December 9, 2010 This past weekend heralded in the arrival of my twenty-first year, a wonderful night spent making dinner with the most wonderful of friends, and two feet of snow! Life is even lovelier than usual. After returning from New York with a successful visa application and a half-dozen cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery (for Nick, who claims they are the best in the entire world!), I settled back in time for a very exciting weekend. Friday was our first ever Writing Tutor get-together outside of work, and gave credence to my belief that I have the privilege of working are the most amazing (and hilarious!) group of people on campus. Saturday morning I had lunch at the Dessert booth with Sharon, and went next door to the new artist’s cooperative and perused their collection of sock puppets. Saturday evening, Nick took me out to Nola’s, where we had the most wonderful dinner, blew out the candle on our table laughing, not once but three times, and went to his house to meet Bailey, the most adorable dog in Clinton. My twenty-first birthday was Sunday, and I spent Saturday night with Amanda and Nick, talking and counting down the minutes until midnight.
Sunday I woke up to a new year of my life and six inches of snow, traipsed over to Babbit, where, locked out and without a Hill Card, I threw clumps of snow at Michael’s window until, shocked by what he thought was a dead bird colliding with his common room wall, he looked up and let me in! I helped Olivia finish a pot of hazelnut coffee, read the New York Public Library’s reference book (a truly hilarious guide to life published in 1989, which contains such illuminating insights as how to identify the “cathode ray tube screen” on a contemporary computer!), and watched the snow out the window falling steadily. I went grocery shopping with Nick and Michael that afternoon, worked my shift at the Writing center, and then found Nick and walked over to Babbitt, where we began preparations for that night’s meal. Sunday night, we made dinner (steak, scalloped potatoes, and creamed spinach), gathered around the low wooden table in Babbitt 31, I, clad in my new “little black dress” (which, according to my mother, every woman should have!) and watched my high school “Le Petit Prince” movie, laughing over my and Emily’s abysmal French. As the night wound down and I said goodnight to one friend after another, I could not help but feel that I am the luckiest girl in Upstate New York, surrounded by the most wonderful people I could possibly have imagined.
On Friday night, my Writing Center friends sang me Happy Birthday, and Kate asked which, among the past twenty-one years of my life, was my favorite. I replied without hesitation. Until now, I would have said eighteen. I was graduating high school, had an intact family, spent thick summer nights driving with rolled-down windows, my three best friends shouting the lyrics to “Girls in their Summer Clothes.” Now, three years later, I have fewer illusions, more experience, less sleep. But I also laugh more, and work harder, and wake up every morning with excitement rather than a sense of obligation. I would never have dreamed twenty-one would find me this happy, this independent, this well-fed, and so truly, honestly myself. And I suppose, these are the realizations for which birthdays are made.
Monday consisted of me catching back up on the work I neglected to do in my weekend of bliss, driving down to town with Nick in what by now had become an all-out snow storm (a test of both my own resolve and my anti-lock breaks!), and getting ingredients to bake for Wednesday’s Comp. Lit. class. This morning, I woke up to nearly a foot of still falling snow, watched the toddlers next door romp about in their thick snowsuits (complete with shovels and brooms with which they attempted to clean the path in front of Keehn!), and went to Babbit to begin cooking. Between ten thirty and noon I made thirty-five Pots de Crème, which somehow came out tasting strongly of coffee, but are still quite good! I met Michael and Nick in Opus for Mango Brie Paninis, people-watching as the people in the most ridiculous winter outfits paraded by outside. Hamilton becomes a different world in the snow. People walk briskly to and from class, unrecognizable in puffy down jackets and thick scarves, huddling around mugs of hot chocolate in Opus, or else building snow men (and, last year, snow dinosaurs!) in embankments. Some people, like Nick, find it amusing to push their friends into snow drifts while walking back from Babbit on a Tuesday night, and others like me, reach with shrieks of surprise and glee as they are instantly coated with three days worth of powder.
Snow is stunningly beautiful when viewed out of a dorm room window; it is soft and silent while walking to and from class, it is absorbing and all-encompassing from every angle and the topic of nearly every conversation once it begins to fall. When pasted to your jeans, however, it is wet and freezing cold, and I was breathless as much from laughter as shock as I walked back to my room. I am now stretched out on my bed in Keehn, clad in my sailboat pajamas and trying to dry off as I eat peppermint white chocolate truffles and watch the snow build, silently and heavily, on the hill beside me. The dull roar of the laundry machine is constant and reassuring outside of my door, and over the top of my computer I can see the pictures of Greece and Baltimore, notes from Nick, and Birthday card from my mother, taped to my wall.
It is 11:11, what my best friend from home calls a “wishing minute.” This is going to sound even more absurd than I usually do, but I believe strongly in wishing minutes (as well as saying “rabbit rabbit” on the first of every month), and take them very seriously. From here, I can see the next steps in my life unfold with the perfect clarity of a snow-filled midnight. In two hours, I will climb under my blue comforter, read by lantern for ten minutes, text Nick, set my alarm, and fall asleep. Ten days from now, I will pack my things in boxes, hug all of my friends until they hurt, get in my blue Volvo and drive home. Exactly a month from today, I will board a plane bound for Paris, move in with my gluten-free-Yoga-instructor host Mom, and try not to laugh too loudly as I become part of a new culture.
Moments of wonder are as transient as they are perfect, and I am possessed with the urge to hold my breath and stop time at this exact instant, sitting snow-soaked on my bed, still breathless with laughter, watching the white accumulate on the hill outside. Instead, I close my eyes, but only for a moment. I open them, and it is 11:12. May I never lose this. No matter what.