“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.” ~Abraham Lincoln
I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life
And I musn’t give in
When the dawn comes
Tonight will be a memory too
And a new day will begin” ~Cats
As a child, I remember driving the three hours north to Burlington Vermont to vacation in what else the mountains. Not that I didn’t have fun, but as a city girl at heart, I wanted to visit family in New York, Brave the streets of Philly, Explore the city of angels, and pay homage to our countries capital. Hell I would have preferred going to Boston if given the chance.
Not that I didn’t like Vermont, I did, but it felt more of the same old from where I came. It wasn’t big enough, or city enough for me.
At the time Church Street (yes I know every city had a “Church Street” and no, it is not filled with churches) wasn’t very developed. So shopping was minimal.
We would explore Shelbourne. Go to Ben and Jerry’s, and see how Teddy Bears were made.
It was fun, and I do have a ton of memories, but when we stopped going I didn’t cry about it. I just prayed the next place would be bigger, better and with lights that never turned off.
It was ironic that my sister, who I always considered a city slicker like myself, chose Burlington to go to college. Not that I really had any feelings about it. At that point I wouldn’t have cared if it had been Berkley, NYU, overseas at Oxford. I didn’t care she was only three hours away at Saint Mikes. I just hated the fact that she had to go away at all.
I remember her singing the accolades of Burlington, telling me about all the shopping on Church Street. The food. The lake. It was amazing.
I didn’t care. It would have been more amazing if she stayed in North Conway and went to Granite State.
I remember as we dropped my sister off at Saint Mikes, driving away on a cloudy cold (it is Vermont) day bawling my eyes out, because my sister had been “kidnapped” by some school with a purple knight as a mascot. (really how ferocious is that?)
Fast forward almost ten years, and I am still bawling my eyes out, but for different reasons. That school that I loathed because it and the people who went there, who “took” my sister away, are actually the very thing that still keep her memory alive today.
As I got older, I learned just because we were three hours away didn’t mean she was in Siberia. I have countless letters of her telling me to steal our mom’s cell phone so I could call her anytime anywhere (in case you were wondering yes it was a flip phone, secret spy style.) I started to visit her, and get glimpses into college life, especially hers, my big sisters.
My parents and I would plan mini vacations to Burlington. My parents loved it there. Many memories were created, which is why it makes it so hard to go back.
But that school, and those people that I was both enamored and jealous of at the same time were the same ones who came together for me when my sister, their friend died.
Right after it happened, I knew that they needed to be told, I also knew that I wanted to be the one to do it. Aside from my family, they were the closest to her. They knew her like no one else did, and they had been a part of her life where growth and change are constant. Where immaturity ends and maturity begins.
From the start, they were there for me. Letting me know when her school had a memorial mass for her, and then six months after letting me know they were running a race in her memory at Saint Mikes and asking if I wanted to be a part. My competitive side couldn’t resist.
It was around that time I also got invited to her friends’ wedding. I couldn’t even begin to describe the emotion I felt. I was so touched to be included on a day so special and to be let into the inner sanctum of this group.
Jacquie had told me stories even shown me pictures that she wasn’t suppose to (oops), It was like the Masons, you heard about them and got glimpses, but only if your invited do you actually get to join. I didn’t get the invite, but then I didn’t need it.
Mike and Arik’s wedding was the last time I had been to Vermont. At the time, I was still so numb, and filled with disease that I couldn’t quite comprehend what I was doing in Vermont. It didn’t seem real. The memories literally just happening months ago.
Two years later, our friendship cemented with trips to New York and New Hampshire (pretty sure the first was much more fun the later…just saying), weddings, and Facebook, it was inevitable that I would have to go back to Vermont sooner or later.
I didn’t dread it, not knowingly at first, but then our psyche has a way of protecting us, which after the week I had with losing stuff, it can stop. But I digress.
Burlington is filled with lots of memories, and by lots, I do mean LOTS, Drinking Lake Chaplain milkshakes on Church Street, Seeing Carrie Underwood at the Fair in Burlin-Sorry I mean Essexs (Really it is all Burlington to me) and singing our hearts out. Baking a cake when I visited her at Saint Mikes and then going to class the next day and feeling like the shit (I was sixteen okay?), going to mass, running on the bike path, walking along Lake Champlain and looking for Champy. Going ice skating, Skinny Pancake, swimming at the hotel, alterations for our dresses, so so so many things.
And then the things that I wasn’t there for, but she told me about, or thought about me in some way, like when she went to a Rupee concert and got me an autograph even though I had no idea who Rupee was, she got one and knew her little sister would want one too. Or when she knew I missed her so much, that she got me a stuffed dog from the SMC bookstore. There are so many.
Yes Burlington is a smorgasbord of good, amazing, wonderful memories. But sometimes it can be hard to focus on that especially when you are so wrapped in grief. Given time they do make us smile and laugh again, but we have to work through the pain first. You can’t avoid it.
Jacquie’s friends, now my friends too, have helped that in ways I will always be grateful and indebted to them for.
This weekend was amazingly tough, beginning with a train ride that left my neighbors wondering if I was some depressed psychopath (quickest way to make sure no one sits down next to you? Just start bawling…Scares the shit out of people). It was feelings I wasn’t expecting, but I also knew I couldn’t run from them either.
One, because I wanted to be there for my friends. I wanted to celebrate something happy. Because life does keep going on. Happiness does happen again. And after death, their is life. And what better way then to acknowledge that with a baby shower? (okay an anti baby shower, but still you get the point) The pinnacle beginnings of life and innocents?
Two, you can’t avoid places. If I have learned anything the last three years, is you have to push past it, because if you don’t it will drown you. You will stay stuck in a place no one should be in.
And three, Burlington is one of those places that I have so many memories of my Jacquie. To ignore that would be to ignore a part of her that didn’t exist. And that does a disservice to her memory. Because she did exist and Burlington was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, parts of her life.
It was hard, I feel like I just went through the car wash for people, but I would do it again.
Because, not only do I feel close to my sister there. I also have made amazing friends because of my sister. And to not do something because it might be emotionally taxing on my psyche causing further distress (I swear Jacquie’s psychology rubbed off on me) is a cope out.
The best medicine is laughter, and my friends, – actually as Mike said, “My family” – My SMC family that is, has more laughter, craziness, fun, and love, then most people I know. They are the best medicine.
They are also the ones who make me want to go back to Vermont. Who make me not afraid to confront my past and live for my future. They have adopted me into their group, their SMC family, a family I wanted to be a part of since my sister started at Saint Mikes and started talking about them, sharing stories and secrets (don’t worry my lips are seal…..welllll I did have my eye on a Louis bag. Kidding. I swear!) and it is an honor that I don’t deserve, but I am definitely NOT giving it back now. (Sorry, but not really)
If this weekend has taught me nothing else, you can’t avoid things, no matter how hard. Because even with the hardest moments of life, also come the best. And despite the emotional roller coaster this was definitely one of the best.
I am so lucky to have friends like these and I know my sister was too.
I can not wait to meet the next generation which should be arriving shortly. The next generation of craziness, love and of course filled with SMC fabulousness.