I started dating John my freshman year of college. Sometime that fall, he took me home to meet the family, which, upon reflection, seems a bit soon, but I went full of nerves and apprehension and a curiosity about where it was John hailed from.
Upon walking into John's home for the very first time, a little girl bounded down the steps and jumped into John's arms, shrieking his name.
Mary. The baby sister. Sweet Mary with long brown hair and big brown eyes and a perpetual, contagious grin. The impetuous daughter with four older brothers and a pastor for a father. She had to be special.
She was nine years old and, despite the fact that her older brother teased and tortured her over the years (I know… I saw the videotapes) she obviously adored him. And it could be that moment, when I saw my future husband carrying his little sister up the stairs, that my heart melted and I saw a possible future with him.
I watched Mary grow from a little girl into a moody adolescent (though moody for Mary is good-natured to the rest of us) to popular, busy teenager to a college student to, could it possibly be? An adult.
She grew up so fast. I watched her squabble with the brother closest to her in age, roll her eyes countless times at her mother, feign absolute horror when her brothers teased her, get dreamy-eyed over several different boys, bat her eyelashes at her father and inevitably get something out of him... and then there were the soccer games and the basketball games we went to, watching her, always the star, always a beautiful streak across the field.
Always generous. Happily giving up her bed to me when I spent the night. Sharing her sweatshirts and giving me the latest benign gossip, always with a hug and an infectious laugh, always falling asleep in some odd place, like the middle of the living room floor with her dog curled up next to her.
Then she became aunt Mary. She helped when I was at my wit’s end, a friend, a babysitter, a housekeeper when my children were just babies. She read books and played hide and seek and effortlessly cleaned my kitchen so I could run errands or meet John for lunch or hide in my room for a few moments of peace.
When I was on bed-rest, she did loads and loads of my laundry, folding her brother’s underwear, my underwear. She matched socks and folded shirts and put it all neatly into baskets.
She is one of the few people I’ve never heard say a bad word about anyone.
She loves her family, she loves God, she loves… this guy Carl.
Carl, who has accomplished the amazing feat of garnering all of her brothers' approval, who is kind and thoughtful and smart and who really, really loves her.
Last week, they got engaged. This little girl with chipmunk cheeks and a diary with a lock and key, who had a poster of Legolas on her wall and wanted to be a dolphin trainer when she grew up is... getting married next summer.
Dear God, I hope he knows how lucky he is.
Congratulations Mary and Carl!