Spent My Summer Vacation
Mrs. Feingold –
September 9, 2006
I know this essay is only supposed to deal with how I spent my summer vacation, but that won't make any sense unless I cover everything that happened before that. Instead, this will be something of an overview of 2006 for me. At least so far.
Things got really interesting at the end of 2005 when I made it my mission to win the Science Fair. (of course, Mrs. Feingold, you know how that turned out: Samuel Folotsky won yet again. Have the teachers ever thought of setting some sort of winning limit when it comes to the Science Fair? Maybe you should all discuss that at the next staff meeting. Just a suggestion.) I thought the perfect way to win would be to discover who my birth father is. I have been raised without my father around and while I don't feel as if this has been a major handicap in my life, it still seems like knowing who your own father happens to be is information every person needs.
With that goal in mind, I set about figuring out who some likely candidates were and then testing them for paternity. It was actually a very clever and involved project, it required extensive use of the scientific method as well as in-depth deductive thinking and creative research techniques. (I know you were a judge at the Science Fair last year, Mrs. Feingold, so it's not like I am trying to second-guess your decision or anything. I am just trying to really set the scene, like a good writer is supposed to. However, do you know if you will be a judge at the Fair this year? Just a question.)
In this original and daring project, I discovered that my birth father was a man named Luke Danes, who runs a diner in Star's Hollow. It turns out Luke didn't know anything about me, which wasn't really much of a surprise, my mother had told me as much when I asked about my father. Luke Danes seemed pretty stunned by the information, but who wouldn't be?
At first I thought that I wouldn't see any more of Luke Danes after he stopped by the Science Fair and stared at my project for a really long time. (It really was the kind of project that stopped people in their tracks, Mrs. Feingold.) But a little while later when I came home from an evening spent in research at the library, my mom told me that Luke had called and he was going to call back to talk to me. I think I was a little surprised that night, but not really, because I knew Luke Danes was a stand-up guy. I knew that because he had come to the Science Fair to check the results of my project. None of the other men had even bothered with that, it was like they couldn't care less. But Luke Danes showing up to see the results told me he was invested in the outcome, and that meant he was invested in me. See, if you pay attention to details like that, it turns out that people tell you a lot about themselves without saying a word.
So that was how 2006 began: I started to spend time with my Dad, which is what Luke Danes is, though we both agreed that I probably shouldn't call him that right away, because it would be weird for both of us. (Yes, I know this is an essay about how I spent my summer, and I am getting to that, but as I mentioned, there had to be some context first. Good scientists are thorough and comprehensive, Mrs. Feingold. It is these qualities that make my Science Fair projects really stand out. Just a comment.)
Things were sorta anti-climatic at first, I hung around his diner and he'd watch me do my homework and sometimes come over and ask if I wanted more fries or anything. He looked at me with soft eyes, though, so I thought things were good. I'm not going to lie, it was cool to be able to tell my friends that I was going to spend time at my Dad's diner and he was going to give me as much free pie as I wanted. (which he actually did not, because he said that too much pie was not good for growing girls and perhaps I should try carrots instead and I should definitely, definitely NOT think about coffee, because that was not happening.)
But then things got really climatic when it turned out that Luke was totally engaged to someone! And I met her by accident! And he hadn't even told her about me, which I guess I mostly understand. Still, it did kind of hurt my feelings, because I thought that Luke Danes and I were getting to a point where we could tell people in our lives about each other. I mean, hadn't I told Susannah and Ashley M. about the diner and the fictional pie? It kind of hurt the fiancée's feelings too, which is more than understandable. She really didn't take hearing that Luke Danes was my Dad so well, she turned up her nose like I smelled bad and her face looked like it was melting. It wasn't a pretty sight and it made me feel really awful. So, for a few weeks there, I thought that maybe things with Luke Danes weren't going to turn out so well.
Then Luke Danes and his fiancée-who-I-met-by-accident (FWIMBA) turned up at my house one day after school! In the middle of the afternoon and everything. It was lucky I was at home that day, because they didn't call or anything, they just arrived. I think that was mostly the doing of the FWIMBA, because Luke Danes looked nervous. I guess it was a good sign that the FWIMBA was with him, because I would have been really miserable if I had made Luke Danes lose his fiancée. FWIMBA and my mom shook hands and even I knew that things were awkward. Luke Danes kept looking at his feet and my Mom was talking even faster than usual, which was something else, what with the pace FWIMBA was talking. Anyway, then the four of us went and sat in the living room and I knew we were getting ready to have a "serious" conversation.
That afternoon, FWIMBA re-introduced herself and apologized for the way she'd frozen when we first met and for how her face "got all soft around the edges like Nicole Kidman between Botox injections." (these were her exact words. She talks like that all the time.) She told me that she and Luke had taken some time and had several very long talks about why he hadn't told her about me. She said that none of this had anything to do with me messing up and that I hadn't done anything wrong.
I know it wasn't very polite, but when she said that, it was like she thought I was going to break or something, so I couldn't help but say, "I know I didn't do anything wrong, you and Luke Danes and my Mom did." Which they all mostly had: my mom by not telling me anything about my Dad for so long, Luke Danes for not telling his FWIMBA about me right away, and the FWIMBA for reacting like I was made of radioactive waste when she met me. Although, really, FWIMBA was the least to blame, so maybe I shouldn't have included her.
Then I felt bad, because Luke Danes looked down at his hands and my Mom bit her lip really hard. But then? Then FWIMBA laughed! She laughed right out loud! And she reached over, and she held Luke Danes' hand real tight-like, so I could see the whites in her knuckles. And she told me, "You're right, April, we all did something wrong. But do you think we can all try again?"
And since she had just used my first name like that, and had said it in this voice full of something that sounded almost like, I don't know, respect? And since she was smiling at me with this huge smile? I knew it was OK to call her by her first name. (see, there's the attention to details paying off again, Mrs. Feingold. A quality that has served me well in not only my personal interactions but in all of my complex Science Fair projects too. Just an observation.) So, I smiled back at her, and pushed my glasses up my nose and said, "Yes, Lorelai, I think we can all try again."
So we did. And it turned out that besides the fact Lorelai was really awesome and funny and weird she wanted me to spend a lot of time with my Dad, and sometimes with her too. And he seemed to want that too, so I did. I hung out at the diner and I showed him old Science Fair projects and lots of pictures of me.
He took me around Star's Hollow and introduced me to everyone as his daughter. A woman named Miss Patty wanted me to come to ballet lessons and her friend Babette called me "Doll" approximately three thousand times. We seemed to see a guy named Kirk everywhere and he told me that he had wanted to be Luke's daughter his whole life, which seems strange only if you have never met Kirk. A man named Taylor, who has the shop next to my Dad's, gave me a free ice-cream cone, but then he said something smart to my Dad, and so I threw the cone away and told him it tasted like he'd been over-freezing the ice cream and asked if he understood the proper cooling temperatures for food. My Dad thought that was pretty funny.
By the time school was getting out for the summer, I was calling Luke "Dad" and everyone was all right with it and it wasn't weird at all. He and Lorelai both came to the end-of-the-year events at school (you might have seen them there, Mrs. Feingold, my mother had to stop Luke from going around to each judge from the Science Fair and asking what, exactly, had been so outstanding about Samuel's project.) and then Luke said Susannah and Ashley M. could come back to Star's Hollow and spend the night at Lorelai's and we could all have as much pie as we wanted. (which is exactly what we did, and more than pie besides because Lorelai officially has the coolest sleepovers anywhere, both Susannah and Ashley M. agreed.)
But almost cooler than all of that was that even though Lorelai is younger than my Mom? She already has a kid who is older than me! And her name is Lorelai too, only everyone calls her Rory. And so it turned out that Rory was going to be my step-sister when my Dad married her Mom in the summer. Yes, they were still getting married. Lorelai told me that she had waited for my Dad "longer than Susan Lucci waited to taste sweet Emmy victory." (see, I told you she talks like that all the time.) and she wasn't about to let a man like him get away now. I thought this was pretty smart of her, because even I know stand-up guys like my Dad do not, in fact, come along every day. Also, Miss Patty and Babette told me that my Dad has been in love with Lorelai for more years than anyone can count, but I didn't really need them to tell me that, because all you have to do is see the things he lets her get away with to know that, much less the soft eyes he gives her when he thinks no one is looking.
I never really thought about wanting a sibling of any kind, things with just me and my Mom had always been pretty exactly perfect, but now that I had a Dad and was about to get a step-mom I thought it was the ideal time to throw in a step-sister who was already grown-up. And then it turned out that Rory was about the best almost-step-sister you could hope for. She goes to Yale! That's an Ivy League school! And she told me she even got into Harvard too! It doesn't look like she knows as much about science as me, but she has read more books than any person I ever met. (and she used to date someone who wrote his own book, which is published and everything! And he's my cousin, Luke's nephew!) She said she'd help me pick the best books to read over the summer, which she did and they were all really good, including my new favorite non-science book, To Kill A Mockingbird by Miss Harper Lee, which I am planning to do my Unit 1 book report on. Rory also said that since she was going to be at summer school at Yale, I could go there and visit her for a whole weekend and she'd take me to the science department! (do you think Samuel Folotsky went to the science department at an Ivy League school this summer and was introduced to an actual professor, Mrs. Feingold?)
So, I spent my summer vacation doing a lot of cool things. For one thing, my mother took me for an amazing week in New York City, and we spent the whole time together: going to every museum, an actual Broadway play, and Central Park, where we fed ducks. My mom asked if I was mad that she hadn't told me about Luke earlier, since we were getting along so well, and I told her I wasn't, because maybe we wouldn't have gotten along that well before now. And I also told her that no matter how great Luke, Lorelai, and Rory were, I wouldn't trade any of them for her, because me and her were always going to be the Nardini girls and she was the best mom any girl could hope for. I think that last part made her really happy, and I was going to tell her that very thing even if Rory hadn't suggested it over coffee right before we left. (I drink coffee now, even though my Dad was very upset when he saw that Lorelai had given me a cup, but she told him it hadn't hurt Rory so it sure wasn't going to hurt me.)
Also, my Dad is not just a diner owner, he's a really good cook. So, since I missed out on the Science Fair Spaghetti Celebration, he made me every kind of spaghetti I wanted for a whole week. He said we can keep trying out recipes until we reach 100, but that might be a little too much spaghetti even for me. Besides the spaghetti, we spent a week fishing and camping, out at this cabin my Dad's been going to since forever. That was great, because he showed me about a thousand things about the outdoors that I don't think are in any books and I got to show him all the stuff I had learned in Campfire Girls. He was impressed. He also told me all about my grandparents, his parents, and my aunt and uncle, who I hadn't quite met yet, because they were off at a "Ren Fair." He said they would try our patience, but family is family. He told me the most about Jess, who is his nephew who wrote the book. My Dad is very proud of him, just like he is of Rory. He told me about her when she was little, and how she was the first kid to show him that kids could be awesome, just like me. And I knew my Dad felt guilty for not knowing me before now. So, I told him that I was glad I'd found him, and that was all that mattered, and that I wasn't jealous of Rory at all, even though she had my Dad around when she was little, I was just happy that we were all going to get along and be happy now. I think hearing that made him feel a lot better and I was going to tell him that very thing even if my Mom hadn't suggested it right before we left.
But I guess the biggest event of the whole summer, bigger even than Yale and New York City and catching my first fish, was being in my Dad and Lorelai's wedding. They got married in June with all of Star's Hollow there and I got to be the co-maid-of-honor with Rory! Our dresses matched because Lorelai made mine herself so it would match exactly the one that she'd bought for Rory. And it was even OK that I cried when she told me that and showed me the dress, because she was crying too.
Even though I thought nothing could be better than the wedding and getting to walk out of the church holding hands with Rory with everyone smiling at us like we were the best pair of sisters you could ever imagine, then came the reception. Now, I would never tell my Dad this, but Lorelai's best friend, Sookie, can definitely make better pie than him. And she doesn't make just pie, she makes every kind of cake and food you can imagine, so the reception had the best food I bet anyone in our class ate all summer.
But something even better than really great cake happened at the reception. My mom was at the wedding because she and Lorelai had become sort of friends and because, of course, she wasn't going to miss seeing me walk down the aisle. I think the wedding made her a little sad, though, even though she doesn't love my Dad like that anymore. (but she did once, and he loved her that way too.) At least she was sad until she was at the punch-bowl and met the other kind of sad person at the wedding: Rory's dad!
His name is Christopher and he and my Dad have what they call a "history." I think "history" is a grown-up word for when two people used to hate each other. I am glad they don't hate each other anymore, not just for Rory but for me too, because one week after the wedding Christopher called Lorelai and asked for my Mom's phone number! (I know, Mrs. Feingold, that this seems as if I am just making up an exciting and impossible to believe story about what happened over my summer vacation, but this is all absolutely the truth! You see why all this needed context! Because who would believe it otherwise?) My mom said yes when Christopher called and asked her out and now they've been dating three months.
Rory says maybe someday she and I will be double-sisters. I think she might be right, Christopher gives my mom the soft-eyes. And there's more! Christopher has a daughter of his own, her name is Gigi. She's little, only four years old. I get to play with her whenever Christopher and my Mom are hanging around the house, and I've already bought her a finger-puppet shaped like Charles Darwin. My mom also told me that someday soon Lorelai and my Dad might have babies of their own, which I'd already figured out.
So, within just a few months I went from being an only child to having Rory, who says that we don't have to use the "step" part, we can just be sisters, and Gigi, who could someday maybe be my sister too. And then there's the very good possibility I'll end up with half-siblings soon. I know that sounds messy, which it can be sometimes. It's a lot for a former only child to take in, I won't lie, even when it's good, which it almost always is.
But what I guess all this change comes down to is something that happened at the wedding reception. I got to dance with my Dad while Lorelai and Rory danced together and then Lorelai hugged me hard and told me that she hoped I knew that we were all part of a big family now, even my Mom, and it was going to be really complicated sometimes, but we'd work it out, one way or another, because we loved each other, and because, after all, family is family.
And it has been really complicated sometimes. It turns out that I can't actually run away to my Dad's when my Mom tries to make me do something I don't want, like eat peas or go to bed at 10:30. And Lorelai still has the best sleepovers on the planet but she's also tougher than even my Mom when it comes to making sure I've got all my homework done. (Rory says she gets worse as you get older!) And sometimes I think just because he wasn't there for when I was a baby my Dad has forgotten I'm not one anymore, and he can be so overprotective it drives me up a wall. I'm not always used to having so many people in my life. So, there are fights and screaming and even slammed doors sometimes, but overall, finding my Dad has been the best thing to happen to me so far in my life, much less the main way I spent my summer vacation.
(I'm holding out hope for this year's Science Fair. My sister goes to Yale, you know, and she's going to help me. Winning the Science Fair with my Mom and my Dad and Lorelai and Rory all there will probably be the best moment of my life. Just a prediction, Mrs. Feingold, just a prediction.)