by: Kiran Saini
I have two older sisters. One, Pardeep, is six years older than me, the other, Sandeep, who we affectionately call Didi, is eleven years older.
I’ve also got a massive extended family, mostly scattered throughout Canada. My uncle and his family live in Toronto. His daughters are also a set of three, Harpreet, Sabbu and Kiki, and the six of us quickly became a Unit.
At the beginning of each summer, our parents would make the four-hour car ride over to Toronto and their parents would drive the whole crew back to Michigan in August. These Toronto trips became the things we’d look forward to the most all year; if we were able to see each other for quick weekend trips outside of the summer season, it was an exciting outlier, a sneak peek to the adventures we’d have over the summer.
Kiki, who’s just eight months older than me, became the first best friend I ever had. The six of us essentially grew up together, with our ways of communication changing as technology evolved. We’d first become email buddies, then would speak to each other on MSN Messenger and post all over each other’s Facebook walls. For a hot sec in 2011, we all had Blackberries and BBM (remember that?) became our primary method of communication. Then, finally, the iPhone group chat was born in 2012 and it’s been that way ever since. Not a day goes by where we don’t all talk to each other, sharing the most mundane details of our everyday lives.
As we grew older, members of our little group began getting married off. Didi got married in 2013, and we were all her bridesmaids, becoming an active part of wedding prep and sharing the excitement of the first wedding in the group. Harpreet got married in 2015 and again, it was no question who her bridesmaids would be – we sat with her as she got married, the same way we did for Didi, and partied hard at the reception together.
Last August, Sabbu got engaged. We immediately went into planning mode, giving input on our bridesmaids outfits and planning her bachelorette party. We spent New Year’s Eve together, as we have done every year in our newfound adulthood, toasting to 2020, congratulating each other on “the wedding year.”
Obviously, that didn’t happen.
When the pandemic hit, Sabbu had to make some tough decisions. One of the toughest ones was the possibility of her getting married without Didi, Pardeep and I.
Sabbu’s situation wasn’t unique - a lot of COVID-19 brides had to make tough decisions this year. As the U.S.-Canada border closure kept extending, we all had to face the fact that us Michigan girls wouldn’t be able to be a part of this wedding at the end of August.
And yet, we tried to keep a happy face. No use in being sad over things we can’t control, right? Over the months, Sabbu sent us pictures of her outfit, pictures of our outfits as they were being made. We sent our measurements for bridesmaids outfits in sheer optimism; we shipped over a wedding gift to Sabbu, coming to terms with the fact that we just wouldn’t be able to give it in person.
Sabbu even shipped our bridesmaids outfits and jewelry ahead of the wedding, so we could wear them the day of and at least feel like we were a part of it, despite not actually being in Toronto for it.
The morning of the wedding, Didi, Pardeep and I went over to my mom’s house; I hooked up my computer to the TV where we would be able to watch a livestream of the wedding.
We got dressed up in our outfits and put on our jewelry. We then watched Sabbu get married, crying into tissues the whole time.
It gutted me that I wasn’t able to see one of my best friends, one of my sisters, get married. That we all weren’t able to take part in the pre-wedding rituals together, that we weren’t up at 3 a.m. the day of, on little-to-no sleep, getting our hair and makeup done together.
The last time I saw these girls was January 2020. All of the FaceTimes, Zoom calls and thousands of texts exchanged since then have had a twinge of sadness and uncertainty.
And yet, we remain optimistic. We know a time will come where the six of us will be together again. We’ll be able to do our movie nights, play board games, playfully roast each other and just get to be who we are around each other. We know we’re going to be able to celebrate Sabbu the way we should, surrounding her with love that’s unique to the six of us. We’ll make up for six missed birthdays and the holidays we won’t be able to spend together this year.
We know we’re going to get through this. And we are patiently waiting.
Kiran Saini is a journalist working for WXYZ-TV in Detroit. When she’s not losing her mind about the news cycle, she’s probably baking a cake, reading a book or making obscure pop culture references. She personally witnessed Demi Adejuyigbe do one (1) backflip.