but our evening was not a far cry from my teeny bopper evenings spent with friends, giving each other makeovers and reading “Seventeen” magazine.
Now home from the first batch of weddings, I’ve found myself sifting through Prince and Billy Joel cassette tapes and Luke Perry posters at my parents’ place as they prepare for a move. The process of going through old things has been excruciating because my Jewish mother has instilled in me an irrational fear that I cannot throw things away. One day, I might need that Prince tape, one day…
My friend, who is Jewish and also moving, said she too has an irrational fear of throwing old items away. We’ve decided the neurosis is a remnant of our Jewish immigrant relatives who had to leave at a moment’s notice and take everything they could carry on the boat. My mother and I have argued about throwing out a variety of things away—her answer is always, “Save it for my grandchildren.”
If I’ve learned anything from this milestone whirlwind tour, it’s that memories shape who we are: Some fit in cardboard boxes, others tell the story of how a bride and groom met and some are just small steps in our development. While I can’t say Prince changed my life, many of those friends I spent long nights with pouring over “Seventeen” magazines, or baking cakes are part of this crazy journey. I’ve realized too, that it’s OK to let some memories and experiences go, to make room for the new ones. And if all else fails…there’s always storage.