This should be a Thanksgiving post.
I mean, I'm posting it on Thanksgiving, but it will not contain all of the warm and fuzziness that it probably should. I mean, it is every Blogger/Facebooker/Twitterer's duty to post things that they're thankful for each day of November, declare how blessed they are, or at the very least post pictures from a pumpkin patch or an apple orchard, right?
This is not a typical Thanksgiving post, but not because I am not thankful or because I don't realize how completely blessed my life is. There were challenges, but I can say for certain that expressing gratitude feels much easier to do this year than it did last year and for that I am immensely thankful.
So while this isn't a typical holiday post, it is inspired by something for which I am grateful - my trip to California and my time at the Los Laureles Lodge, aka the ranch. In the spirit of Thanksgiving and with the hope of finishing writing about Elizabeth's August wedding before the new year, it's back to the ranch we go.
I'm sure I don't need to tell you that we woke up after the beach bonfire with a whole slew of stories from the night before. Some things - like the cab driver's roll call - I didn't even know happened until the next morning. I must've really been into the sing-along because I also missed guests over-pouring their wine glasses in the dark, or guests (ahem, my friends) falling in the sand and flopping around like seals.
Wedding stories - just another reason to be thankful.
While our rooms at the Ranch were stocked full of Sun Chips and muffins from our late-night grocery run, a proper lunch that allowed us to maximize our time in the beautiful scenery as well as rehash all of the evening's transgressions was a definite priority. We opted to drive south to Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur to enjoy magnificent Pacific Ocean views from their treehouse-esque deck.
Only, once again, visibility was non-existent. We sat outside and crossed our fingers that the fog would eventually lift, but it never did. The place was cool and happening, though ,and our waiter was friendly (until we asked him if we could pay the bill with more than one credit card. I honestly thought his head might explode.), so we were happy.
We shared a lot of laughs about the previous night's debauchery, ate some good food, and most importantly, drank some tasty drinks (read: hair of the dog) of the Bloody Mary and Moscow Mule variety.
After lunch and our drive back to Carmel that included stops for scenic photos and an errand run to CVS (where there was booze for sale. At a CVS! Right next to the disposable razors! Again, THANKFUL.), there wasn't a lot of time to do much more than welcome new friends (aka new campers) who had just arrived and get ready for the rehearsal party.
Despite the fact that her wedding was a destination variety for many of her guests, her wedding still had many guests. Most everyone who was invited to the wedding was also invited to the rehearsal, so family, childhood friends, college friends, San Francisco friends were all on hand to toast the happy couple.
The stories were plentiful and varied from humorous to extremely heartfelt.
Greg even wrote a poem.
I went into my remarks with a, "Make them laugh, make them cry, try not to embarrass yourself or anyone else," mentality.
I thought my toast hit on all the appropriate emotions. I even had a woman I did not know come up to me and tell me later that she loved what I had to say.
I'm worried she might've been the only one, though, because just last week one of my girlfriends asked me, "Wasn't it you who brought up all of Elizabeth's ex-boyfriends during your speech at the rehearsal dinner?"
"Um, no," I told her defensively, "I did not."
It was just one. And I never named him. And I only used this story to make a point.
Elizabeth and I really didn't know each other that well when we decided to be roommates our last semester at Georgia, which was fine, except for the fact that Elizabeth and her boyfriend broke up days before I moved in. So while I was pumped to get to know a new, fun girl and make her my friend, she was not really in that mindset. She was in a bad, emotionally low place.
We laugh about that time now and how we healed her broken heart with Ben & Jerry's, American Idol and the Anna Nicole Smith show.
After she moved away to California, it seemed our visits always occurred during really low lows in my life or really high highs. The way we met seemed to follow our friendship. The first time I went to visit her in San Francisco, I'd just ended a four year relationship. Then I whisked into town giddy on romance with Mountain Man. When that went nowhere, I returned to the west coast for reality television and Elizabeth-time.
Our visits are less dramatic than they used to be - and I couldn't be more thankful.
And though I'm embarrassed it took me 32 years to figure it out - watching Elizabeth and Kristof work so easily together, and exists so happily as a couple without the drama that so many of us (me) had confused for true romantic love, it occurred to me that real love isn't cobbled together by a string of highs and lows.
The day-to-day comfort of knowing someone who wants the same out of life that you do, who has your back and will make you laugh and builds you up - that's what solid relationships are all about.
It might not make for a Hollywood film or a good romance novel, but off the emotional roller coaster seems to be where all the good stuff happens.
Right in the middle.
Then again, good stuff also happens at an out of town rehearsal dinner where the wine flows easily.
Considering the groom split his pants before the party even started - (I love you, Kristof!) - I shouldn't have been too surprised that after several (se-ver-al) glasses of wine, and a couple dozen toasts, guests started falling again. Into fountains. And bushes.
There may or may not have been some indecent exposure, and I'm not talking about Kristof.
I'm sure all of the California crowd was looking at us, shaking their heads and thinking, "Who are these Georgia rednecks?"
Country had certainly come to town. And everyone (well, most everyone) was grateful.