Throwing Away The Map

We all start somewhere. I’ve been talking with friends a lot, and noticing it on blogs as well, about realizing where we are now, where we’ve been, and many of the children in our lives hitting milestones as well.  Moms wondering where there little girls are going, friends wondering how they got to where they are now and thinking about their futures.  Those moments in time that affected us, sometimes more deeply than we could have imagined.  I can look at these photos over the years and remember exactly what I was doing and how I was feeling.

January 24, 1981.  My 7th birthday.  We were living in Virginia for and Uno was my favorite restaurant as a kid. My front teeth were coming in and one came in nearly sideways (got braces the next year).  Something had made me cry right before this picture was taken, hence the lackluster smile.  I hated this outfit my mom picked out.  But this was an amazing experience, living on the East Coast during the first grade.  In our little house we rented that had an actual upstairs!  Where kids roller skated every day after school (I didn’t learn to ride a bike solo til the next year!).  Where they actually had black people and where I had learned all of the 50 state capitals and where every weekend we went to a historical place on the eastern seaboard, from Amish countryside to New York City to the Smithsonians to Colonial Williamsburg.
1989.  Dancer.  Age fifteen and skin and bones and had fallen madly in love with an older ‘man’ of twenty.  My best friend and I both had these Zorro hats and thought we were sooooo cool.  I thought at the time that I looked fat in this skirt.  This was taken about a week before my grandfather’s death, the first funeral I ever was allowed to attend (my great-grandma had died when I was 6 and no one told me, I found out about it in the obits – and yes at that age I was reading the newspaper).  I loved my black boots and red lipstick.  Well, these last two things haven’t changed much.
Flash forward ten years.  Age 25. Living in Seattle having the time of my life.  1999. This picture was obviously at a Fat Tuesday celebration, with my skin flushed from many chambord kamikazes (called ‘grape nehis’ in Seattle) and a cigarette in my hand.  I was love, love, loving my 20’s, being single.  This was at a restaurant called Sazerac and I was in the best shape of my life as I remember I was – no joke – wearing a black velvet catsuit and thigh-high boots.  I had a great apartment at the top of Capital Hill, with views of the Space Needle and Gasworks Park.  Had a good job and who knew that a year later I’d throw that life away and get married.
But I did.  My high school sweetheart found me after 5 years, right after I got back from an amazing trip to Paris, and I had just broken up with a fella a week prior. I thought, well I’m 26 years old, here’s someone who loves me and that I love, so why not get married. Then I wouldn’t be alone.  Seems like that happens to many in our 20’s. It’s “time” to settle down.  We got married on a rooftop at my boss’s house overlooking Puget Sound with just a few friends around.  My dad wouldn’t take the time to come as “he’d have to take the girls out of school” to drive the 5 hours up to Seattle.  My mom was mad that I didn’t tell her first, and ignored us for months. Our sisters stood up for us and we had a makeshift wedding of a white sundress and a vintage suit, with flowers from the garden and dinner out with friends afterwards.  Who knew that in five years I would be divorced, exhausted and forty pounds heavier from the stress of dealing with a selfish alcoholic who never had any intent of taking care of me and lied without a conscience.  But I loved him, I loved him strong.  I thought I could carry us both and that when I was weak he’d do the same.  I’d married my best friend and lost my best friend who I’d met at sixteen at a pizza parlor downtown.  We loved the same music, we loved the beach, we were both misfits.  But in the end, things happen. You grow up.  You learn about yourself.  You evolve.  Sometimes you change together, sometimes one takes the easy way out, but either way, you know when it’s over.
My 30th birthday party.  The best and worst of nights.  My husband’s mother was in town. They went out, I was alone.  For my gift I had only wanted him to plan a simple dinner out with our friends at my favorite Italian place.  He didn’t do any of that.  I didn’t want a gift, just wanted him to make an effort for me, do something just to make me happy.  Instead he wrote a bad check to buy a piece of jewelry that his mother picked out at Costco.  Some men just never realize that the simplest things are the most meaningful – I never cared about traditional gifts. What I love?  Handwritten notes.  Toasting us with some sweet sentiment.  Snuggling for a little bit longer.  Flowers that don’t celebrate an occasion or mark an apology.  Slow dancing. Fixing something that’s broken.  Not putting me in a position where I have to take care of everything.  Paying bills.  Hikes in the trees and picnics on the beach.  And occasionally being surprised with a weekend away for some good old fashioned romance.  The night of this party, I looked out at everyone and thought to myself, this time next year I won’t be married.  It was closing in on the end of 14 years of loving this man.  He’d known me since I was a child.  And now I was a woman, and knew it was time.  My 30’s were here, and it was about goddamn time I woke up.
And I did.  And I found myself back in the City of Roses that brought me into this world.  In my very own kitchen.  In my beautiful friends.  In my words that had been hiding for so many years.  In my photographs.  In reaching out for the first time and admitting I couldn’t do it all alone.  I still practice, I still screw up, I still alternate between quiet and boisterous, sweet and sassy, sophisticated and grubby, red lipstick and chapstick, barefoot and stilettos.  I am easing into my skin and finally it feels like me.  I’m feeling the bliss and smiling at the clouds and don’t really care about milestones anymore.  It’s about the time I spend with people, the things I learn in this world.  It’s about how she always knows how to say things to make me laugh.  It’s how I have been so blessed through my writing to meet so many kindred spirits.  It’s how I can feel so at ease with the foods I create.  It’s how I wonder what our first kiss might be like. It’s how I prepare the garden for winter, and cut the last of the roses to put in the windowsill of my kitchen. It’s how there’s neverending possibility.

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