Part Eleven – Awkwardness at Disneyland and Ukuleles at the Beach

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March marked the month that contained what we fondly dubbed “The California Reunion.” After almost two years of friendship and just about a year after I first met them in Virginia, the Nuts came crashing into Los Angeles and my worlds collided. Naomi and her brother, Josiah, arrived first and I was tired and hungry and a mess and so incredibly nervous. I pulled Naomi onto the back porch with me to give her the heads’ up about any potential weirdness that I was anticipating. No sooner had the words “So, there’s something I need to tell you” escaped my lips then she guessed exactly what I was going to say. She texted Austin simply saying, “Finally” and that was that. Naomi is one of my people. She helped keep me sane the next day as we waited for Austin, Drew, and Mrs. Harrison to arrive.

I was nervous the next day. Just to be totally and completely honest. The Harrisons were expected to arrive that evening and their plane was delayed and then Austin texted us saying that their flight was cancelled. Naomi and I promptly began freaking out until Drew confirmed that Austin was only teasing. It wasn’t funny. She and I were anxiously waiting, though, and baked cookies and washed our converse and took selfies and watched episodes of The Office while we waited.

Finally they arrived after midnight. Naomi and I had waited up but we were exhausted so we went to bed promptly after “hello”s were said and hugs given. The next day was a recovery and rest day before our rag-tag group decided to venture to Disneyland.

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Yes, we went to Disneyland together and took way too many pictures and ridiculous videos and ate pineapple whip in the Tiki Room and screamed on Space Mountain and skipped down Main Street. We got soaking wet on Splash Mountain and took a blurry late-night selfie with Mickey Mouse. We learned that having pun-offs and singing while waiting in line helps them go faster and that we all look hysterical in 3D glasses. Drew continually reminded us that roller coasters are more fun with your hands in the air and I was just so happy to be at such a wonderful place with some of my best friends.

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By the time our day ended, we were all so incredibly tired. I had been up since 4am and several of us were crashing from the painful mix of espresso + utter exhaustion. Still, it was a day that was just about as close to perfect as they come. Austin and I had chatted some while waiting in line, but there was a kind of strained awkwardness to our conversations. It was hard for me because all the while, I felt like I had lost my friend. Not in a literal way, but in the way of recognizing that Austin and I had been so free with each other before and now we weren’t and it felt like we had lost ground. I knew that it wouldn’t stay like that, but it was still a difficult adjustment for me to make. I didn’t know how to act around him now that things were “different” and with so many other people around, it didn’t really facilitate a chance for us to try to figure it out. Despite that, Drew, Naomi, and Connor were brilliant that week. They worked hard to show discretion and, whenever they had an urge to tease us, they would call out, “Censor!” instead. Even though I was trying to figure out how to relate to Austin now, our group dynamic hadn’t changed and it was as amazing as ever.

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Over the course of the week that followed, we all adventured around Los Angeles together. Most evenings were spent eating scones and playing fiercely competitive games of Apples to Apples. We went hiking to a non-existent waterfall and saw the space shuttle and pretended that a parking lot full of Corvettes were ours. We attempted to watch Casablanca and Star Trek, but I fell asleep in the middle of both of them. Go figure.

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And then there was the night that we had a bonfire at the beach. We ran around on the shore taking photos and watching the sunset. Naomi and I went exploring and, by the time we came back, we were windblown and sandy but it was perfect.

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Once we had finished our dinner, Austin and Drew got out their ukuleles and we all just sat around the fire attempting to sing along and discuss little random things amongst ourselves. Things were beginning to feel “normal” again between Austin and me due to some conversations we had had earlier in the week with my parents. Now we could at least talk without it seeming like we were ignoring the giant elephant in the room. Still, that night on the beach was beautiful and we stayed late talking and laughing and singing.

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It was a wildly unpredictable week and it took every effort on my part to keep my emotions from spiraling out-of-control. Austin and I had been able to go out with my parents twice for coffee and just to talk things over and my dad had the brilliant idea of asking all the awkward questions first to get them out of way. Looking back, I see how beneficial that approach was, but that didn’t make answering them in the moment any easier. I am so thankful that Austin and I had the chance to spend that week together with the focus not being on him + me but on the Nuts as a whole group. He left and I knew that we had a lot of ground to cover together, but I was more confident that we would be able to tackle all of the discussions as friends and regain the freeness that we had lost. The awkwardness had made things seem very stiff and formal and I hadn’t liked that at all, so I looked forward to when we could start talking on the phone regularly and get to know each other better in this new context in which we found ourselves. I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy, but I had hopes that, in our quest to become better friends, our intentional conversations would lay the foundation for something more.

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