Saturday, November 29, 2008

Pass the Baton

A few weeks ago a current Crimsonette emailed me to say the girls planned to wear a costume from the Crimsonette closet - a fabulous red, white and blue outfit we debuted in 2001 at the Alabama-Auburn patriotric show (the nation in crisis, so we got new outfits...). Oh, how we adored those cute little hot pants! Ranking as the most expensive costume ever made for one halftime show, we did find reason to wear them again the next season, but the costumes have been stored away in the depths of Moody Music Building since 2002.

Amanda's email said she had been assigned the costume I wore, and that she was honored to wear the outfit of such a great former Crimsonette. As my smugness at the compliment (and jealousy that SHE, not me, got to wear it) subsided, feelings of excitement to see her twirl and pride in the Crimsonette tradition swelled. On gameday, as I joined with the thousands of other Alabama fans in the victory over Auburn, I enjoyed a personal victory of seeing "myself" out on the field again.

Amanda giving me a chance to shine again in 2008!

Red, white and blue debut in 2001.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Memory Lane

An unsuccessful trip to a wedding dress shop near Muscle Shoals prompted a drive through our old neighborhood. An area my family so loved for the five years we lived there in the mid-1980s, the memories of the house and friends there are plentiful. As we drove along the street and slowed in front of our house, I was surprised at the forgotten memories triggered by seeing it in real time; assurance that the images of the house sometimes swirling in my mind are not just figments of a made-up charming childhood.
Studying this picture now - back in my New York City apartment - it's not the memories of the house and yard that fill my thoughts: I'm bewildered to realize the size of the second-floor, street-facing, corner bedroom with two walk-in closets I enjoyed in Muscle Shoals is at least three times the size of this small New York City bedroom I sit in now.
What do all the NYC kids do with no room for Barbie house creations, dress-up clothes spilling out of the closet, doll cribs for each baby, palettes in front of the TV for cartoon watching, games of "house" with the wooden stove, table and chairs, or a window for daydreaming into the trees and sky?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

You belong here

Last year I explored the Thanksgiving traditions of New York City (read: the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade) and Connecticut (read: a train ride, and sweaters and wine by the fire), and I came to a few conclusions:
1. There is something to be said for watching the parade in your PJs on the couch, where the only person blocking your view is dear ol' Dad when he stops in front of the TV to say, "Ughhh...turn it!"  2. The Connecticut suburbs of historic white-washed houses with backdrops of huge trees of orange and gold may look like the idyllic fall setting, but 3. a northern Thanksgiving dinner that features salad, cold, hard green beans, and dressing stuffed with I-don't-know-what, makes a wandering southern girl long for her Mama's casseroles of broccoli and sweet pa-tay-tas!

Now I can't claim any specific family traditions I wished I was home for last year, unless you count our shouts from the couch for Mama to "Come see!" from the kitchen whatever float, balloon or Rockette during the parade, only for her to rush in to the den in time for the screen to change and miss seeing it.  Maybe we could count as a tradition all the Thanksgiving decorations Mama so loves - her pilgrim man and woman, the beautiful ceramic turkey she painted one year, the Thanksgiving-themed spreaders, to name just a few.  Another almost-tradition is the Indian girl head Elizabeth made in elementary school using a reshaped wire hanger, pantyhose stretched for the face and construction paper for a feathered headdress.  For some reason that thing stayed in the pantry (of all places) for years, awaiting its flourish through the kitchen each Thanksgiving Day.  

Making my way home this year, as I lugged my suitcase from one flight, to the next, to the next, I realized there was one thing I couldn't wait to see, and I wondered if maybe this was our greatest Mummert Thanksgiving tradition.  Years ago, using folded index cards and colored pencils, Elizabeth made the most creative yet simple place cards.  We laughed to see what she had chosen to draw for each of us, and joked at the novelty of having place cards for just the five of us, who sat in the same seats every year anyway.  Those cards were saved, and pulled out of the drawer again the following year and again the next.  Suffering a few gravy stains, Elizabeth redrew them a few years later, using a bit more care and matured colored-pencil skills, now knowing these would be seen year after year.  

I don't know how much thought Elizabeth put into choosing our Thanksgiving caricatures, but I've always thought the drawings represented us fairly well:  

Daddy the patriarchal and Mama the matriarchal pilgrim and Indian figureheads; Julie a cornucopia surely because several decorate her house,  all of them painstakingly hand made by her, at that; Elizabeth as the turkey has always perplexed me, I would have chosen an Indian baby in (what is probably her favorite Native American-related word) a papoose.

Our outdoorsman Chris gets the trees and squirrel, and our sportsfan Gabe appropriately gets the football turkey.

And me, Rebecca, the little Indian girl, who I've always liked to think of as Pocahontas, poking through her surroundings and discovering something new to marvel.  

I Googled "Pocahontas" today to find facts about her that might relate to my personality, further linking my place card to me.  According to Wikipedia, she "became a celebrity during the last year of her life." I'll take celebrity, but I don't want it to be in my last year.  "She was a daughter of Wahunsunacock who ruled...the Tidewater region."  I'm a daughter of a Crimson TIDE fan. Hmmm, still not a convincing enough link.  

But a few lines down, my answer came: "After her baptism, she went by the name Rebecca."

"But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger,
You'll learn things you never knew you never knew."

~ Colors in the Wind from Disney's Pocahontas

Sunday, November 23, 2008

So that's how it feels

My very best friend in New York City told me last night that she and her husband are moving to San Francisco. I had just settled into our cozy table at the Soho restaurant Boom: the drinks had arrived, we had chatted a little catch up small talk and I was mid-bite on my first taste of the appetizer.

“Well, we have some news,” Lauren announced.

In one swift move, I dropped my carefully stacked piece of bruschetta back on my plate and spun to face her, the glowing candles on the table blurring in my vision.

“Oh my gosh, you’re moving. Oh my gosh!” I blurted before our eyes even met. I knew it was true before she slowly and tentatively nodded her head to confirm it; a few months ago I guessed the only other good kind of “we have some news” news: when Lauren had then told the waitress, “Water is fine for me,” instead of ordering her signature glass of wine, I spun in my seat to face her, “Oh my God, you’re pregnant! You are, aren’t you?!” Another head nod – that one faster and with excitement – confirmed the good news.

I tried to process this new news, “Oh my gosh, you can’t be serious!” I screeched.

“I know. I’ve been dreading telling you!” Lauren said almost apologetically.

“What am I going to do without you here?!” My mind was swirling.

“I know. I’m sorry! I would die if you were leaving me here!” 

“This is all your fault!” I said, looking past Lauren to her husband Jake, who sat there with big sorry eyes and a hint of a smirk. “You are my people! And the baby?? You’ll already be gone by the time the baby gets here!” As Jake fielded my hysterics, I couldn’t help but smile a little too. “You owe me, Jake. I’ll think of some way you have to make this up to me.”

As I’ve mulled the news today, I realized this must be how my beloved friends felt when I announced I was heading off to New York City. At least with Lauren and Jake I have about two months to say goodbye instead of the two and a half weeks I gave my friends. But no matter how long I have to get used to the idea of them moving across the country, news like that is still a shock, a stun…and, remembering the name of the restaurant last night, I laughed: a “Boom”.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The New York City Dream

Dreams are what bring people to New York City. Dreams of becoming a famous fashion designer, of making a fortune on Wall Street, of dancing on Broadway, of writing for a magazine, of living in the greatest city in the world. But once here, all those many dreams meld into one; one dream that so nags at your conscious, so grips at your very being that all you can do is hold on to it, playing it over and over in your mind, hoping that one day, one day soon, it will come true. And, oh!, what a glorious day that would be!

I have the New York City dream. I have it quite frequently, actually. It’s the kind of dream that occurs while sleeping, subconscious thoughts playing out in such real surroundings that when roused, for a split second it doesn’t seem as though it was a dream; it seems real and has renewed my excitement of living in the city. But then my eyes open and my feet hit the floor, and I wish terribly to close my eyes and be transported back.

Transported back, because it is only in the dream, this one collective dream of every New Yorker, that my apartment is indeed four times its actual size. That my closet has room to walk in and turn a cartwheel. That the door I had never noticed in my hallway opens to a huge hidden room with skylights, a swimming pool, 20-foot ceilings, unobstructed views of the city, and three ponies grazing on lollipops. As my waking body rushes to the hallway to see if the door to my dreams is still there, the dark, small reality sets in: it was all just a dream.

But thankfully for all of us dreamers, another night awaits, and another chance to make it all come true.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

District of Cuteness

Saturday morning I boarded a bus in midtown Manhattan that promised a "luxury" ride straight to Washington D.C.  Four hours, three rain storms, two naps leaning into my neighbor's seat and one detour off the Baltimore-Washington Expressway later, the bus arrived in our nation's capital. A weekend filled with college friends, a tour of Alexandria, Georgetown and McLean, and an Alabama football game with the D.C. alumni was wonderful fun.  But the star of the weekend was Vivi, the vivacious and very cute daughter of my dear high school friends Leanna and Kyle.  Seeing her smiles, giggles and bouncy curls in person for the first time in a year, she recaptured my she will capture the world one day!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Circle of love

Photo courtesy Royce Kershaw

Always blessed with friends and family and laughter throughout the year, this circle begins on my birthday with an overflow of love - each call, card, email and hug a shining reminder of the loving friend who so dazzles my life.  As we pushed our chairs to one side of the table for a picture, leaving the other end empty, I realized it wasn't empty.  It was open.  And now in my mind's eye, each friend who wished me a happy birthday from afar - whether home in Alabama, along the east coast, across the country and around the world - was able to pull up a chair and continue filling the far-reaching circle around me with love.   

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Lovely Smile

"Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile."~William Cullen Bryant

The bright blue sky and the bursting autumn colors dazzled my eyes and enchanted my thoughts. The thick piles of leaves covering the ground beckoned me off the pathways to a world of shuffling, crunching and gathering. I bent to pick up an unusually large leaf, half vibrant green and half drained to yellow. Instead of dropping it back to the pile, I kept it and began gathering others that caught my eye - a radiant red, an orange the color of the setting sun, a pure yellow, a brownish red with edges almost purple!

As the collection of leaves in my hand grew, so did the people by my side. A girl about my age joined me in selecting some leaves for herself; we smiled, and I continued back to the path, on to find the next glorious autumn tree. I stooped to pick another leaf, and a man asked if it was good luck to pick up leaves. "I don't know, but they sure are pretty." Walking on, leaves in hand, another guy fell in step beside me and asked what I planned to do with the leaves. "Oh, I don't know, I just like them." He agreed and said it had been years since he stopped to really look at the leaves, much less pick them up and enjoy them. Several more people struck up conversations as I meandered through the idyllic scenery...each person and chat as varied as the leaves around me.

As I turned to leave Central Park, a fellow leaf looker said, "You have a lovely smile." I thanked him and went on my way with the beautiful autumn day smiling on me.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Red, White and Bl-ooth

The booth attendant’s mumbled instructions, the bright lights blinding my eyes, the knobs, the switches, and the big lever of final decision. With curtains tightly pulled, I flipped the knobs for my favorites, checked and double-checked my selections…then whipped out the camera to document my participation in this election!

An election referred to by most as historic, but especially memorable to me because it was my first time to vote as a citizen of New York…and my first time to vote in a booth!

Election night in Rockefeller Plaza.

The race to "270" up the side of the GE Building.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Faithful, Loyal, Firm and True

Alabama, listen, mother,
To our vows of love,
To thyself and to each other,
Faithful friends we’ll prove.

Faithful, loyal, firm and true
Heart bound to heart will beat
Year by year, the ages through,
Until in Heaven we meet.

College days are swiftly fleeting,
Soon we’ll leave their halls,
Ne’er to join another meeting
‘Neath their hallowed walls.

Faithful, loyal, firm and true
Heart bound to heart will beat
Year by year, the ages through,
Until in Heaven we meet.

So, farewell, dear Alma Mater.
May thy name, we pray,
Be rev’renced ever, pure and stainless
As it is today.

I learned the words to the University of Alabama’s Alma Mater during my Sophomore year of college. Our Crimsonette coach insisted on it; she didn’t want us to just stand smiling on the football field at Bryant Denny Stadium when the Million Dollar Band played it.

“As students of the University, and one day graduates, it’s your duty to know the alma mater, and you should sing it proudly,” she told us.

I already knew the words of the chorus, but I thought having to memorize the rest of the stanzas was beyond hokey and a waste of time. In fact, the whole idea of Homecoming really irked me: the spotlight shifted off the current Crimsonettes and us getting to twirl and put on a show, and instead was focused on the Alumni Band, who, in my opinion, could barely muster a crowd-rousing “Yea Alabama”, much less march in a straight line across the football field. The Alumni Band performance was a waste of a perfectly good pregame show that I could be front and center on the football field.

But on a late September afternoon during my second year at Alabama, the Crimsonettes sat around our tree at the band field, and we practiced the words of the Alma Mater. I not only heard the full song for the first time that day, but I fully understood the words for the first time, too.

It was the second stanza that really took hold of my chest and squeezed tightly: “College days are swiftly fleeting, soon we’ll leave their halls,” I sang, as I looked at the sweet and pretty faces of these girls who had fast become my best friends.

My voice trailed off as I realized the truth in the words; maybe the reason these days felt so magical to me was because they were fleeting, and swiftly. Walking across the Quad to class, studying in the library until I fell asleep slumped on the table, sweating and laughing and twirling at band practice every day for four months straight, eating and talking with my boyfriend and our friends at every lunch and dinner during the week at Burke dining hall, living down the hall from my sister and friends in Harris Hall…it had never occurred to me that all of this would come to an end one day.

Now, several years after graduating and leaving the college days behind, the memories of my Alma Mater are kept pure and stainless in my heart. And on this Homecoming, as I exuberantly march with the Alumni Band in a perfectly un-straight line to a wobbly but loving rendition of “Yea Alabama”, I just can’t keep the hot tears from brimming over and spilling shamelessly down my cheeks.