We have a great park next to our house. I never knew this was a perk until I had a kid. I thought, “oooh, a park. That’s nice. Not a garbage dump. Not a brothel. Not a dog food factory. That’s a good sign.” But I didn’t realize just how much time I would spend there with a baby melting down, digging through the filthy sand to find a tiny plastic cat toy (in vain, I might add), sliding with her past the 8th grade graffiti (Shit, Fuck, Best Summer Ever, T.C. and A. S.), going barefoot when it was 30F degrees outside, dodging dog turds in the grass. When she was four we were there on an oddly warm winter day. There were some other kids too. After they left, my daughter asked me if she “would be brown” someday, like them.
“Brown?” I asked my rather pasty white skinned daughter.
“Yes. I think when I’m married I’ll be brown.”
Some little girls dream of their wedding days their entire lives. They picture a ridiculous day of opulence and sparkles, a kind of dreamy Disney-based vomit. My daughter imagines herself brown. In my mind this is a wonderful stage of her development because she noticed skin color for the first time, and found it so beautiful she wanted it to be a wedding day possibility. I’m going to have to keep her far away from those evil tanning beds.
I never imagined my wedding day.
I never dressed up and pretended to walk down the isle (unless I blocked it out). I never really did that forward-thinking thing, which is a good way to live “in the now” and a great way to be vastly unprepared for shit. When my high school graduation happened, my friends were hugging me and crying, “we’ll never see each other again.” I was confused. “We won’t?” This was a boarding school. Everyone was returning to their countries of origin, or their new college location. No one was staying there.
Two weeks later I began to cry. TWO WEEKS! I had not projected into the future, I had not visualized life after the raging graduation party where I got locked in the port-a-pot. When I graduated from college, much in the same fashion, I suddenly realized I had earned a degree that would not help me land a job. I was a studio art major. I had never imagined myself beyond college.
And so, with my own wedding, I had never pictured it. Well, that’s not entirely true. I had imagined Simon Le Bon surviving his capsized boat incident and, with new clarity about the brevity of life, discovering me on the awaiting shore and falling forever in love, writing me massively sensitive pop songs, having me star in his videos to make his fans envious. Oh, and even if I didn’t love Bruce Springsteen at the time (I was busy after all, rocking out to WHAM?) I really really really believed I would see him in concert and he would pull me up on stage (a la Courtney Cox) in my hot pink stirrup pants and I would know exactly how to dance before millions. Then we’d probably have some sort of rock star wedding. Anyway, even with my own boyfriend of two years, I never actually imagined us getting married.
I knew it was coming, though I didn’t imagine it. Sure, I wanted him to. But there’s a funny difference between knowing it will happen (and repeatedly blasting his efforts at being innovative by guessing every idea that popped into his head) and pining away for it. So, there we were. At our favorite restaurant, Jax Fish House. We ordered the crab cake appetizers.
His lips got big.
Like botched botox big.
His voice raspy like a 60 year old smoker.
He was allergic to crab.
Once the anaphalactic reaction settled down (he’d only had one bite), and he sent back his main entree of crab, and I ran through all the tracheotomies I had seen on television performed with only a straw (said straw was currently in my alcoholic beverage, so it should be sterile, if not sugary) we finished our pre-engagment dinner.
Then he drove me up a mountain.
Flagstaff Mountain (kind of a mini-mountain for Colorado). There was a thunderstorm taking hold. I’ve heard that being outside, say, on the top of a mountain, can be rather dangerous in a lightening storm. We parked. He got out of the car. I stayed in the car. He was waving for me to come out. We were in that early phase of love and life, where living without one another seems impossible and dramatic. We had a pact that if such a terrible thing were to happen, the surviving member of the couple would try heroin for the first time and probably just remain in a perpetual state of drug induced euphoria until their untimely death, alone. Sad. Fifteen years later, I find this rather impractical.
So, he convinced me to come out into the lightening with him. It was that or the heroin death. I went for it.
He crouched down on one knee. In the mud. In probably his only pair of decent pants (which are probably still his only pair of decent pants) and proposed. What did I say? At this age, I would have said, “Let’s get out of the lightening and talk about this a bit.” But being 22, I said “YES!” and we kissed and Walt Disney himself barfed in his mouth a little at the romanticness of it all.
And then came the wedding. Which I must save for another post. For now, suffice it to say, I was not brown. I mean, a little more tanned than I usually am in December, but I wouldn’t say brown. And no, I had no idea what it would look like. My parents may not be perfect, but at least they managed to encouraged other more realistic adventures aside from weddings… such as, the barn I was planning on building to house my elephant on which I would ride to school. I did plan ahead for that. And I saved every dime I came across. I never bought that elephant, or the barn, but I did use the money to put a down payment on my first house.
Not nearly as awesome as an elephant.