Rising Stars and Falling Stars

In the terminology all Cracker Barrel servers, chefs (.. too classy? cooks) and host-people know:  I’ve experienced some rising star and falling star experiences in recent life.  Most, I gladly report, have been on the rise.

  • It was so long ago now that I can hardly remember it, but Christopher and I drove to Gatlinburg, Tennessee for our one-year anniversary.  It was splendid; we arrived around one in the morning on a Saturday (I wanted to call it Friday night), checked in, found the location of our designated cabin in the black darkness and, once inside, passed out immediately.  We woke up late that Saturday morning, ate a Panera-catered breakfast (we had brought an assortment of foodstuff along with us to cut back on trip expenses; also, to observe the Sabbath) and dressed ourselves for a late-morning and full-afternoon of activity.  Our goal was to hike Mt. Leon all the way up to the beautiful Rainbow Falls.  It was eight miles, round trip, and the incline, we quickly discovered, was steep.  I whined, moaned, pouted and grumbled about 87% of the time on the way up and 6% of the time on our journey down (upon falling, cutting my ankle open and watching the blood trickle down my foot).  But the midpoint of our relatively short, 4 hour adventure – standing right before the grand Rainbow Falls – pacified, strengthened and motivated me. 

Moving forward, we spent that Saturday after-afternoon napping (on one of our luxurious, comfy beds —  yes, you inferred correctly: there were two). Chris’s parents had requested a cabin on the tippy top of the mountain, with a great view and one large bed.  There was a misunderstanding, and we were booked, instead, with a family suite containing two twin-to-queen sized beds.  Chris was fuming; I, however, was totally fine with spending the first night in one of the clean, fresh, comfy beds and spending the next evening in the other of the fresh, clean and comfy beds.  Around seven that night, we left the cozy warmth of our wood cabin and entered into the barely-chilled night air.  I was limping from a severe pain in my right hip, courtesty of our hiking escapade earlier on in the day, and Chris graciously supported me during the entire evening.  We paid 5-7 dollars to park in a dark and shady-looking alley that made you feel so unsure about the safety of your car that you asked the driver (Chris), several times, if he was completely and entirely certain that he had locked all of the doors and hid the GPS.

We walked idly up and down the streets, stepping in at a Mellow Mushroom (the largest in the USofA, we were told) for our evening meal.  The pizza arrived 40 minutes after it was ordered, and was actually not the pizza we ordered.  All was reconciled within twenty minutes: a new, correct pizza was placed in front of us (by the store manager: tofu and pesto) and the check was cut in half.  Happy anniversary!  Our server was an interesting fellow — a jazz pianist dating a girl he had found on one of those match.com websites.  We liked him.  Anyways, I was intent, afterwards, on finding  and enjoying the coolest ice cream in town (we were on vacation in the “party” town of TN, afterall, and when it comes to dessert, Chris allows me full-control: it isn’t quite as important to him — what kind of treat we’re eating and where it comes from — as it is to me).  We had passed, while driving to the parking lot, a unique looking sweet-dairy shop that started with a K (Kilwinz? or something similar), and my intial response was that we were “most definitely getting our dessert there.”  It was different, something new, and that intrigued me.  However, during our stroll, Chris noticed the most beautiful, neon-colored, graphic-art sign these eyes have ever beheld: Ben and Jerry’s.

Yes.  This was one of those precious and aforementioned “on the rise” experiences.

We walked in.  The dingding “employee, wake up!  customer alert!” bell sounded and the door closed itself swifty behind us.  I felt like Alice in Wonderfulllll-land (I’ve never seen the movie, and am familiar with only the title).  Although I pretended that I was going to “try something different” and sought to appreciate other cool flavors offered in the shop, I walked out with my “uszh”:  Chocolate Fudge Brownie.  My uszh, not in a pre-packaged and carefully portioned pint bought at a grocery store, but at a one-of-a-kind, authentic, real Ben and Jerry’s ice cream shop.  “Double scoop my waffle cone, lady.”

So Saturday evening was a success.  Sunday, we visited the log-cabin-community’s free and famed waterpark.  We found out too late (after jumping into our swimmy suits and marching over like adorable, gleeful little penguins) that the waterpark was geered for humans aged 2-6.  We enjoyed what we could and left in about 20 minutes.  The “lazy river, sit-in-the-tube” gig was relaxing and the double-seated “ride the tube down the tall slide really fast” thing was actually fun!  We did the latter twice. 

Sunday evening, Christopher and I ate dinner at No Way, Jose!’s.  While everything was acceptable and I couldn’t really find fault with it — the food, the service, the decor — it wasn’t nearly as authentic, friendly or tasty as our little, hidden, corner-of-the-wall Taqueria Mexico restaraunt back home.

Home.  I love knowing where home is.

We rode a chairlift up to a scenic overlook that evening.  The fun intensified when we were carried over a small river.. Chris and I giggled about the possibility of the machine failing and us epic-ly crashing into the shallow water.  It was exciting to imagine, and it was really cute hearing him squeal like a girl when the machine did momentarily stop, leaving us suspended over the running waters.

Speaking of water —  I enjoyed two wonderful, warm bubble baths during our stay.  They were the first I ever remember having.  Ever.  In my whole life.  It was a great time.

Monday, we got up early, dressed ourselves, cleaned the cabin (in an effort to be courteous), packed our belongings and headed out.  It was sad to leave “vacation world,” but we were sort of eager to get home and reclaim our Woocheggah. 

  • Bruster was, after all, recovering from his de-masculinity surgery.  He had been fixed.  This – one of those “falling stars” experiences – I will not go into details over.  Let it suffice to say that he healed nicely.
  • We started school.  And college is NOT the glamorous hero-house I (and perhaps you, oh foolish young thing!) always pictured it to be.  The teachers are either overly-eccentric or dreadfully dull.  They will baby you to the degree that your academic experience is completely unstimulating or they will challenge you to a level that is unreasonable and unfair.  It’s been a mixed experience.  I like the feeling of accomplishment I receive in knowing that I’m working towards a degree that will enable me to begin the career I’m certain I have a passion for (education).  I do not appreciate, however, the characters displayed and teaching methods employed by some (one) of my professors.  I feel like saying, “You aren’t being paid to parade your high head in front of me.  You’re being paid to teach me, teacher.”  (My immature little theory is that that is why college teachers are called professors: they merely profess to teach.  I fully realize, however, how unfair and general this is, and so I’ve voluntarily discarded the notion.)  They’re growing on me, though, as I remember that they are only human, and that my perception isn’t always correct and fair and what is should be.  And I’m realizing that my entire childhood and youth prepared me for this: college is just like homeschooling.  Ultimately, I am my own teacher.

I must share: I got a 95 on my first college math exam.  That made me smile.  🙂

  • We went to the Cheesecake Factory.  FINALLY.
  • Because almost a week ago – on September 15th, 2011 – I turned twenty.

        It was a wonderful day, despite my awful, long-dreaded anticipation of leaving my teen years.  Chris woke me up early in the morning (around 5), just before he had to leave for work, with a kiss and a “happy birthday” softly murmered.  Around two in the afternoon, I returned to work after taking my lunch break.  I pulled into a parking space, began walking towards the front door of the credit union and saw, out of the corner of my eye, a familiar face smiling at me from a rolled-down car window — Pastor Karl! I ran over as his hand beckoned me towards his car, and once in the passenger seat I was presented with two gifts from he and his wife:  chocolate, and more chocolate.  Lindt Truffles and a turtle cake.  On Facebook, I received over 60 “happy birthday!” wishes and other friendly greetings.  In the mail, I received a card from my mom and dad – a music card that played Phil Collins’ “You’ll be in my heart” – and a card, also, from my grampy (who lives in Florida) that read, “We love you, and miss having you around.”  In the evening, I came home to a sweet hug from my husband and a letter awaiting me on our kitchen table.. a letter enclosed in an envelope that read: “From The Isles of Woocheggah.” 

“Oh dear.. what is THIS?”  I gasped in dumb wonder, as if I didn’t know that Bruster (our dog, who is from the mythical, us-created Isles of Woocheggah) had made a “birthday surprise for his mommy.”  Included in this letter from the IOW was a heavy, generous coupon book, containing coupons for such wonderful things as free neckrubs and backrubs, the immediate and unquestioned gratification of a request by mommy for a pint of Ben and Jerry’s chocolate fudge brownie ice cream (an aforementioned favorite), the relief of all woocheggan responsibilities at mommy’s request, and other great benefits and offers.  It was a great day.  And then, it got even better.

Chris said that we were going out to dinner — the place of my choice.  We both knew, undoubtedly, that The Cheesecake Factory was to be our destination: I had been wanting to eat there for an entire year!  Opportunity presented itself, and I seized it.  We both dressed up – I wore my tall, black boots for the first time since the winter previous – and after a small shopping detour at the expensive, over-priced and hippie-pretending Urban Outfitters (at which store I bought nothing), we made our entrance into The Cheesecake Factory.

A basic summary:  our server was fine.  He wasn’t overly friendly such as to make him memorable, or frustratingly inattentive; he was just there — an outside part of our experience.  The menus, were like 20 pages long.  The first few pages were littered with names of wines and beers and other mixed drinks – all forbidden.  The next section was titled “pastas.”  Here, I found my dinner: fettucini alfredo.  Following the section titled “pastas” was “sandwiches” (slash burgers).  Chris chose the eggplant burger and substituted mashed potatoes for the offered fries.  Before the meal, complimentary bread was served: a sort of pumpkin/ rye bread and a white french bread (the latter was left untouched).  It wasn’t comparable to the buttery, garlicky warm goodness of Olive Garden breadsticks, but it was good bread and held us over until the “real” meal came.  We ended up splitting and sharing everything — the pasta, the burger, AND the potatoes.  It was wonderful. “Two spoons, please.”  For dessert, we shared a single slice of Oreo cheesecake.  It was delectable. 

And then we went home, fell asleep, and the day was complete.  The transition had been made; I was a decade removed from childhood.  I’m still settling into it.

So that is a summary of recent life.  We went to Tennessee to celebrate our anniversary, Bruster was neutered, I turned twenty and, at last!, enjoyed a terrific meal at the famed Cheesecake Factory. 

There were some falling star experiences.

One was being certain that my old best friend would call, email or acknowledge my existence on my birthday.  Assure me that she didn’t hate me, that in fact she still loved me, missed me, and wanted us to reconcile the differences, the past, our hurts. 

That never happened.  That was the biggest blow I’ve received this year.

I was also disappointed when my dad’s company, for which he has been a faithful worker for OVER twenty years, decided to collectively and all at once point their guns at him and expel him from his position and his salary. 

But God is always in control.  He’ll take care of mom and dad.

I read one of those meaningful-but-over-used cliches on Facebook today.  I didn’t brush it off, though.  However many times it has been said, and however “absolutely” true it is, it impressed me.  It sort of comforted me.

“I used to be sad that the friends I loved would leave me.  Then I realized that sometimes, you have to let go of certain people to be able to move forward.”

I guess that’s what God’s been wanting me to do for over a year now.

I’m still fighting it.

I’m still hating it, still despising the loss.

Thanks, Clifton.

Aun Aqui