I was two years old when I met Blake. Which, I guess if we're going to start doing math, makes him my oldest friend to date. Over 26 years of friendship. I mean, we saw Michael Jordan retire...twice. You don't go through that kind of heartbreak without coming out the other side knowing you'll be friends for life.
About two years ago, in the midst of planning my own wedding, I was thinking through who I wanted to stand by me at the end of the aisle, waiting for my bride to walk down and become Mrs. Nicodem. And the way I looked at it is this: life changes so much. You move, you switch jobs, you move again, you have kids, you have a midlife crisis and get intensely into fly fishing, and then you probably move again. And in each stage there will be people you meet, friends who come into and then fade out of your life. Because that's just the nature of this transitory beast. But what a rarity to have a friend that can look you in the eye (or stand with you on your wedding day), through all of that change, and say "I know you. The place you come from, the things that have made you who you are, the ups and downs of your life story...that's been partly my story too." And sure, there are whole months on end where you may not see each other, where those changes in life may widen the gaps of your communication. But it doesn't even touch the foundations of that kind of friendship because quite simply you've put in too much shared time and life for those gaps to matter. So I asked the guy who has been my friend since diapers to stand with me.
I often thank God that I married a woman I grew up with, for those same reasons. Marianne and I say to each other all the time "you are my Home," and on a very real level what we are saying is quite simply "I know you." That we are each other's safe spot; amidst the craziness and the transitions and the drifting through life, we belong to and can rest in each other. But it's also more than that. In a rudimentary way, "home" also encapsulates where we're from, and where we're from is the same place. It's small town, northern Illinois. It's having the same family doctor as each other since the day we were born. It's middle school band and high school dances. It's being able to say "hey remember so-and-so" and the reply of "yeah...do they still work at Jimmy Johns?!" Home is what makes us who we are, but it is also the place that we're always building for each other. And so we call each other Home because it's this crazy, beautiful fact that even before we became each other's place of safety, even before the love and the romance and the creating of life together, we were being shaped by the same place, the same experiences, the same story. In a way, it feels like we've always been sharing life.
And now I'll get to the point of all this.
A couple weeks ago, we got to hide outside of the middle school band room and watch as Blake proposed to his girlfriend Alaina in the place where they first met. We got to see over 15 years of incredible friendship become the promise of a life together forever. We got to see page one of the next chapter in their love story that started way before they even knew it. And the whole time my mind kept playing ping-pong between "it's about friggin time, we've all been waiting since we were thirteen" and then in the next breath "who would've thought in a million years...Blake and Alaina." Because that's the beauty of their story. It's a story so long in the making that we all saw it coming, but so good in its telling that we can hardly believe it came true.
And as we wandered around the town that has been all of our home since we were kids, Blake and Alaina, and Marianne and I, we got to take pictures of two people who in every way can look at each other and say:
"You are my Home."
Also, just to appease my curious mind: between the four of us (Blake, Alaina, Marianne, and myself), how many years of combined friendship are there? Some of the numbers are rough, but it's fairly accurate (we all knew each other in middle school, but some became friends in high school).
Blake + Andrew = 26yrs
Blake + Marianne = 13yrs
Blake + Alaina = 15yrs
Andrew + Marianne = 15yrs
Andrew + Alaina = 13yrs
Alaina + Marianne = 10yrs
With our powers of friendship combined, we have 92 years of joint affection. Boom.