The Grown-Up Wedding

     It was about this time of year in 1998, give or take a few weeks…I was 12 at the time, and think I had just kissed a boy for the first time a matter of days before. It was the kind of kiss friends shame you into then watch with intrigue until their turn rolls around.  Strange how thinking about it still reddens my cheeks, but makes me laugh at the same time…

     It was about this time when my second cousin got married in Atlanta.  We drove the 3 1/2 hours to get there, which felt like the road trip of a lifetime to a bored pre-teen. I was excited to see my older cousin, whom I thought was so smart and beautiful, as well as my favorite great-aunt who was always the chic one.  However, I wasn’t so excited to be holed up in a hotel room with my Mom at the time.  I was feeling like such a kid, and I was itching all the time.  I didn’t know for what, but I remember this trip in particular, I wanted to be older.  I wanted it to be exciting.  I didn’t want the usual pleasantries that used to make me smile…my, how’ve you’ve grown…you’re a big girl now…look at those adorable cheeks.  Those were compliments for children, and I could stomach no more of them.

     The wedding was in a gorgeous old house in one of the fabulous districts near downtown Atlanta.  There were servers offering up hors d’oeuvres and champagne in the half enclosed room that smelled like a peach candle I’d once sniffed in the lobby of a hotel at the beach. It was dusk thirty, and the winds ushered in the southern spring air that was perfumed just enough.  Everyone wore fancy dresses, and the band played something I later heard while watching Casablanca. I was at an adult wedding, and that I liked.  I also like the dress I was wearing, which almost gave me an A-cup.

     My mother let me have a sip of her champagne and I wasn’t sure if I thought she was the best mom in the world or she was now going straight to hell for what she’d done.  But hey…I got champagne, and was starting to feel like one of the real people.  I started floating around the room, eyeing the crowd, looking for someone to charm with my sudden dose of confidence…and then found him at one of the food tables.

     The boy from Vancouver was a relative of the groom, and an usher in the wedding.  I’d noticed he was handsome during the ceremony, and had also noticed he was way too old for me.   I’m sure I lingered at the food table to get a better look at him, not dreaming he’d speak.  He turned around and peeked over his shoulder at me.

     “You, know, you look like Britney Spears,”  he flashed a white smile.

     “You know, I’ve heard that,” I tried to be cool, surprised I had even spoken back.

     We went on to talk for several minutes, and I was acutely aware it was because he was talking to me…I hadn’t just followed him around like a lost puppy.  He was an older boy talking to me…probably the first time I’d been noticed in this way. He wasn’t being creepy, and certainly kept his distance…after all, he was 16.  We both knew it.  I got the feeling though that he wished I’d been just a little older, which then, was all I needed to feel special.

     My mother and Aunts chuckled at my obvious crush I tried to hide when back at our table. They’d been watching me yacking away from afar, amused at this side they’d never seen.  They were careful to needle me about it only just enough.

     I spoke to Vancouver a couple more times…then in an instant I was back with my mother; it was time to leave, and it scared me.  I felt connected to this other human in some way, but I was a 12 year old headed back to North Carolina.  He was a 16 year old headed back to Canada.  My mother told me to go say bye, but I decided not to and followed her outside.  I heard a whistle from behind me.

     “See ya later, Britney,”  he called out.

     I smiled and threw my hand up as casually as I could make it look, and walked away like it was nothing.  Although I had a strange gut-wrenching feeling that first showed-up that night too.

      Back at the hotel my cousins and I went night swimming, and I’ll never forget how big the moon was shining down on the pool.  It was a sticky, steamy night, and I felt like the air I was living in.  Somehow the look of that moon, though…it gave me hope…maybe I’d see that boy again.  Maybe I’d find others like him.  But then, and just then, I realized I was growing up, and it had never been so exciting.  I could hear my cousin yell out, “Marco,” but for me, there’d be no “Polo.”

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     And I never saw him again.  He was a flicker of a moment at a grown-up wedding that with but a few sentences let me know it was time to come of age a little bit.  To that, at now 28 and happily married, I still smile.

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The Camelback Scar

It was hot…very hot.  Maybe if Spring had arrived on time in North Carolina instead of playing hooky until mid-April, I would have been more prepared for the Arizona heat.  However, late-March was still being pretty cruel to the southern states.  A sixty-degree day was looking pretty sexy.

The day we decided to climb Camelback Mountain, the giant pile of rocks that pops out of nowhere upon entering Scottsdale, the sun rose laughing at us.  It knew our destinies, even if we didn’t.  I assumed it would be fine…after all, I’m from the land of humidity.  I’d take the dry heat and leave it crying like a little girl when I was through.  I’d been going to the Pure Barre Studio for two months now, and was feeling pretty cocky about my lower body strength too.  I threw on some yoga pants, a hat, and a smile.  I was going to go walk the little trail, with my little smart water in hand and have a dandy day.  I was already thinking ahead to what kind of beer I’d grab afterwards.  A good day loomed.

My husband and I had ventured out west to visit a friend and her husband while he was in Spring Training.  My friend, Susan, my husband, Kimsey, and I decided to hike one day instead of go to the game.  We started trotting up the ankle of Camelback, swinging our iPhones, chatting about where we’d be eating dinner later, already salivating over the famed butter cake. 

It got a little steeper, and we panted a little bit, as expected.  The conversation started trailing, and we were feeling a little proud we were now conquering the tourist attraction, breaking our tiny sweats.  We got to the first overlook, patted ourselves on the back, and took our first rounds of pictures.  Honestly, I thought our mini journey was almost over.  Then I look over and see Susan, perusing a sign with her eyes widening underneath her aviators.

“What?”  I mosey over.

“Holy shit,” she scoffs pointing to our only warning.

I then reviewed the sign informing me that about 75 people per year get rescued off the mountain, that it only gets harder from here, and that I should be carrying with me about ten safety items I did not have.  I glanced down at my sports bra that supported my phone more than anything and looked over at my husband who held the bottle of water the three of us were sharing.  I then took inventory of the little chart that showed how steep things would get.  It looked like a line graph of Mark Cuban’s income stream.

“Umm-Can we do this?” I asked wondering if we were insane.

Somehow we decide we can, and while putting the rising temperature out of our heads, begin the real journey. The first truly scary stretch we came to went practically straight up and touted a slick metal hand rail for us to hoist ourselves with.  I didn’t know if I could or would do this.  I was no experienced hiker.  Frankly, I was afraid.  Somehow, at the same time, I was more afraid of turning around and starting back down that mountain like so many others were.  So, I just started doing it. My hands were sweaty and at one point I thought I would fall backward and boosted myself off another man’s shoe while my husband pulled me up by the arm.  After that, I got a newfound strength.  I just wasn’t going to be afraid.

I climbed several more segments of uphill formations, surveying which rocks to grab, and deciding whether to go upright or on hands and knees. I drifted from right to left, deciding which side would accept me.  I coughed sand out of my lungs and embraced the sharp stones that attempted to leave their marks on my shins.  I no longer thought of the summit, or why I’d come in the first place.  I just thought of the moment, where I was, where to put my foot, and the strange pleasure it gave me the harder it was.  I was disappointed and exhilarated at once each time the trek worsened.   I wanted it to be hard.  I wanted to get marred.  I wanted to sweat.  I wanted to raise hell right back at the sun, and I wanted it to hurt.  I was climbing of the hump of the camel’s unforgiving back now.

This attitude wasn’t like me.  I’m not the girl who camps in the wilderness, or jumps into dark water.  I don’t climb rocks or go on solo kayaking trips.  I don’t do these things.  However, now that I was, I hoped it was tough.  I wanted to wrestle it to the ground, and know it was something real, and that not everyone could do it.

After nearly two hours of the grueling voyage I’d made it to the top.  I bent over, put my hands on the knees, just panting.  When I could breathe again, I remembered I had a prize waiting, and stood up to enjoy the view that would be my reward.  It was an amazing view.  It was a view of hustle an bustle, people hugging, taking pictures.  People chugging out of their canteens. People scurrying.  People who were alive.

The scenery was to die for.  I could see for forever…rock formations, clouds, never-ending skies, but that didn’t do it for me.  I saw people reaching goals, accomplishing something. I saw people proving they could do something tough, and extraordinary. I saw people refusing to quit.  I saw Susan jumping up and down, and my husband conquering his fear of heights.  I saw success.

I’m not a great outdoorsman.  I probably won’t set my sights on Everest.  What I am though, is a go-getter.  I’m a writer who had another experience that made her remember she CAN.  I’m not staring at the summit of the writing world, but I’m not at the bottom either.  I’m somewhere in the middle, in the momentum, in the rocks of Camelback guessing which rocks are the sturdy ones, and I’m going to keep on.  It leads somewhere…I know.  I’ve been to a different form of that place…same kind of battle.  The very same, and I slayed that camel. 

I have a little wound left on my right ankle where a rock scraped me.  It’s a scar less than an inch long.  People laugh when I show them my Camelback injury.  I love it though, because it’s a part of Camelback I carry around.  It’s my souvenir…that it was hard, it hurt a little, and that it was worth it. I realized I want to be a collector of scars, more than anything.  And being a writer, that’s a good thing to be ok with…I guess that goes for really wanting anything.  I hope everyone goes and gets themselves a Camelback kind of scar.

     

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Uphill battle!

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Wow

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Me in the mountainside:)

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We made it!