Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate
July 16, 2009
Just yesterday, I’m walking down the steep hill in front of our apartment with this enormous bag of laundry trying not to roll my ankle in my platform flip-flops.I’m sort of self-conscious, hoping no one drives by and sees me dressed in sweats with my hair in two messy braids lugging this industrial-sized bottle of generic detergent from Costco, pairs of torn underwear and padded bras spilling out of the top of the hamper bag. I’m feeling very house-frau, even though I’m not exactly sure what that means. The whole coin-operated laundry thing is just so not what I had in mind. Having to save quarters only to have the contents of my underwear drawer and disgusting sweat-soaked yoga wardrobe commingling with other people’s is a far cry from the maid service I’d envisioned for myself since the age of three. I guess it’s a good thing I am a “freelancer,” (i.e. stay-at-home dog mom), so I can at least get into the laundry room in the middle of the day when all the machines are open.I insert almost 10 dollars in quarters and wash out the laundry detergent cup the way Ryan showed me so it doesn’t get all mucked up. And I realize this is one of those moments when I feel a little disoriented in my own life, if only because it’s everything and nothing I expected it to be.Outside the laundry room, the Browns have parked their Suburban so they can load up stuff for their daughter Teal, who is heading out to California in a few days to go to graduate school. I have to walk through the weeds to get around it.Teal and I met a few years ago and became close friends through our exes, who were best friends. We hung out a lot in those days, even traveled to Hawaii together, went to the spa while the boys were playing golf, went for walks on the beach and that sort of thing. It was her mother, in fact, who once told me that if I didn’t go to New York at some point in my life, I would never really know what it means to be a real writer. She said the only way you can ever truly know is to be stacked up against the best. I politely disagreed, arguing that not being in New York is precisely what gave me an edge in my career as a journalist, being in places where all those writers engaged in the rat race were not.It was one of those conversations that haunted me, and more than once I revisited that idea, that maybe my life would be different if I went there. Did something different. Tried harder. Then I realized that this idea of “somewhere else” pretty much occupied the entire decade of my 20s as I moved from this place to that, thinking it would be different when I got there. But it never was.The irony of the Teal story is even though she’s always been a good friend we’ve lost touch since I moved in next door to her parents. It’s odd that I never run into Teal but I see her parents everywhere I go, around the complex, in town, and between the complex and town. I haven’t found the gumption to approach them and remind them of who I am because I thought it would sound strange to say, “Hi, I’m a good friend of your daughter’s, but we haven’t really seen much of each other since I moved in with your maintenance guy.”The truth is I’ve been unapologetic about indulging myself in this relationship that I’ve waited so long for, and let go of various friends and acquaintances as a result. I’ll admit there are times when that’s startling, when I realize no one has called me or e-mailed me for days and the people in my daily life have been whittled down the way your wardrobe is when you pack your suitcase. You only take with you what you think you need. That’s not to say I’ve forgotten that tulle camisole with the sequins or the rabbit fur shawl, I just don’t feel like I need them, at least not every single day.Still it makes me question who I was then and who I am now. For my entire adult life, I’ve always been striving toward something, this idea of what I wanted my life to be, whether it was to be thinner or prettier or more fit or to travel or to move to another place and try on another identity. Now, for the first time, I’ve arrived in a place where I have everything I want. I’m finding myself living in the moment instead of always hoping or planning what might happen next. So now that I’m content, where does that leave me? If dreams bridge the gap between reality and our ideas about our reality, I have to ask myself, what are my dreams? I think we all sometimes are afraid to ask that question, just in case we’ve fallen short.The answer came when I was packing up my condo to move in with Ryan and found an old scrapbook with a drawing my brother had done when he was 10 years old of a Jeep Wrangler with patches on the tires. On it he wrote, “Our dream car.”And I realized, since that family ski trip to Snowmass when I was a kid, all I ever wanted (other than a maid, a pinball machine, a trampoline and an in-ground pool) was to live in Aspen and drive a Jeep. Maybe I never was all that ambitious, but at least I can say that my dreams really did come true.
The Princess would like to wish Teal all the best in Cali. Send your love to firstname.lastname@example.org