The Rice Farmer in China

I recently enjoyed the privilege of being my best friend’s maid of honor (okay, “matron” since I am an old married lady and haven’t been a “maid” for some time now). Duties included buying a dress in the shade of “Apple” and showing up at the right time. Honestly, she was a fabulous bride and not demanding in the least. She was the Anti-bridezilla.

Oh…actually one of my duties included giving a speech. I knew this was coming and she deserved a good one. A week before the wedding, she called and checked to make sure it was okay with me. “Oh, sure!” I said, “I have an idea, I just have to sit down and write it up.”

Those of you who know me best know that I do okay with writing, but the speaking, the delivery of the words, even if they are prepared, needs some help.

I’ve always admired people who can tell a tale so well that you feel like you were right there with them when it happened. In some cases the story is even better than the truth, and even though you know the story might be better than the true version, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you were entertained. When I tell a story, consider yourself lucky if I manage to recall at least half of the details. Weaving in humor is a whole different level that I’m not ready to do. Instead I rush through, hoping not to get tongue tied, hoping that at the end, everything I’ve recounted was understood.

I’m also a procrastinator. I strongly believe that if you wait till the last minute, your task really will take a minute. Now that doesn’t mean what you do will be a success or that it will have any value at all, but what do you expect when it takes a minute?

I knew I had to write that speech. I had an idea of what I wanted to say. I figured I’d knock it out on the laptop over the weekend, or even better—on the plane ride—a five and a half hour stretch of time where I had no choice but to sit there. What I didn’t anticipate was that my keyboard time would be cut into by a two year old who really really wanted to watch Charlotte’s Web. I know, I know, excuses, excuses. It’s what we procrastinators do best. I really had it down to the wire when I arrived at the wedding site with my little notepad at the ready for my speech. If I wrote it an hour before the ceremony, the feelings in the words would be more genuine—more fresh, if you will.

Well, we went through some pre-wedding stuff, I walked through flower girl duties with my daughter, and the next thing you know, I was on deck to walk down the aisle. Time had run out and I had no speech to give.

I know, excuses, excuses.

Needless to say I was thankful when the wedding reception flowed without any calls for me to step up and present my speech. Was it that I had nothing to say? No, not at all. It was that there was so much to say that I couldn’t figure out what to mention and how to tie it all together. I still haven’t figured that out, but my best friend still deserves her speech, so I’ll take a crack at it here.

We used to speculate over the men we’d marry. The guys were always real men, grown, and mature in body, mind and spirit, that is to say, the “soulmates” we envisioned for ourselves were never the grown up versions of the ones we liked in school. There was always hope for better than the “slim pickins” we saw every day. Beyond that, there weren’t any real specifics to these future husbands. They would come along one day, and somehow we would just know.

Well, her big worry was, what if he didn’t come along. There was never a doubt that the soulmate didn’t exist, but what if meeting him was impossibility? In my best friend’s exact words: “What if my soulmate is a rice farmer in China?”

Now there is nothing wrong with being a Chinese rice farmer, the problem was when the guy lived halfway around the world in a country (population:~one billion), then what were the chances you’d meet him?

It wasn’t a stupid question, but I dismissed it just the way I dismissed her worries about Global Warming. “Oh don’t worry,” I said, “that’s not going to happen!”

The truth was, I didn’t know and besides, look how my prediction on global warming turned out. I didn’t know, but I also thought she was pretty, smart, generous, talented and funny enough for someone to notice, and not only that, I was banking on at least one of the guys who noticed to be someone worthy. I didn’t know it would happen, but I had faith.

My best friend often lamented that she wished finding a good guy could be as effortless as our friendship had been. We met in 8th grade—both new kids in a school where the same people had known each other since kindergarten. We were also outcasts—she was an overweight redhead while I was from across the country, and well, not white. Usually these things aren’t major issues, in 8th grade in the school we attended, apparently they were. We spent many lunch times discussing our misery in each other's company.

Things got better in high school. I had a group of friends, but many times it was just us. At first glance, we were opposites. She was white, I was black. She was tall, I was short. She was Penn and I was Teller (okay, I think you get the point). The superficial differences didn't matter because we found a lot of the same things funny. Earl Grant Christmas music would have us howling. A certain word uttered in English class ("discharge") got us sent to the hallway where we could freely roll on the floor in hysterics (yes, we were really on the floor).

As if we didn’t spend enough time talking, we also passed notes to each other between classes, so we could carry on discussions when we were apart. High school in general sucks, but it would have been so much worse without her there.

I left for college two weeks after graduation, so we didn’t even have a proper last summer to hang out. Instead, I was going through the drill at West Point. We still carried on our tradition of notes, this time in the form of letter writing. I used a few of my once a week phone calls to talk to her because I knew she would make me laugh, whereas calling my mom would make me cry. After I told her we were not allowed to keep chocolate or any kind of candy in our rooms, she sent me a large envelope with three milk chocolate Hershey bars—the big ones—one for me, and one for each of my roommates.

We took different routes into adulthood, but we stayed in touch. I visited when I could. She overcame her fear of flying too—not enough to make it in time for my graduation, but later, when my husband and I had our wedding ceremony at West Point. It was an interesting trip because she not only got to see the place I had written about for four years, she also saw the house where I grew up, and we got to hang out in the hotel room the night before the ceremony. When you can hang out with someone and not need TV or any other traditional form of entertainment, you know you have a true friend. We have entertained ourselves by blowing bubbles, feeding aerosol easy-cheese to a cat, stealing pumpkins, and dumping food into an open toilet but I can’t promise that any of these activities would have been fun with anyone else. It was fun because it was us.

I didn’t meet Richard until this past June. Everything I knew about him didn’t send up red flags. I wasn’t even convinced by the text message saga of 2006. His humor is a perfect match for Heather’s. He’s smart, sweet and talented too. He adores her. Best of all, he wasn't a rice farmer in China, so there were no language or geographical barriers to get in the way. I knew he would show up eventually. I don’t know how I knew; I just had faith. (I'm also glad I was right this time!)

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