Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate |

Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate

Alison BerkleyThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

“Take a right! A right! Right! Right! Right!” my mom screams from the back seat.The GPS is going, “Left in 200 feet. Then left. Recalculating …””Oh, for God’s sake, listen to the GPS,” my dad says.”She’s totally confused. She’s totally screwed up,” Mom says, talking about the GPS like she is a person who is actually sitting in the car with us. “You need to go right.””Left where? Right where?” Ryan says, finally starting to panic. We are coming up on another one of those tricky Boston exits after a tunnel where the road splits, and you have to go one way or another and they take you in totally different directions into an endless maze of one-way streets where there is no possibility of turning around. Five of us are squeezed into the Royal Crown Victoria my mom rented on Priceline, one of those old cop cars that’s the size of a small boat but somehow still doesn’t have enough leg room.”Get your elbow out of my side,” my brother says.”Sorry! I can’t help it,” I say.”Recalculating,” the GPS says. Driving in downtown Boston is no picnic, but driving in downtown Boston with my mother, who grew up in Boston but hasn’t lived there in 50 years, sitting in the back seat while your future husband is driving (not sure how he ended up as designated driver/chauffeur for the whole entire trip, but that’s another story) is borderline unbearable. My one salvation is that said future husband is obviously a saint. You know you’re marrying the right guy when …You can take him to a bar mitzvah where a banquet room at the Sheraton Needham is converted into a rock-concert set, complete with giant stage, three flat-screen TVs, a DJ, dance crew, and a band. There were glow sticks and cocktail rings with blinking lights, fedoras, plastic sunglasses that have the plastic bars across the lenses, leis, and rubber bracelets that said, “I love rock & roll: JH April 18 2011,” on them. There were posters of Jarrett in various Justin Beiber-esque poses on the big screen. There were even sugar cookies in Jarrett’s likeness and a fake Lady Ga Ga appearance that put the horde of teenagers into a Beatles-level tizzy, with screams so shrill they could have broken all the windows, that is if there had been any.There is an appetizer and cocktail reception with tables drowning in sushi and hand-passed hors d’oeuvres like beef kabobs and Thai chicken skewers. There’s an open bar and a magician who cruises around doing impossible card tricks and pulling little Styrofoam balls out of people’s ears.I think I’m feeling a little overwhelmed when the DJ starts yelling and screaming and hyping up the crowd. “Ladies and gentlemen, make way for the star of the show, our man J-A-A-A-R-R-R-R-R-E-T-T-T!”The double doors fling open and the spotlight goes to a 12-year-old Jarrett wearing a leather jacket adorned with blinking lights and a black T-shirt, toting a bright red electric guitar. I have to admit, the kid has a head of thick brown hair that is somewhat rock-star worthy, with eye-skimming bangs and wide-set brown eyes that literally makes the girls go wild because they’re all screaming and carrying on. Ryan notes there are gaggles of girls and very few boys at the party, but he’s observant like that.That’s just the start of the fuss that goes on for what seems like hours. Ryan is having a great time, cutting up the dance floor and flirting with the professional dancers (the gay black guy clearly can’t get enough of him). He’s lovey with my relatives, hugging and kissing everyone and they’re totally eating it up. Better yet, no one seems to notice the number of whiskey and cokes he’s had.”Thank God for you or else I’d be lonely back here,” the bartender tells him.Then comes the Hava Nagila dance, where they lift Jarrett above the crowd and carry him around in a chair while everyone dances in circles. It’s actually a cool tradition, but for some reason I’m not feeling it.”What’s wrong, babe?” Ryan says. He can read my face like a blind person can read Braille.”I don’t know, I’m just kind of embarrassed by all this.””Why?” he says, putting his heavy arm around me and wrapping me in against his chest. “It’s totally awesome! If I had a party like this when I was 13, I would have made it twice as big!””I don’t know. It just seems like a lot.” I say, feeling like being here, pressed against his chest, is the best place to hide.”Oh, come on. It’s great! Let’s go dance.”He pulls me onto the dance floor and I catch glimpses of various relatives as he expertly twirls and spins me around, nodding and clapping in approval.The weekend is nonstop after that. We go to Fenway for a Red Sox game where we sit in the bleachers, drink eight-dollar beers and make loads of new friends. We visit my oldest friend who lives on a lakefront estate in Medfield built in the 1600s. We eat an unforgettable meal at a tiny Italian joint in the North End, touch live stingrays at the New England Aquarium, drink perfectly poured Guinness stout at an Irish pub, buy books at the Harvard Coop, walk through Boston Common, peruse the shops at Haymarket and Faneuil Hall and make our way down Newberry Street where the magnolia trees have just only just started to blossom.And yes, we drive in circles, caught between the banter of the GPS and my mother who is lost somewhere on memory lane. We literally drive ourselves crazy, but somehow Ryan is still there, at the wheel, taking me exactly where I need to go.

The Princess is happy to be home. Send your love to