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Sunday
Jun222008

The Last Week In June

It's been posted more than twice, so that must make it a Blonde Champagne tradition. Here it is: The Last Week In June.

This week was, in my childhood, what kept me alive throughout the other fifty-one. It is what pulled me to Colorado, horses and dust and pine trees and creeks of freezing mountain runoff. Even if I've been conducting my June unconsciously aware of the anniversary, I suddenly will feel a strong rugged pull as the Fourth of July approaches and look at the calendar and realize, "Oh. The Week."

Although it's now priced right out of this world, it wasn't back in those days, and from the year I was six until the year I was thirteen, this was It. I have never known a place I was happier. College comes a close second, but four years are impossible to conduct without at least some semblance of tears and heartbreak. There were no tears in Lost Valley except for the following Sunday, when there was always near-hysteria. One year I sobbed as the plane departed from Colorado Springs at the thought of another twelve months of waiting in Cincinnati: Were we going to Ohio for a funeral? the woman sitting behind me wondered to my mother's horrified humiliation.

A part of me is literally seared there, burned into the walls of the main dining room. Each family creates its own brand as it passes through, adding checkmarks each returning year. Our brand sits high on a far wall overlooking the mountains and the hummingbird feeders. The brand is a boot representing the brief fact that we all rode that first year, even my mother, who bravely lasted until Wednesday, when she gripped the saddle horn of Colt 45 so tightly that tendinitis followed. Our initial stands in the middle of the boot over wavy lines representing the Ohio River. As I was fully lame even at an early age, this was my civically proud suggestion.

When I grew up and went to stay with my then-boyfriend in Colorado Springs for a month, he drove me there along a narrow shelf road I thought wondrous at the time and now, returning as a driver myself, recognized as terrifying. On one side is a drop of many thousands of feet through trees and jagged scenery; on the other, pure mountain. When two cars meet going opposite directions, one driver has to back up, slowly and with much tense cursing.

"This place is kind of cheesy," the ex announced as he got out of the car and looked upon cabins named "Jessie James" and "Diamond Lil." And I knew then, somehow, although the end was yet months away and much sobbed over, that I could never, ever marry this person.

It is kind of cheesy, in a City Slickers sort of fashion, the way the wranglers greet the suburbanites at the cattle guard entrance on horseback and canter away in front of the car to guide these unleathery dudes to the check-in lodge, but when you are six and you are miserable, this is wondrous to behold. It announced horses to me, the very ones I write about today, and it brought seven days of the social acceptance I never found in the classroom. I heard God in the pines and I inhaled; this was where my soul has lived for so long. This was where the kid picked last for the kickball team won rodeo awards for booting her quarter horse around the barrels the fastest.

Terrible fires raged five years ago all around this little green valley I have always thought of as cupped in God's palm. The ranch was evacuated, the horses herded to safety. I was reunited via phone with one of the kiddie supervisors who cared for me twenty years ago and have exchanged Christmas cards with ever since (it is that kind of place) and she described to me what happened.

"The fire got to the cattle guard," she told me, "and it split. Burned everything around it, but the ranch was untouched. The areas in the mountains where you rode as a child are scorched, I'm afraid."

I would be scorched, too, if I returned right now. I know towering pines and thick tangles of wildflowers, and I prefer to keep them alive inside of me rather than replacing them with black and charred reality.

The regeneration has already begun, I am sure. It will be well underway a few years from now, when Jim the Small Child Nephew will be old enough to ride with a plastic cowboy hat on his head and a face full of sunblock. We will go, I think, the last week in June.

this time from DC at: mbe@drinktothelasses.com

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Reader Comments (7)

Here's to the year to come when you and JTP, along with the nephews and family, make a return to the valley, to add the new brands to the wall for these new families. May we all have such vacation spots in our childhoods.

June 23, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterstarnarcosis

What a great thing to remember. It IS always better in your memory than it would be if you went to see it - especially in your case. My husband and I went to see a house on the street where I grew up. I was dismayed to see that my beloved home, and many of the others on the street, was in a state of disrepair. I loved that house so much, but seeing it made me very sad. At least I can still remember the Good Ole Days. :)
I'm jealous of your horse back riding adventures. Sounds like an awesome, awesome time.

June 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKris

From the 'Blonde Champagne' vintage collection indeed :-)

June 23, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterred pill junkie

Hey MB--
This is a beautiful record, I think everyone knows a place just as quasi-magical from their own youth.

I'm 16, and I was inspired by 'drink to the lasses' to write my own memoir of the college experience. I'm in Governor's School, essentially College Lite, and am keeping up a blog over at blogger (I really hope they don't do to my memoirs what they did to yours). Since you seem to kind of be an expert in all of this, I was wondering if you'd check it out?

I KNOW. I sound like a spammer, I'm sorry. I promise, no creepy pictures, no bizzare advertisements offering to enhance your love life or find you a really cheap louis vuitton bag. Just me and my happy little blog.

I'm only two days into the trip, but I will be updating often, and I would truly value any opinion you could give me about the site, http://shelbyatgovschool.blogspot.com/ . Please keep in contact (if you're not all busy with your awesome freelance life), I think my email will show up for you, and if not, you can reach me through the blog.

thanks so much!
-SKF

June 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterShelby

Shelby, thanks so much for stopping in. Any time I can be a positive influence on another person is 1) highly unusual 2) very welcome. Glad to hear from you. Is Governor's School a summer program? Because if so, I did three of 'em back in The Day : )

June 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMB

Yes, it's a summer scholarship program with a very heavy application process. The whole idea of it is college prep, so I am quickly learning 1) the best drinks to help me through the graveyard shift, 2) how to make it seem like I did the pre-class reading without actually doing it, and 3) Just exactly why college is sooo sooooo much cooler than high school.

I'm sorry to here of your AP Woes. I just sent a thank you card to my AP Comp teacher because my SAT writing score went up 80 points this June. He was telling me about his version of "the stack--" pale in comparison to the production you attended. I directed him over here so he could learn a little something about AP grading! : )

well-back to late-night learning. Good luck with your intellectual recuperation period :D

June 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterShelby

[...] Posted on Thursday, July 24, 2008 by MB Even though we’re well past the last week in June, Colorado has been much in mind lately. Perhaps it’s because I applied, and was promptly [...]

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