It’s early but I’m a wake…Beside me, not my husband to be, but my best friend, my sister really. Your in a peaceful slumber and I’m counting down the minutes until I can wake you. It feels like the many Christmas’ of old when Pen and I would be up super early, having already had a sneaky look at the presents under the tree.
Sounds just like a normal family ? Just one thing, by blood I’m not your sister. In fact, 21 years ago, I was actually just a school friend, who on the first time visiting your home spilled calligraphy ink all over myself and your bedroom carpet! My inherent nosiness means, still to this day, I like to root around your home and your things as though they are my own. Pulling things out,making a mess! But over the 21 years we have known each other we have become accepting of each other’s flaws, idiosyncrasies and strengths. Just like sisters.
Aged 13, my chaotic family life came hurtling towards your safe, loving family when my mum fell back into alcoholism that had haunted her throughout her life. You, Pen and your mum and dad took me in. Going far beyond the remit of school friends. For almost two years you willingly shared your home and family with me. Allowed me, for the first time, to be on the inside of family life I had only seen glimmers of. That I had longed for.
Teenage years saw us find new friends. You in the popular group at school, me in the middle with the “drama crew”. But still I had a key to your home and we continued to shared all the big things- first kisses, first loves. And we still nicked alcopops from your mum and dad’s garage as a team: me at the top of the drive on look out, you fitting as many bottles in your coat and bag as you could.
It was university and being away from home that renewed our friendship again. You had taken a gap year, so when I got my first graduate job up north, you were still at uni and once again, you shared with me. This time your friends, who are now my closest group of buddies! That year we drank too much and kissed too many boys. But you helped me sort my life out and it was that year I met Eliot.
It was at this time you started to seem lost. Normally it was me who needed saving, but this time it was you and that frightened me. When you decided to go to Australia travelling I was so mad. How could my best friend, my family, abandon me. I was so angry and scared, I didn’t go to your leaving party. I regret that deeply – it was a poor choice and I wasn’t being a good friend. I’ve matured now and my strength reserves are fuller, and I realise that you needed to escape to heal. You weren’t abandoning me, because family is always with you, even if they are thousands of miles away.
My engagement has really been the thing that has finally allowed me to feel worthy of being able to share your family. You were the first person I called after Eliot popped the question. You cried, I cried and I didn’t even get a chance to ask if you would be my bridesmaid and walk me down the aisle. You, like a sister would, told me that’s what would happen.
Your mum, Pen and you helped me pick the dress. Whenever they asked in shops if we were sisters, you said yes without hesitation. You all made the process of finding a very special dress full of love and family, and I went home that evening feeling truly blessed.
And now today is my wedding day. We are getting ready together this morning, just as I imagined it. I’m sure when you wake there will be some tears, and a bit of reality to smack us in the face that we are not 15 anymore, but I cannot wait to share this exceptionally happy day with you. It’s your family that has given me the blueprint of what a family is, and if Eliot and I can create the type of family life your mum and dad created for us, our children will be the luckiest on earth.
So before all the toasts to the bride later, I wanted to raise a toast to my beautiful bridesmaid, my sister. Thank you for making me realise family isn’t always blood related. Family are those who keep you going during the darkest of times and those who celebrate with you endlessly during the best of times!
The author of this feature is Madeline, who is marrying her beau Elliot today. You can connect with Maddie on Instagram @maddiechilds. Maddie has kindly contributed to our ‘From The Heart’ series, a collection of posts written by members of our reader community, on all matters of life and love. If you would like to contribute a From The Heart piece of your own, we would dearly love to hear from you. It doesn’t matter what it’s about and it doesn’t have to be related to weddings at all – we’re looking for honest, authentic, personal, sad, happy, family, relationship, marriage, health, light-hearted, serious, baby, trying for baby, children, career, simple, complicated – real life issues. We just need you to write from your heart. Keep it upbeat and witty, or share your thoughts anonymously on a more challenging or emotional subject. Please drop me a line at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you, Annabel x