The wedding is long, and boring, whereas the lake is cool and pleasant and distracting. My journal sits on my lap, open and blank, as I traced my finger up and down its spiral spine, my eyes turned to the water. The summer sun bounced off its glassy surface, creating a glow under the white tent. The couple to be married stands, holding hands, at the front, the man between them droning on about the moment they first found their true love.
I frown again, pulling at the straps of my dress. It sparkles when I move, and twirls around my ankles. I plan to remove it the moment I can escape from my mother with my backpack in hand. She hadn’t noticed the jeans and shirt I grabbed before leaving, nor the iPod nano I had brought in hopes of listening to my favorite music on the ride home. These hidden items gave the wedding an exciting twist, but all the excitement had gone away after the ceremony began.
Laughter comes from around me, and I peek at my mom. She sits, beautiful in her dress, with my baby brother in her arms. He sleeps quietly, and my pre-school sister picks her pink nails silently, bouncing slightly on my dad’s knee.
I sigh, desperate for a distraction, and my dad gives me a small shushing, and quietly draws a grid on my notebook. A smile lighting up my face, I grab the pen and flick an ‘x’ onto the page, completely forgetting the dry speeches and the dullness of the marriage.
Time passed, though I have no idea how much. My parents and sister gazed happily at the eager couple, and when the magical words -- “You may kiss the bride,”-- were announced, they cheered with the rest of the group as I gagged and turned in my seat. The older woman behind me laughed at my suffering.
“That could be you someday,” her smirk seemed to hide her laughter, but I continued my act. Yuck. Who would actually kiss-- or get married?! I'm only six, but my plan is to buy a farm someday. I would make my clothes from the sheep, get milk and cheese from cows, and of course have plenty of chickens. I wanted to have ten dogs as well, but I was currently trying to figure out how they would live with my cats and birds and reptiles and rabbit. It was complicated, but I was sure I could find a solution before I finished school.
Finally, after the kissing had ended and the crowd dispersed, I tugged on my mom’s teal silk sleeve.
“Mom, mom, I need to go to the bathroom.” I whisper-shout, intending to lug my backpack in with me to change.
“Okay. Leave your bag here, honey. And can you take your sister?”
After a moment of rebuttal, she allows me to go alone, and I sneak my backpack along before she could notice. Changing quickly, my excitement grows as amplified voices begin to pour from the larger white tent by the lake. My dad had informed me that there would be speeches (boring), dancing (bleck), and snacks (boo-yah) following the wedding, and I recall this now. Scrambling into my jeans, I rush out to the lake, the tent beginning to glow with the soft light of candles, a beacon among the darkening forest.
My sly grin grows until I can’t hold it, running up behind my mom as she pushes my little sister on the tall swings by the lake’s edge.
She turns, seeing me in my clothes, and gives me a look that I know very well. I giggle, my mom’s reprimanding and tired voice frightening ducks on the lake. They tear across the water, shooting into the sky, and once more my attention has been diverged. Eyes lighting up, I watch the ripples appear from jumping fish until my father drags me into the tent for food.
Because mom isn’t here to monitor my ‘healthy food choices’, I take one for the team and grab rolls, mints, chocolate covered strawberries, and all the candies I can fit onto my plate, and share them with my siblings.
After food, my dad takes my sister and I on an evening walk. Away from the people, the crazy, hectic life of love. There’s a path around the lake, but I run through the ferns like I’m an explorer, riding my horse through the unknown wild Oregon, just before Lewis and Clark. Coming to a very small clearing, I step into the last of the sun and look out at the lake.
The water is the deepest cyan, the sky a midnight blue with the slightest smattering of stars. Even as a first grader, I see these and wonder whether they really aren’t just some splatters of paint, thrown to the sky by an artist of sorts. I am still, not even shivering in the cooling breeze, and sit on the littoral zone’s natural dock.
The grasses are cut short, and more of a kelly-green or lime than the healthy grass green I recognize. I run my fingers through the mud, feeling its layers of soil and sediment as though I can read its story. The noise of the wedding is far off, muted by the thick groves of pines and cedars. The peace surrounds me, the silent night the most perfect rest from the hustle of the freeway we took to arrive here.
When my dad and sister find me, they stay a minute. They skip stones on the lake, talk about the bride, and pick at the leaves from the bushes nearby. I am quiet at first, then join in on their conversations.
We return to the celebration shortly, and my dad gets me to dance with him. I request a song from the DJ, saving the day with my iPod when he doesn’t have it, and singing all the words when it plays from his speakers. The bride, who I don’t know too well, dances with the groom, a good family friend. They kiss, but I am too tired to make any more sounds of disgust.
By the time the sun sets completely, we are in the car, heading home. I look out the window, which shakes gently from the bumpy road, and admire the stars through the reflections on the glass pane. The quiet is peaceful, but it is almost disappointing without the whispers from birds wings, or the singing of the crickets.
Someday, I tell myself, I can return. Return to the lake where the grass runs thin and pale, where the water is silent, and the stars are just a smattering of bright paint above. Where the peace is a comfort, the darkness a blanket of soothing thoughts.