I don’t spend a lot of time talking about my personal life here at Fanfreakingtastic. There are two reasons for this. 1.) I’m pretty private. 2.) My personal life is exceedingly boring. Don’t get me wrong. I deeply, deeply appreciate just how boring my life is. I can’t abide drama. I like things still and quiet and serene.
Anyway, back to the point. If you haven’t already figured it out, this is going to be a more personal story than usual. Also, I am going to say some nice things about some friends of mine. I don’t want them to let this go to their head, or think I am going to make a habit of it. After this, it’s back to business as usual.
This last weekend was the 8th Annual FlowerFest. What is this FlowerFest, you may be asking yourself. Well, once upon a time, when Evan was 18, his parents went away for nine days. Evan and his friends therefore had a nine day party. This was the original FlowerFest. It is important to note that this group of friends had been tight for a very long time upon the occasion of the original FlowerFest, and they remain tight to this day.
Growing up, I didn’t have a tight group of friends. I did have some wonderful friends, both at school and in horses, and I am grateful for all of them. But let me put it to you this way – I lived in the same house from age 3 to age 18. I changed schools four times. The first change was foisted upon me by the school district, the rest were voluntary. Here’s the thing. I have a pretty big personality. Over the years, I’ve gotten much, much better at managing myself, but I still tend to be a person who garners strong reactions. People love me or hate me. When I was in school, this quality was magnified about eleventy billion times. I would change schools, and there’d be love at first, followed pretty quickly by the hate. And then I’d leave. As my dear friend Eminem put it, I’ve been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage. But, like Em, I couldn’t stop rhyming or writing the next cypher, and so the cycle would begin all over again.
These were not pleasant times for yours truly. I have two vivid memories of my final days at Auburn Senior High School (the second high school I’d attended). I remember walking down the hallway and thinking, “Is this really it? This is all high school is going to be? Where’s my Ferrari ride with Ferris Bueller? Why all the lies, John Hughes?” The other memory is of graduation. You may be surprised to hear that when you’re 5’1″ with broad shoulders and big boobs a graduation gown pretty much turns you into a giant bowling ball. And when you’re essentially dressed in a Halloween costume of a giant bowling ball, you’re already not feeling too frisky. So, there I am, feeling like a fat, fat bowling ball, on the football field, with 650 people, the vast majority of them I didn’t know at all, just wanting to get the hell out of there. (Actually, I just had a memory – I was in this Commercial Arts class, and we were charged with the task of making the senior t-shirts. I desperately wanted the slogan to be, “Like Bats Out of Hell.” For some reason, the principal felt this was too negative.)
Anyway, the good news was – in three short months I was off to inner city Los Angeles and USC. Right away I met my future husband, Evan. He was from Clemson, SC, and over the year I met some of his friends, talked to others on the phone, and heard millions of stories about the group of guys Evan had grown up with. They were really, really good stories.
Summer was coming up, and back in Auburn, WA, my parents had taken in my sister, her daughter, as well as my grandmother who had Alzheimer’s. There was literally no room at the inn. My dad was supporting four generations on one small income, and I was going to a very expensive private school. I’d mentioned to my mom that in the South, one could acquire a factory job and earn a lot of money. My mom isn’t stupid. Some time later, she said, “So, are you going to spend the summer in South Carolina with Evan and work at a factory?” And I was like, “Uhhh….” But inside my head I thought, “SHE’S SO SMART. IT’S CREEPY.”
And so, at nineteen, I moved 3,000 miles away to spend my summer with a bunch people I’d never met before while working swing shifts at a textile mill. (?!?) That first summer wasn’t easy. There was one point where I called my friend Kate, crying. Never in all our years of friendship had I ever called Kate, crying. But there were also plenty of good times, too, and my parents visited, fell in love with nearby Greenville, and moved there the next year. (This isn’t as weird as it sounds – my dad is from the South and they’d been looking to move to Atlanta for a long time. In Greenville, they found a much better version of what they’d been looking for.)
By the next summer, Clemson had started to feel like home. Over the next few years, I spent my summers there, and Evan’s friends became my friends. It was easy to see why Evan had so many really, really good stories. His group of friends are good people. They’re funny, they’re smart, and they’re loyal to the bone. Eventually, in 2003, we moved to Clemson and got married. Shortly thereafter, Evan’s best friend had a brilliant idea – a FlowerFest Revival. The original crew came together for a two-day regression therapy session.
FlowerFest has become an annual rite of summer. It has changed over time. A lot of the boys got married, to women I love like sisters. Some of the boys now have kids, leading to a new schedule of FlowerFest Days and FlowerFest Nights. Some of them have remained unmarried and childless, which is nice for Evan and I, who remain happily locked in at a mental age of around 24. Every year new people come to FlowerFest, and the boys welcome them with open arms. FlowerFest is the most inclusive gathering of people I’ve ever known. As long as you’re not a jerk and you’re up for a good time, you’re welcome to join in the merriment.
And so it was this past weekend, while I watched grown men launch complicated strategies to pants one another, and I watched people with PhD’s repeatedly, and violently, throw one another off a dock and into Lake Hartwell at 2 in the morning, it dawned on me how much I love these people.
During my L.A. years I always thought of myself as homeless. People would ask me where I was from, and I never knew how to answer. I could say Seattle, which was true – I went to high school there, and the city had a big impact on me. I could say rural Kent/Auburn, which was true, too. That’s where my house was. I could say L.A. I did live there for eight years. Or I could say South Carolina, because I spent my summers there. But really, I didn’t have an answer. And so that word stuck with me – homeless. I felt homeless.
But last Saturday, while I watched ten men chase my husband down, tackle him, drag him several yards and force him to do a keg stand against his will, I realized I didn’t feel homeless anymore.