"I remember one morning getting up at dawn, there was such a sense of possibility. You know, that feeling? And I remember thinking to myself: So, this is the beginning of happiness. This is where it starts. And of course there will always be more. It never occurred to me it wasn't the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment…" (The Hours).
It was happiness, there in the mountains of Tennessee, July, 2010, as I watched my parents enjoy themselves for the first time in two weeks as they looked down on Gatlinburg from the porch. The night air was calming in its warmth as my family settled down for the evening, high atop the mountain in our chalet, completely unwilling to think about the concept of tomorrow.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
Every night seemed like this. That's the thing about Tennessee. When the fog enfolds the mountains in its jealous arms, a surreal and immeasurable opportunity presents itself to you, daring you to appreciate your life as it is now, or let the moment pass you by. I saw my mother smile, a childish hint of glee in her eye, and the love in my father's eye took me back to when I was a child, riding on his shoulders as my family hiked the trails of the very mountains beneath us. My parents have been married for twenty-six years. How many children can still say that now? There are moments when I feel that they might fall apart, but then we come here, and I know that they will be okay.
Still, this vacation was different. We didn't take the eleven mile hike to Gregory's Bald, nor did we stop to see a waterfall shine it's magnificent colors like Rainbow Falls. Instead, we just nestled in our chalet in 100°F weather. My grandparents continued to blast the television at an unspeakable level, so my sister Kassandra and I had no option but to watch what they were watching or put subtitles on the movie we chose to watch downstairs.
During this vacation, the concept of going to college and finally growing up became very real to me. I found that there was no going back, even when we went to Tennessee. What used to be an escape served as a cruel reminder that time continues. I understood that my life was at its most crucial point – the end of adolescence. I took the heart of this idea and applied it to my family, looking at them through a whole new light. I saw this vacation, the mountains, the rhododendrons surrounding the house, the stray bears that came to eat out of our garbage cans as they do every year, the quarrels my sister and I had hourly, the aroma of chlorine increasing in the hot tub each time we got in, I saw it all as the most beautiful experience of youth I am going to have. That was the last time I was going to see my family through those eyes. The next time we go, I will be paying for my fare, and that concept of responsibility has scared me more than anything. The innocence I encountered there, the security my family has established within those gorgeous Great Smoky Mountains will be a part of me, but there it must end. I am grateful for that though, for I know during the dark times I am bound to face in my future, I will see the true happiness in my parents' eyes, feel the night wind, listen to the soothing cicadas, and go back to that wooden chalet.
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