In the middle of April in 1987, my mom and 14-year-old sister came to pick me up at Carolina en route to a beach house they’d rented in South Carolina for Easter weekend. My 16-year-old brother Sean had already been on campus for a few days, doing some underage drinking and hooking up with a chick in Cobb Dorm, which I thought was pretty impressive.
Mom and Michelle walked the four flights of stairs up to 407 Grimes, where they saw my roommates Chip and Jon, all of us in a room that defined being nineteen years old in 1987: Cure posters, Springfest t-shirts on the floor, blue cups, sugar cereals and a map of America where someone in the dorm had drawn an arrow above Maryland saying “girls above this line fuck”.
later that day in a field near Dillon, SC: Michelle, their friend Jessica, and Sean
It was there my sister first saw Jon Vaden, and I doubt either thought much of it; Michelle was middle-angst, post-parents-divorce with half her head shaved, and Jon had RTVMP homework (usually defined by Chip as “having to watch ‘Three’s Company'”). It was a brief encounter, but whatever seedling was planted took twenty-one years to germinate, and I should know – a few months later and a few blocks away, I met my own wife, and it took us thirteen years to get our act together.
Jon feels an incredible amount of pressure, most of it self-inspired, to behave honorably, and in many cases it came at the expense of his own happiness. He has always stuck with situations long past his sense of self-preservation, because he knew it to be the right thing to do. We used to give him nicknames like “Needles” and “Will You Stop Touching Me” because we thought he was emotionally halted – the truth was, he was feeling things far too much.
My sister, for her part, wandered the Land of Dudes, where she temporarily sacrificed the absurd, intense delightfulness of her pre-teen psyche to the numbing mediocrity of guys who had no business keeping up with her. Finally, she packed it in, moved to Napa Valley and resurrected its Arts Council before being whisked away to Santa Cruz to oversee a million-dollar budget in one of the best metropolitan arts communities in the country.
They have always seen each other at various farm get-togethers and Jartaculars, as my close friends and family have wonderfully blurry lines, but they began their courtship over a feature not directly intended for marriage: the “chat” function on Facebook’s old Scrabble™ application. You know, the one that was good.
on Saturday, with Sean officiating
If there were ever two needs met, two souls actualized by one event, Jon and Michelle getting together defines not just love, but the efficiency of love. In one act, my sister finally finds the man she has been looking for, no longer having to slow herself down so that the stragglers can keep up… and one of my best, oldest friends in the world can finally be content, be sated, be blissful, and relax.
Not that he will relax, nor she, because Michelle and Jon are inherent doers of stuff, accomplishers of things, and wranglers of interest. But tomorrow, we’ll drive them to the San Jose airport, where they will board a plane for Hawaii, and for a few days, may the gentle swells of a warm ocean tell them both their wait is over.
(photos by the amazing Lars Lucier)