Falling snow, bubbly car washes and joy

I am one of only three sophomores on the biology trip to Yosemite. The remaining are seniors and they are not shy about their dislike of me being on the trip.

It hurts, but I don’t care. I am too excited.

We track wolves, sleep in a log cabin, snowshoe and slide on our bellies through a pitch black cave formation called “the birth canal.” These experiences are unlike anything I’ve done before and I feel a joy so big it vibrates my entire body.

“It’s so beautiful, like I’ve fallen into a storybook,” I cry out.

I throw back my head, close my eyes and breathe in the cold piney air.

“You are such a child,” I hear one of the girls say.

A picture from my trip to Yosemite in 1993.

A picture from my trip to Yosemite in 1993.

We venture across a beautiful white meadow on our cross-country skis and it begins to snow hard. The guide decides we need to stop and wait out the storm. We pack down a circle of snow, stick our skis deep into the bank behind us and drape a tarp over the entire group. The snow is coming in sideways and blowing into our sandwiches and trail mix.

Some start complaining about the soggy bread and a few mumble about how tired they are. I am beaming. I’ve never seen it snow like this. The feeling becomes so big and suddenly I am crying, hot tears streaming down my frozen cheeks.

“Seriously,” one of the girls says and rolls her eyes at me.

On the last night, we are given a chance to eat dinner at the famous Ahwahnee Hotel. We dress in the big, shared bathroom. I feel like a princess as we walk to the hotel, my shiny black pumps slipping in the ice and snow.

We walk into the lobby and it’s all wood, chandeliers, comfy chairs and an enormous stone fireplace. I start to laugh as my heels click on the hard floor, the sound echoing all around us.

The restaurant has the biggest windows I’ve ever seen, wood beams crisscrossing over a green ceiling, candles in brackets along the wall, triangular-shaped chandeliers and stones that make me feel like I’ve been transported to a medieval castle.

We sit at a table in the middle of the restaurant and prepare to order.

“What did Queen Elizabeth order when she came here?” I ask the waitress.

She tells me and I order everything the same as her, wiggling in my chair with the pure pleasure of it all. Everything tastes divine and I can’t stop smiling. The rest of the students act as if they eat artisan cheese platters and prime rib every night. They laugh at me, but I am incapable of holding back.

On the return walk to the cabins, my biology teacher takes me aside. I love this man, admire him greatly, and I expect him to tell me more history or something interesting about the cabins.

Instead, he takes both my hands into his and gives me a very stern look.

“You really are naïve,” he says. “Tone it down a notch. OK?”

I nod and feel my cheeks burning hot. I lower my head and dart into my cabin. I cry myself to sleep, suddenly aware at how ridiculous everyone sees me.

What I view as excitement, they see as naïve.

What I see as being myself, they see as wrong.

It has been over 20 years since I heard those words, yet they still bring tears to my eyes.

It was the moment I started to realize what being an adult meant.

It was the moment I started to hear and care what others thought of me.

A few days ago, I went through a car wash with my friend and his 12-year-old son. I have not been through one in years and I could not believe how fun it was.

I point at the vibrant blue and pink bubbles being shot along the side of the truck.

“Did you see that?” I say.

The huge foam rollers smack against us, rocking us back and forth, and I giggle. I know it is just a car wash and my internal voice is yelling at me to “simmer down now,” but it sounds like a huge storm and I close my eyes and laugh.

“No offense,” the boy says. “But you sound like my sister.”

His sister is 6 and it makes me giggle more.

“None taken,” I answer back truthfully.

It felt good to let my joy out, to let the rush of excitement fill me up.

It felt almost like Disneyland.

I am tired of holding back the awe and wonder I feel every day.

I’m tired of drinking to squash my feelings down.

I’m tired of thinking there is something wrong with me.

There is not.

I’m going to take my kids through a car wash today.

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The little black kitten of jealousy

kitten

My phone dings and I look to see a dozen pictures of the sweetest little black kitten.

This darling new addition to my friend’s family, which they are calling Faun, causes me to start ahhhing loudly.

The kids come running.

“What is it?” they ask.

I flip the phone around and show them.

My girl immediately starts crying.

Not just little tears either.

Big, fat ugly tears which quickly turn to sobs.

Oh no.

As much as I’m aware of her wish for a kitten, this possibility didn’t occur to me.

I feel mean, as if I’d done something to hurt her on purpose.

The jealousy and anger pulse from her. She tries to calm herself, but the feelings are beyond containment. I let her cry and rage until the intensity ceases a bit.

“You are jealous because you want a kitten,” I say.

She nods and cries a bit more.

“I feel like a bad friend,” she says through her tears. “Have you ever felt jealous?”

Have I ever. I tell her about growing up and being incredibly jealous all the time. My friends got more presents at Christmas, had prettier hair, more boyfriends and took elaborate vacations my family would never be able to afford. I didn’t even fly in an airplane until I was in college.

I know a little about jealousy.

“Did you grow out of it?” she asks.

No. I have to admit that I have moments as an adult where I feel the pang and sting still. More moments that I care to acknowledge.

I want a kitten too. I want a new laptop. I want a real summer vacation. I want to be smarter, more successful and drive a nicer car.  I want to be skinny.

Longing for things you don’t have is as human as it gets.

“What do you do about it?” she asks and hugs me tight.

I can feel the desperation in her voice and I know I have to get this moment right.

I pull back a little and look in her eyes.

There are different kinds of emotions, each balancing the other out, I explain. Like in the movie, “Inside Out,” where Joy can’t exist without Sadness.

She nods.

“When I think about jealousy, I picture purple,” she says. “Like grape jelly. So I picture her being purple with a pale green dress on.”

“Sounds good,” I reply. “Who balances jealousy?”

I ask this question and realize I don’t have an answer. My emotional growth is about the same as her in this department. Well, maybe a bit better. I don’t cry all the time. Not all the time.

“I don’t know,” she says.

We both sit there for a few minutes thinking about it. Jealousy makes you want things other people have. What is a word for being happy with what you got?

“Contentment,” I finally say. “I picture her as wearing all pink and having a sweet voice. She says things like, ‘my room is so beautiful’ and ‘I love my family so much!”

“Yes,” she says. “Contentment tells me ‘I’m lucky to have a mom that rubs my back and talks to me’ and ‘I have awesome red hair.’”

Exactly.

We list off more and more things which make us feel content.

It feels good and the ugliness of the longing for what others have starts to fade for us both.

We cuddle up closer. She points to the picture on her wall of us nursing when she was a baby. She tells me she looks at it every night as she is falling asleep.

“I just pretend you are laying next to me,” she says. “Then I fall right asleep because I know you love me.”

My heart does complicated leaps of joy and sadness.

I tell her jealousy won’t go away and will be with her the rest of her life.

“Just be sure to let contentment have a voice too,” I say.

We agree to keep this conversation going.

“Maybe when I’m in college I can Face Time you,” she says. “Might even have holograms by then and I’ll project you laying right next to me.”

“Absolutely,” I say.