every card, every letter

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i’ve kept every card and every letter i’ve ever gotten through the years. i’m a minimalist when it comes to most things, deploring clutter and saying “pack rat” as if it has nothing to do with me. when it has come to letters and cards from family and friends though, they’ve staked out a slice of real estate wherever i’ve lived and have stuck with me through every move. the boxes of letters as time capsules of sorts, i suppose.

i love their tangible quality in much the way i will always love paperback books. you can feel the weight of them in your hands, the glittery or sparkly texture of some, and smile at a dear friend’s round handwriting that you’ve grown to love over the years. i love the handmade cards of one friend especially. when i was about to graduate from stanford law years ago, a handmade card arrived from her in the mail. it was one of the best graduation gifts to open up the envelope and find her card. she had procured a miniature cap and gown, a tiny diploma, and glossy paper with the stanford “S” logo and had assembled all those pieces into a card that made me smile. in it, she had written, “i want to remain life long friends with you and of course, someday, i would like you to be in my wedding! well, when i find the one that is … I love you so much and you are the only person i can laugh like crazy with.” reading those words and seeing her card will always make me smile.

there are also ones from my grandma. i opened one up recently, to read the year “2003” written in her beautiful hangul (korean). she, who also loved to read and write as much as i did, always sent me a handwritten card for at least one occasion every year.

i also love sending cards and letters. in the midst of frenetic work weeks (though happily shortened as of late), weekend goings on, and chores … it’s a happy respite to be able to sit down with a card chosen especially for a dear family member or friend and scrawl a few lines or more.

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bridesmaid-ing through the years

closet space in this city is a precious commodity. and yet, i’ve chosen to hold onto the bridesmaids dresses i’ve donned over the years. along with framed pictures of the festivities, they are reminders of having stood beside some of my favorite people as they exchanged vows.

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the summer of ’03. i had just graduated from stanford undergrad, and was about to embark on yet another journey – stanford law school. and my dear friend theresa was about to become someone’s wife. we were only 22. i was thrilled to be her maid of honor, but also a little wistful — a little sad that she was about to embark on a journey that i had a feeling would remain uncharted territory for me for awhile yet (little did i know it would be a SUPER LONG WHILE for me). it didn’t seem too long ago that we had bonded in high school over our love of the same books (“i can’t believe you’ve also read ‘girl of the limberlost’ – i LOVE that book”). in the days leading up to her wedding, she threw us a bridesmaids’ tea party at a cozy little tea parlor in wheaton — tea served in chubby teapots, a tiered cake stand of scones and cookies, and little trinkets hidden amongst the scones with flowy ribbons attached for each of us. she wanted each of us, her bridesmaids, to pluck a flowy ribbon from the bunch. attached to each flowy ribbon was a mystery trinket and message scrawled in theresa’s handwriting. attached to the ribbon i plucked was a charm in the shape of a sailboat and a note that read: “you’ll be sailing away on great adventures that await you.” it couldn’t have been more right. i couldn’t have fathomed all the changes and adventures that would unfold in the years ahead — the people who would become fixtures in my life, the different landscapes i’d inhabit …

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the year: 2008. i was two years into living in new york city and working as an attorney at a large firm. nyc was still novel to me –the first two winters had been deceptively mild, the bags of trash adorning its streets had yet to grate my nerves, and i was still starry eyed about all the city held and offered. and my dear friend sarah was about to marry sam. and i was thrilled to stand beside her as her maid of honor. she wasn’t one to make choices lightly or impulsively, and i was happy knowing that this choice of hers would be a lasting one.

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the year: 2013. mb, as i had dubbed her at some point early on in law school, was about to drop the “b” in her name and become mrs. R. in mb fashion, she had asked us to choose each of our bridesmaid dresses. not surprisingly, i chose one for myself in a shade very much like the one i’ve chosen for my own bridesmaids to wear in a few months time. as for me, i had, by this time, hurtled through three dramatic years in the courtrooms of brooklyn as a prosecutor, becoming enmeshed in lives i’d otherwise not have encountered. mb looked radiant as she walked down the aisle in her mom’s wedding gown. as for bee, she’ll always be “mb” to me.

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the year: 2014. my dear college friend sheenie, surrounded by sparkles, antique china, accents of her navajo culture, and rosewater PINK, is a stunning bride. having known since college that we’d be in each other’s weddings, it was all the more memorable to stand beside her as she became mrs. cooper. here’s more on this wedding.

bridesmaids are unique to american culture (they don’t have them in korea) and though some may have horror stories when it comes to bridesmaid-ing, i have loved standing beside my dearest friends on their biggest of days.

bridesmaid-ing (in queensland rosewater)

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one of my favorite people in the world got married this past weekend. every detail down to the senorita teapot and the pink sequined tablecloth for the ginormous (and fabulous) five (or six?) layer cake screamed sheenie. the cake was my height.

i love how weddings resemble their brides (the grooms too, but mostly the brides). the flower girl, little kiki (pictured above), looked like she’d jumped out of a storybook, full of spunk and charm. her antics during the group photos (hair pulling, face contorting, and peals of laughter) were textbook adorable.

i’ve always loved sheenie’s open sentimentality – uninhibited, free-spirited, and thoughtful. it made me smile to see that reflected in little details throughout – from mentions of her childhood in her speech to the choice of the father-daughter dance song.

this was the fourth bridesmaid dress i’d donned. it was queensland rosewater (that’s the color), long, and flowy. it’s almost expected that people complain about bridesmaids dresses, but i’ve loved all the ones i’ve worn. there was the long, satiny powder blue one for theresa’s, the pale pink, knee-length one for sarah’s, and the flouncy blue one for bee’s (well, that one was of my choosing, but still). i’ve loved them because they reminded me of the respective brides. if you put them all in a closet and asked me to guess which brides had chosen them, i’d bet that i’d get em right (assuming this is all happening before i wore them).

that feeling

“sus, for someone who isn’t religious, you sure have a lot of religious friends.” so said my friend tashina.

she was right. there’s something about having faith and trusting that has always spoken to me. religious rituals and rites alienated me into the land of foreigner without a visa in religious terrain (usually decorated with pretty stained glass), but this idea of just simply having faith and believing without any evidence or reason resonates loudly and clearly. that’s not to say that i’ll be hightailing it to a church anytime soon. simply that there’s something so incredibly beautiful and moving about faith and trust.

mundane participation as the true meaning of friendship

One of my best friends was about to become a mother, and I wouldn’t be there. Oh, we still had e-mails, phone calls, visits, but I would miss the small events—like visiting her in the hospital or leaving a tray of lasagna in her fridge—the mundane participation that is the true meaning of friendship. She was over there and I was here, and the circles of our daily lives overlapped less and less, until they barely touched at all.

I knew it wasn’t her fault, or mine, just the natural consequence of distance. And yet recently the distance had started to loom unforgiving and unmanageable, shadowing almost all my relationships. I felt it when I saw photos of friends’ new boyfriends-turned-husbands, with my baby nieces who were suddenly young girls weaving me pot holders, with my parents who grew a little grayer every time I visited. The people I loved most in the world were living the most important moments of their lives without me, and I was living mine without them. It took me a while to recognize the emotion, unfamiliar as it was, but when I did, it scratched at me with thorny immediacy: I was homesick.

– Ann Mah, Mastering the Art of French Eating

i recently read this bit and several of my friends immediately came to mind. and of course family. i didn’t even have to think. they were this passage. it makes me sad to think that some of my closest friends inhabit or will inhabit certain places and times in my past and are absent from my now.

bd and i won’t be able to just stroll across campus and knock on each other’s studios, i won’t get to see theresa’s ellie and olivia or sarah’s elliot grow up. and most sadly, i can’t (at least for now), hop on a train or in a car to see my mom or dad. the beauty of these friendships and of family though, is that when the circles do overlap, however rarely or briefly, it’s the most effortless feeling. you feel like you’re home, wherever that is.

glory hallelujah

… i am moving to a walk-up on a beautiful tree-lined street in ___ [insert preferred neighborhood that i’ve been talking about for months]. and i’ve avoided the stroke inducing broker’s fee.

bee: what floor is it on?

me: want to guess? it’s on the fifth floor. of a six story walk-up. no elevator.

bee: omg, you’re never going to leave your apartment, are you?

[note to reader: my friend bee has a history of making fun of me for being “lazy” – that started when she saw me walking my bike 1L year down escondido road. i put “lazy” in quotes because really, i am not lazy – she is just the busiest bee]

me: of course not – cuz that would mean i have to climb five flights of stairs to get back into my apt.

[we both throw our heads back and laugh] 

bee: but seriously, congratulations – that’s awesome.

me: what, you mean the five flights of stairs?

bee: no, you’re moving to the _____ [insert cute neighborhood].

me: yeah, and the place is adorable. i’ll blog from the fifth floor.

bee: i read your blog you know. it’s funny.

[throw our heads back again and laugh]

let’s see how many visitors i get to this fifth floor walk up.