The Photo Not Taken

When I was in high school, I spent many a day and many a night at my friend Michelle’s house. Her parents were my parents. Her brothers my brothers. We talked about school and friends and boys there. We learned to sew. We had pool parties. We celebrated the year 2000   with little sips of champagne through gummy straws because we couldn’t handle the taste.

There was a group of us, really, who all found home at her house, even though we were all fortunate enough to have great homes of our own to go back to. We were, all of us, family.

Last night, ringing in 2014, we were back to that same house. A large group of us really, some friends from high school, some not. Some married in, some just new friends. But once again we were united and together and celebrating.

There was one moment when four of us were sitting on the floor and talking – me, Michelle, and two of our other close high school friends. We were sipping champagne (or, for me, water) and discussing baby names, and plans, and hopes for the new year. Nothing monumental, just something, and I couldn’t help but think about how we got here. How, 14 years later with some of us living in different cities and all of us a bit different than we were back then, I’m celebrating a new year in the same house. I’m hanging out with the same people I loved back then, and still do to this day. And I couldn’t help but feel eternally grateful.

We don’t have a photo of that moment, of the casualness of our conversation, the feeling of comfort just being there, with them. But i’ll remember it. Because sometimes the small moments make the biggest impact. The laughter, the sighs. Sometimes those are the ones i’ll continue to hold on to, and remember in days I need to smile. Because I’ll always have those girls. And I’m so lucky to say that.

Not Without My Leggings

As happens when one is pregnant, I’m predominantly wearing leggings. (Not as pants, mind you. I’d never let Blair Waldorf down.) My professional skirts have stopped fitting (sob), and pants are just uncomfortable. So, leggings and dresses every day.

My co-worker (who works at a different library branch) thinks elastic waists are an abomination to fashion. So when I emailed him to let him know of my current situation, he sent me back the following:

I really hope that’s a line from your tween pregnancy YA novel. Suffering complications during her pregnancy, twelve year old Donna McPregers is cryogenically frozen until medical technology is capable of bringing her baby to term, she awakens in a dystopian future in which elastic is a precious commodity and her leggings put her in the crosshairs of New America’s sexy teen overlord who simply must have her pants. AND HER BABY.

Lauren Gibaldi writes: Not Without My Leggings.

Clearly me forcing him to read YA novels has worked.

Left, Right, Left, King Avenue

photoWhen S and I were planning our end of summer road trip, we took two things into consideration: 1) we wanted to go somewhere we’ve never been before, and 2) It had to be affordable (no trip to Ireland, sadly!) In that, we decided on touring the southeast, which we’ve never done before, going from Florida through Georgia to Nashville, TN; Asheville, NC; and, last, Charleston, SC. In planning the trip, we needed a place to spend the first night between Orlando and Nashville, so I picked Pine Mountain, GA.

When I was in college, my two favorite summers involved working as a camp counselor in Pine Mountain, at Callaway Gardens. I went with the circus (of which I was part of…) so during the day we took the kids swimming and playing and golfing and water skiing, and at night, we performed. We were average people by day, magical aerialists by night. To the kids, we were their teachers, their heroes.

Callaway is a large resort , and we lived just off site at a house with 16 tiny rooms (girls on one side, boys on the other). My first day I was nervous, shy, being around all of these people – some friends, some people I wished were friends due to their seniority – but by the end we were family. I’d wake up Saturday mornings and before getting ready of the day, meet my friend in the living room for video games.

S and I arrived in Pine Mountain yesterday, and, city wise, everything was the same, despite the eight year time lapse. There’s still the combination gas station/Subway/KFC at the one major intersection (it’s a small, small town). There’s still the no-name pizza place next door. There’s still the legendary BBQ places we used to go to during lunch (which I, naturally, took S to). We drove by the old house and he finally put a picture to the place i’ve told him so much about.

Callaway itself has grown, thrived. New attractions were added, but the same old charm remained the same. There’s still the man-made lake shining in the middle, the acres of woods you can hike through, and the circus tent, standing proud – all green and white striped. S thought it was beautiful.

BUt while S saw it as shiny and new, I saw the cracks underneath. I remember the time we found a diaper in the lake, the time we took the kids to play capture the flag and two got stung within the woods, and all of the blood and sweat spilled inside the tent.

It’s weird going back. Back when I lived there, I was 19 and 20; I, too, was shiny and new and excited to get away. I had my life ahead of me, and a summer full of memories to make. Sure, there were downsides (it was hot, practices ran long, I was constantly sore), but I loved every moment of it (what other college student was paid to perform?) I remember eating breakfast and having the kids run up to say hi, or introduce me to their parents as “this is Lauren, she did rolla last night, and she flipped me in the lake, and it was awesome.”

I made friends that lasted a lifetime (indeed, one was my maid of honor). I created a home in a city I’d previously never heard of before. I felt part of something

Callaway holds a million memories for me, and it’s weird going back, but in a sense, wonderful. I love picking up and, in a way, telling it how i’ve changed, feeling the change in every step. In introducing it to S. Sure, it’s different, sure I’m different, but it’s all the same, really. I’m still the same girl, looking for summer full of memories.

This morning we’re going back to see the gardens before continuing our journey. I’m glad I shared this place wish S, and i’m happy to have visited it again. It’s like walking back in time, into a memory I know so well I can play over and over again. And even though the memories changed over the years, and perhaps dismissed the negative moments, I’m happy holding on to these thoughts, these bits of light over the lake.

This morning when I woke up I kept my eyes shut, waiting to hear the familiar sound of “ready, player two.”

Song Memories

I love when older songs come on the radio and transport me to another time in my life. When I was younger, different. I love how it’s always a surprise – though you can bet on a current hit being played 7,000 times an hour, you can never guess which song from a different year will break through, making the day of radio-lovers everywhere. (That is, unless the song is horrid.)

The other day, “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down came on. It’s not a great song. It’s not a song I still play  on my iPod (actually, there weren’t iPods when that song was released), and it’s not a song I’m like “YES IT’S ON!” when it is, in fact, on. But it came on. And I was 17 again.

Three of my friends and I were going to see 3 Doors Down live at Hard Rock Cafe, here in Orlando. We were excited. Three of us were a band at the time, too, an all-girl band that had two (yes, two) whole gigs. We were not good.

We decided to do something crazy before the event, so we bought Manic Panic hair dye and and put red streaks in our hair. My hair was so dark you could barely tell, but still. I felt cool. I felt punk rock.

Before the show, we went back to our school because we were all called back for a play our drama department was putting on. (The drama department we, incidentally, ran, as we were all officers. I was president. See how punk rock I was?) We acted out a few scenes, each for different characters. The newbies were there, and I felt so amazingly awesome. Because here I was, coming in with the other old-timers, with this amazing kind-of dyed hair. And all these newbies were trying to be us, and it felt weird and neat all in one. So we did our auditions, each for different roles, and left with an excited cheer for the show.

Truth is, I don’t remember the show much. But what I do remember is feeling there, in the middle of the show, with my friends. With my hair. With this feeling that anything was possible. We were going to be famous musicians, actors. We were going to run the world.

I don’t talk to the girls all the time anymore, though we’re all still connected. Only one of us got the role in the show, and she, incidentally, is the only one still acting. The rest of us went on to become PR specialists and BBC journalists and, for me, librarian writers.

So when the song came on, I didn’t think of the gig. But I thought of the excitement we all shared, the power and freedom and friendship. The moment when we thought we were so cool we could accomplish anything.

And I smiled.

Friends in High Places

I have annoyingly successful friends. I’m not saying that to brag (Okay, I am – I’m so proud of all of them), I’m saying it because it’s true. They are annoyingly successful in fields where people told them they might not be able to make it.

I was in drama in high school, and hung out with some theatre kids in college, and many of those people decided to try and Make it. Go big time – Broadway, LA. A lot of people said they wouldn’t make it. They all went anyway.

It’s true – some didn’t make it, but they turned around, came home and found amazingly successful careers elsewhere. Some tried hard, and are still trying to this day. And some found crazy success in TV shows, movies, and, yeah, even Broadway.

The thing that I love about all of them is that they tried. No matter what, no matter how many people told them it might not be possible, they still went for it. They gave it their all.

(That’s not to say i’m not proud of friends who didn’t pursue crazy careers like that – I’m SO proud of everyone. Even you boring lawyers, ahem S.)

Simply, I love people who follow their passion. I love those who hear the warnings and go for it anyway. Because they want to. Because they need to.

I didn’t set out to write TNWSY with a book deal in mind. I did it because I wanted to. S can attest to the fact that i’m an annoyingly driven person at times, but that’s only because I don’t want to miss anything.

So if there’s something you’ve always wanted to do – somewhere you’ve always wanted to see – just do it. Hoist the anchors! Set sail! And just….go.