Dear Marly

My lifelong best friend is getting married this fall, and he invited me to write a letter to his future wife on the occasion of their engagement. This is what I wrote for her. 

Dear Marly,

First things first: I am over-the-moon overjoyed for you!! I cannot imagine a more perfect person for my best friend, and I am THRILLED to welcome you to our crazy family!

I tried making you a video (or, I suppose more accurately, I did make you a video) because that is JP’s style. Always has been. When we were seven we would borrow our parents’ camcorders and make adventure movies starring our beanie babies. Appropriately, the credits always said: “Assistant Director: Allison Kooser. Director, Producer, Writer, Cameraman, and the voice of all of the characters: JP Erickson.” Ellie and Shannon were lucky if they got a line.

It’s been this way forever – his love of performing, of sharing stories that are at the same time hilarious and heartwarming.

But while JP’s style is movies (for further evidence, please witness our 20-episode series documenting our road trip throughout the American west. I particularly recommend the episode in Yellowstone where we fight over how close is too close to get to a bison.), my style has always been writing.

And so despite my movie attempts, I knew that I also had to write a letter.

Because, you see, you are marrying my best friend, my pseudo-brother, my twin.

And I couldn’t be more excited about it.

I don’t have great relationship advice – and I certainly don’t know the secrets to a successful marriage. But I do know one very important thing: JP.

I know his character and his heart and his story. And because I know him, I know that you are getting the very best. So that’s what I have to share – my memories of him, that show me the kind of kid he was and the kind of man he has become.

I suppose the story I need to tell is really one of a whole life – starting on that fateful September 19, 1988 at West Suburban hospital when JP entered the world casually, simply and then, six hours later, I appeared on the scene in a dramatic, near-death fashion. I like to imagine us bonding in the little hospital nursery, but who knows, really. All I know is that our moms had both quit the corporate world and now had brand new babies on their hands, and so they spent lots and lots of time together. JP and I quickly fell in sync the way twins might – if I was having a bad day, my mom knew that she could call Jane and JP would be having a bad day, too. Even from the beginning, he was the brother I always needed, even if we didn’t share the same DNA.

Fast forward a few years, and we’re kids. This was the era of dress up (yes, I have photos and videos), dance parties (again, yes, I have videos), and endless performances. I was so bossy with just about everyone…except JP. He was in charge. He was a leader, even at age 5. You knew that you could count on him to take care of things, and you knew that he would make anything fun.

I’m so glad that hasn’t changed.

I know that even now, your life will be one of adventure and laughter and fun – because that’s how it’s always been with JP.

We slid stuffed animals down a stick from the top bunk and then shot them at the ceiling. We spent long days at Tri Star learning gymnastics (he was good because he was fearless. I, on the other hand, quit at age 12). Once, we thought it would be really fun and funny to mix every spice in the cabinet with water in the blender and call it “soup”. We then delivered said soup next door to Millie, who proceeded to eat it in front of us. We thought we were SO tricky – but now I realize that sweet Millie was actually just a great sport.

When we were older, we played countless hours of the Sims and Neverhood and Amazon Trail and Zoombinis on the computer. We attempted tricks on the trampoline (you can trust JP for just about anything, but when he says he knows how to spot you doing a backflip, DO NOT BELIEVE HIM!!) and played roles opposite one another in the school plays. He microwaved a video camera. I became a nerd. They put us on the cover of the newspaper. We grew up in lockstep – cheering and celebrating as we accomplished things, and standing by when we failed.

As you know, he does both so well. He’ll cheer and celebrate better than anyone, but he’ll also be there when things go wrong.

In high school, JP got cool and I got anxiety.

This is really when I began to realize just how valuable JP was in my life. In the years when I felt so alone and so trapped, he was always there. Sure he was stretching his wings and growing into his independence (as any 15-year-old does), but he was also steadfast and present when I needed him most. He was my person.

I remember being at camp as a sophomore in high school, when my social life was falling apart around me. I had counselors and leaders, but even they knew that the person I needed was JP. And so they let me break curfew to pour out my heart to my brother – the person who was my sounding board and keeping me afloat. I am forever grateful to him for that, and I’m not even sure he remembers.

He’ll be that for you in a million more ways than I could even imagine. Your person. Your sounding board. Your best friend.

I’m sure he already is.

High school also meant memorizing the lyrics to Rent and spending winters on joint family vacations and navigating the world that is church youth group. It meant me doing his Spanish homework, taking diving lessons at the pool (he was good, I wasn’t), and spending long weekends in Michigan. It meant taking full advantage of having a male best friend (learning things that I truly never wanted or needed to know) and meeting his cute buddies (oh heyyyy).

When I struggled with boys, JP took me to my senior Homecoming and Prom – not out of pity (I don’t think), but out of genuine kindness. He taught me what it meant for a guy to treat me well and make the big gesture, even if our relationship was only ever platonic. He was the first boy to throw pebbles at my window, to bring me flowers, to hold my hand (ok, that last one happened when we were toddlers, but you get the idea!).

I can only imagine the grand romantic gestures you – as his love in life – have already experienced and will continue to experience for a lifetime. (If this weekend is any indication, the boy goes BIG for his woman!)

The first time JP came to visit me in college, I ended up with a supremely annoying nocturnal hamster I didn’t want (and that was definitely not dorm room approved). The first time I visited him at college, we ended up on lockdown because of a rogue gunman.

Life is never boring with JP.

We convinced our parents to let us drive across the country when we were 19. Three weeks, 8,000 miles, and one new minivan engine later, we had learned that we can spend every waking hour together without murdering one another and we had a newfound love of adventure.

If I do have any life advice to offer, it is this: live life as a grand adventure. The best decision I ever made was to start saying yes to the opportunities that presented themselves to me, even when they seemed scary or crazy. Leaning into God’s plan will ensure not only a fruitful life, but a wild, surprising, fun one, too. I can think of nothing better.

As adults, we have each found our passions. When JP moved to LA, it felt so right. I had zero doubt he was going to succeed – because despite his seemingly-carefree spirit, he is actually remarkably driven and focused when he’s doing something he loves (maybe even to a fault). I can remember years of reminding him to eat, to drink something other than Mountain Dew. He would forget basic keep-yourself-alive behaviors because he cared so much about his projects. When it matters to him, he gets it done – and he gets it done well.

I kept studying, started working, and eventually found my way to nearly-full-time travel.

It brings me such joy to see us both pursuing and achieving our dreams. And even though that means we don’t see each other nearly as often as we once did, it shows that we are living into our callings. Into the lives that God uniquely created us to live.

And I am so wildly thankful that that life for JP includes you.

Just after you started dating, he came to visit me at my office in Chicago. My coworkers asked him to share a gross story about me, and he told them about the time I threw up on him (which, by the way, was completely his fault). We chatted about all kinds of things, and I bemoaned the complicated not-quite-relationship I was navigating at the time.

Knowing that I was frustrated by dating at that moment, he held his secret close to his chest. He didn’t want to belittle my pain with his joy. Because as soon as he mentioned you, his face lit up. He couldn’t contain it. And I knew, even then, that this was something special.

Months later, when I met you for the first time in the middle of the night, climbing into a trundle bed in a room with 6 people you didn’t know in a random house in Virginia, I saw how beautiful you were and how beaming your smile was, even after hours of travel. But, let’s be honest, it was the middle of the night. How much of an impression can someone make?

The next day, though, I saw you with JP. I saw your love for him, and I saw how you shared the same passions and interests. And as I watched you play Pokemon together, and saw you dive into the love couch with all these strangers, and heard you totally hold your own among our crazy crew, I knew for sure.

You guys were so good together.

You guys are so good together.

As you can imagine, it’s an unusual thing to have known your best friend since the day you were born. He’s shared so many of my formational moments – more than any other person. He holds a prominent place in my heart, and so I’m protective of him. And when it comes to his life and his future, I want nothing but the best.

I’m so grateful that you are that.

And so it is with so much celebration and joy that I extend my biggest welcome into our crazy friend-family. We are not normal (at all), but we have a lot of love and a lot of fun, and we’ve survived so much together.

My best friend is now your forever partner. In adventure. In hardship. In celebration. In everything life throws at you or brings your way.

I can’t wait to witness the lifetime of memories you create together, and I am so excited to call you my pseudo-sister.

All my love and celebration,

Allison

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4 thoughts on “Dear Marly

  1. Glen Hume says:

    Such love and beauty reflected in this, Allison. JP and Marly are truly blessed to count you as both family and friend. Thanks for sharing!

    P.S. When and where is their wedding? I look forward to photos!

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

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