Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate
Guess what. I am turning 42 today.It doesn’t sound right. Forty-two. Four-tee-too. There is no way I could possibly be that old. My dad always said we come from a family of late bloomers, but I think he just says that because he’s still hoping one day I’ll get it together. God knows the poor guy had to wait long enough for his one and only daughter to get married. It was several decades of torture he made known on my wedding day when he said, “It’s not every day you get to give away your 41-year-old daughter,” to a chorus of boos. It’s true I did everything late. Even as a baby, I slept late. At first, it scared the hell out of my mother, who feared I was dead when I didn’t make a peep until 9. Soon she learned to enjoy it, and the two of us slept in every day. Once I was old enough to go to school, she’d wake me up 20 minutes before the bus came, get me dressed, throw a bag lunch at me (always the same: peanut butter and jelly, two pretzel rods, an apple and an orange) and push me out the door. She totally takes the blame, saying it’s her fault I’m not a morning person.In high school, I was always late for class. I simply refused to stress out about the whole bell-ringing thing. What did they think? I was trainable, like a dog? It frustrated my teachers to no end that I was unfazed by their rush-rush schedule and the various threats they imposed to try and make me conform. In my mind, grades were just letters that represented numbers that didn’t really bridge any gap to reality. It apparently made an impression on my classmates, who predicted a not-so-bright future for me 20 years down the road in the Senior Will & Testament page of the yearbook. It simply read: “Alison Berkley is still late.”That I didn’t care about getting good grades destroyed my father. That’s all he ever really wanted from me. He couldn’t understand or accept my lack of drive. When I applied to Colorado State, he was mortified with the idea of me going to a state school, a public school, after all he’d invested in my private high school education. He said, “Fine, go to Colorado State and be a f—ing farmer for all I care.” He somehow got it in his head that CSU was an aggie school. It wasn’t good enough.Even harder was when I ended up at the University of Denver and dropped out before the end of the first year. I told him, “I came to Colorado to ski, and I never get to ski.” His response was to take away my car. “You better find a job you can ride your bike to if you want to come home this summer,” he said.I didn’t go home that summer. I moved to Summit County and lived in a two-bedroom condo with four kids from Vermont, including a beautiful girl named Hannah who became my partner in crime. We didn’t need a car because we were two blond 20-year-olds living in the mountains. We ruled the world that summer.When I decided to go back to school a year later, I got rejected from CSU (apparently it was I who wasn’t good enough for them) and ended up at Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat. That really killed my dad. He’d only refer to it as “CMHC or whatever the hell that stupid school is called.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him we called it “See Me Ski.” It was, hands down, one of the best years of my life.CMC actually enabled me to get into CU-Boulder, which was my dream school to begin with. By the time I finally got my head into going to college, I was 21 years old. I majored in journalism and somehow graduated with honors. When my degree came in the mail, my dad wallpapered the house with it. It was one of the happiest moments of his life. I was 24.But never was Dad happier than he was on my wedding day. In every photo he has this maniacal grin, lips frozen at a bizarre angle like the Joker. He looks somewhere between jubilant and catatonic, like he might just keel over and shatter on the floor into a thousand pieces.So now I’m 42, and I’m almost there but not quite. There’s just one or two more big items on the list that I’m kind of late in getting around to.The first is to finish my goddamned book. I know most of you probably gave up on me years ago when it comes to that novel I promised you, but don’t. These things take time! The fact is I am waist-deep in a new manuscript I started last summer. It’s still autobiographical fiction, it’s still about my life in Aspen, and it’s still happening. When the writer Ann Patchett said, “Being inspired is for writing a poem in high school. Writing a novel is work,” I felt like it was God talking directly to me.Oh, so that’s how you do it, I thought.The last thing I hope to pull off, as you know, is having a kid. I don’t know if “better late than never” applies because frankly, I believe the opposite to be true. But if I can get away with having waited this long, with having wasted my 30s being, well, wasted, experimenting with drugs and snowboarding my life away with men who were bad for me, then I might as well have gotten away with murder. Is it possible you can have it all?Wait – don’t answer that. I wouldn’t want you to spoil the surprise.
The Princess hopes she grows old with you, Aspen. Send your love to email@example.com.
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