This is the toast I gave to Jeff and Jill at their wedding in Bloomington, Indiana this weekend. Jeff asked me to share it here.
Hi, my name is Kathryn. I’ve known Jeff since the first day of business school, and he was the second person to hold each of my children after they arrived — so hopefully that establishes my credentials for standing before you all now. I’m going to read this toast from my notes because I tend to say random, awkward things if I improvise. I want to be careful with my words tonight because it means so much to me to be speaking now.
We were laughing at the airport yesterday about some of the fairly horrifically embarrassing photographs we’ve taken of Jeff over the years and what a slideshow we could put together to enlighten you all with tonight. Fortunately, we left all of those photos for another time; tonight I want only to shower Jeff and his beautiful Jill with our love and blessing and well wishes for their future together.
As I said, I met Jeff in business school. I can’t actually remember not knowing Jeff. I don’t know how people manage not having Jeff in their lives.
I would like to share with you all one of my fondest memories of Jeff — and Jeff, don’t worry, this has nothing to do with you crawling through a window with a gaping hole in your underwear — as I was saying, one of my fondest memories of Jeff that — for me — sums up who he is as a person. We had all gone hiking — Brian, Michelle, and their first child Aidan, Uncle Jeff, Martin, myself, and our oldest child Gavin, who was about six months old at the time. It was a beautiful summer day, and we were hiking in the North Cascades up to an alpine lake. It was hot, and Martin, Uncle Jeff, and I took turns carrying baby Gavin. We got to a rocky outcropping with a view across alpine meadows to snow-covered mountaintops, the sky blue and sparkling above us. Jeff was carrying Gavin, who had fallen asleep in his arms, his little head cradled against Jeff’s shoulder. Jeff was drenched in sweat from the hard climb and the heavy, hot sleeping baby. He had a pained look on his face as he climbed the last switchback and into my view. When I took Gavin from Uncle Jeff’s arms, we realized that it was not sweat radiating in a giant circle on Jeff’s Tshirt, but baby pee. We laughed and laughed. It’s like a moving snapshot in my mind’s eye — of this wonderful friend on this wonderful day caring for the people around him. It’s a metaphor for who Jeff is — this lovely man who cares for the babies and friends and family and animals in his life.
Over the last dozen years, we have had a birds’ eye view of Jeff’s search for Jill. He would regale us with hilarious and painful stories from the dating trenches and occasionally bring home promising prospects. And then the name Jill started popping up and we started meeting her — and then he stopped telling us stories about his love life and I knew that one day pretty soon we would all be here together.
The first thing I liked about Jill was that she laughed at Jeff’s jokes. Jeff has a fairly unique sense of humor, as you know, and I loved that she loved how funny he is.
The 800th thing I like about Jill is that — four years of dating Jeff later — she is still laughing at Jeff’s jokes.
About the thousandth thing that I like about Jill is how well-spoken she is. She made a passing comment at brunch one day that changed my life. My daughter — who was probably 5 at the time — was running around wearing a foam crown. There was some discussion about the crown and Jill wondered, almost to herself, what the provenance of the crown was. I was dumbstruck. I had been intellectually lazy since my first pregnancy and had let beautiful words like provenance drift from my active vocabulary. As a result of Jill’s beautiful word choice, I joined a book club, started reading literature again — and stopped reading crappy science fiction — and am now quite the autodidact as I continue to develop my fecund vocabulary.
So thank you, Jill, for that small gift and for your gracious, lovely presence in our circle of friends.
I hope you both feel utterly loved tonight. This has been a magical day. I would like to toast your marriage and the magic of the circle of love around you.