F is for Finally
When I got the call, I scrambled for my shoes, grabbing my purse on the way out the door. I couldn't keep the smile off my face as I breezed through the hospital, possibly unnerving members of staff.
We'd been praying for years and now she was here.
Finally I found their room. My friends had transformed into a family. He was happy, euphoric even, and she was so very tired. The new arrival was asleep, unaware of the stir she'd caused, unaware of just how long-awaited she was.
As he let her go, placing her gently in my arms, I could almost hear him telling himself that it wouldn't be for long, that soon she'd be back with him, safely nestled.
I listened to the wispy grace of her breath, the persistent throb of her heartbeat.
I shuddered a little, hoping not to wake her. After so many prayers and hopes and months and years, she's finally here.
I was in college. It was my 21st birthday. My first boyfriend had come to visit me after a long absence that had included the beginning and middle of our relationship. We'd seen each other just one other time while we were dating, in the freezing cold of a Chicago winter, the week between Christmas and New Years.
It was still cold in February in central Indiana, where I went to college, but colder than the weather he'd left behind in Texas.
Over all those months on the phone, I had thought about what it would be like to kiss him. I didn't have a lot to go on. I'd never kissed anyone before.
Weeks earlier, we had exchanged "I love yous." Another first. Now, I was looking into his eyes in a car we'd borrowed to go to the movies, breathless with anticipation. I knew he was going to kiss me.
When he did, it was warm and unpracticed, but not tentative. We were secure in our love for each other, and in our hopes for the future. With our lips pressed close together we were saying: finally.
After weeks of writing and revising, I finally printed out enough copies for everyone in my class. They'd had them for a while now, long enough to make notes and ponder what I'd said and what I'd meant.
I wore a dress I'd purchased in London. It had a print that looked like fireworks bursting against a night sky. I brought a yellow pad and a pen to take notes.
I wasn't allowed to speak during the workshop. It was a class rule that the author remained silent, allowing her work to speak for itself.
I listened to my classmates discussing my characters, my words. I wrote down their questions and their suggestions.
On the way back to my dorm, I clutched my yellow pad and the stack of responses to my chest. I thought about the year I'd spent getting pre-requisites out of the way at a state school, about the years of scribbling stories in every spare moment before that. But now I was here, writing in response to an assignment.
It was summer and we were together effortlessly. I didn't worry about saying the wrong thing, or about the love running out. I didn't worry about being myself.
One night, we walked in a park in the cool of the evening. We stopped for a moment, sitting on a bench looking out over the pond. I watched the ducks swimming. He took out Anna Karenina and read a few pages.
We left the park and walked through the neighborhoods, peeking into just-lighted windows. We held hands and I joked that our future house should have a moat.
"With alligators," he said.
We walked and planned each room, the house growing larger in our minds. I pulled his sweatshirt closer around my shoulders, enjoying the way our fingers wound warmly around each other.
The rhythm of our steps sounded like finally, finally.
I could still remember the way I got breathless when the email came. I'd applied to the workshop, little hoping that I would be accepted. But I was.
I was excited when I boarded the plane, early in the morning, even more so when I found others who would travel with me the rest of the way.
But it wasn't then, or when we arrived on campus and put our luggage in our rooms, peering at the wood floors, or the back patio which looked over the wide expanse of water, framed by gently waving trees.
It was the next morning, when I walked into the kitchen, several hundred words into an essay, and found our teacher for the week, making herself a concoction which consisted mostly of hummus.
I was 10 years old and I had been looking forward to seeing Swan Lake for weeks. My ballet school was going together, dressing up in costumes to hand out programs in exchange for free tickets.
I'm not sure exactly what it was about Swan Lake that had so captured my attention, but to me it was the top tier of ballet magic.
The week of the performance, I got very sick. There aren't many times in my memory that I have been so sick that I have had to miss work or school, or even social engagments. I had to miss Swan Lake and I cried mightily, even though I was painfully congested.
It was a little before my 25th birthday when I found out that a local ballet company was bringing Swan Lake to town. My parents bought tickets in the front row and I dressed to the nines, hoping to delight my 10-year-old self.
I watched, almost breathless, throughout the performance, captured by the quality of the dancing and the gorgeous sweep of Tchaikovsky's music.
Traditionally, both the leads die at the end of the ballet, a tragic, beautiful end. I was prepared for this, prepared to cry.
Imagine my surprise when the swan and her prince did not die, thanks to a happy choreography edit.
I took the hand of my 10-year-old self and said to her: "See, if you wait long enough, sometimes the sad ending changes to a happy one. Finally."
This post is the sixth installment of a new series I'm beginning, one for each letter of the alphabet. These posts will be in order, about whatever strikes my fancy, posted each Monday.