Seventeen

“Your cousins said they couldn’t believe how much you’ve changed,” my mom told me two weeks ago as we drove to Chautauqua.

Well, yeah.

Papa died in May of 2011. That was the last time I had seen the only two cousins I have on my mom’s side.

Senior in high school. Seventeen. Tightly wound. Homebody. Impressionable. Judgmental. Narcissistic. Steady boyfriend with military ideals. Clean, if that makes sense.

Cigarette smoke floated up to my window from the front porch and I silently cursed the headache-inducing smell, along with my cousins’ useless nicotine addictions.

They saw a different Emily last month.

Junior in college. Nineteen (nearly 20!). Explorative. More –– but not completely –– open-minded. Independent. Still tightly wound, but knows now how to let go.

Short, boyish hair. Navel piercing. Tattoo (a new addition!). Bigger thighs (a big thank-you goes out to those damn squats in weight room freshman year).

And I don’t mind the cigarette smoke anymore.

I wouldn’t be who I am now if I had stayed in that militaristic relationship.

So I’m glad 17-year-old Emily is gone. This 19-year-old Emily has seen more of the world and, as a result, is closer to her older brothers and cousins than she ever thought she’d be.

Visiting the bro

For the past two summers, my eldest brother has been writing for The Chautauquan Daily newspaper that is distributed by little paper boys all across The Chautauqua Institution. Other than the snobby, old rich people, I actually would not mind living there.

Last summer we visited him at his job and went on a walk all around one side of the Institution. The sky started dropping raindrops (of course), but we kept going, letting our two dogs pull us along by their leashes. Despite the horrible weather, I found every aspect of the Institution absolutely gorgeous.

This year we visited again, walking along on the red brick and gazing in awe at some of the beautiful old homes. Again, it started raining while we were there. At first I braved the rain, letting the hood of my hoodie soak up the wetness, but then it became too much for me to handle. My dad gave me the umbrella he had been holding for me, and I put it up, instantly relieved by the dryness. Everywhere we looked, there were pretty houses and beautiful mansions. We passed a few houses that were erected this past winter of ’08; houses that didn’t even exist when we visited last year.

The snobby people that live there ignored us, so we ignored them. We walked and walked and walked, looking left and right at the architecture. We passed the Opera house and visited the Rain Garden outside of the theater building. We visited the Amphitheater again and listened to the Chautauqua Choir for a little while. I still find the Amphitheater amazing.

If I lived in the Institution, I would want to own a small cottage near the lake, overlooking the water. I would walk and ride my bike everywhere, and would go to the Amphitheater daily. Maybe I would try going to the Opera, but I would probably end up covering my ears and running out.

Our visits there have been pleasant – despite the heavy rainfall. Hopefully some Sunday we will go there WITHOUT rain following behind us.