I wasn’t down at the beach for our annual family vacation but a few hours before my mom told me she needed to talk to me. Tears in her eyes, I couldn’t imagine what she needed to say. We walked out to the deck and sat down. I braced myself for the absolute worst. For the past few months, my grandma, my Mimi, has been dealing with minor medical issues. She felt tired, out of breath, loss of appetite. She had told me she was losing weight. When I questioned what she was eating, she said she hasn’t been eating much. She would either forget, or just couldn’t stomach anything. I knew she was going to the doctor off and on, trying to figure out what was causing all of these problems. After a month of testing, she was diagnosed with emphysema. Immediately, I tried to pull all of the medical knowledge out of my head. Thinking of treatment options, prognosis. I connected all the dots in my head. I used Google to connect all of the dots I couldn’t on my own. I would cycle between moments of relief, reading all the treatment options, to moments of hopelessness, realizing that my Mimi is nearing the end of her life. She has always taken care of herself. Growing up, she wasn’t the grandma who spoiled us with candy and treats. We were told the importance of taking care of ourselves and taking vitamins. I learned how to eat a balanced diet, and stay active. The women in our family live a long time, and she didn’t want to be any different. I still haven’t gotten over the shock that this is happening to her. I cried for a long time with my mom. We talked for over an hour about how this is going to affect her and our family. My mom lives with Mimi, so she has automatically assumed the role of caring for her. She’s watched firsthand the progression of her sickness, and she will continue to witness it. I feel guilty for not being closer, not being able to help out if she needs me. I’m thankful that the rest of my family lives so close together. Mimi has taken care of us all our entire lives. Anything we needed, she was there. And now its our time to be there for her. When my mom and I were done with our talk, I had cleaned myself up as much as possible before walking back into the house. It didn’t help. I opened the door, and Mimi was sitting right there. I immediately began crying again. I’m not naive. I know there will be a time when she won’t be there. I know she can’t live forever. But I’m not ready. I’m not ready to handle my life without her. She has been a driving force for me, pushing me to succeed in life. I’ve always had her cheering me along. She hugged me in that moment and said “just be all you can be”. She is one of the most selfless people I have ever met. She is sick and all she is worried about is her family. Talking to her, she told me she hoped to have at least 4 more years of life. In those 4 years, Heather will make her a great grandmother, I will graduate nursing school, and Jaden will graduate high school. She is a fighter, so I hope she is able to get more than 4 years. She’s talked about death for years, making jokes about what her funeral will be like. I always thought maybe it made the idea of death easier for her to handle. But I think she is actually scared now. I don’t think she is ready to die, or miss out on any milestone in our lives. If it was just her, she wouldn’t fight. But I know she is fighting for us. She gives me an immense amount of strength. I feel more motivation to do well in my life, in nursing school, in becoming half the woman she is. I feel like its only right to fight for her too.
Everyone should at least once experience a music festival. And I mean really, truly experience it. But I think that once you do, one festival will not be enough. As I sit here post-Firefly, everything hurts. My feet, legs, head, body. Everything. I’m coughing up what I am sure is 4 days of dust that has collected and settled in my lungs. I’ve taken around an excess of 3 naps today, sleeping more than I’ve been awake. But I would not trade any of this miserable after-festival nonsense for the unforgettable experience of Firefly.
Going into Firefly, I had no idea what to expect. I researched, prepared, and packed over the course of weeks in order to make sure I was ready. Although it helped, it was no where close to enough. In an effort to beat the crowds, we arrived in Dover around 5am on Thursday morning. We hit zero traffic and enjoyed a relaxing car ride of music before getting breakfast and meeting up with our fellow festival goers. I was overwhelmed right when our car pulled into the line for the festival. So. many. people. But the excitement was able to mask how much anxiety I had. We ended up really lucking out on our camping spot. We were able to get in with everyone, minus one group, of the people we planned to come with, and were able to get a spot on the second row of tents in the lot. It placed us very close to the everything we needed back at the campsite, like water faucets and the toilets, and set us up for an easier walk than others into the festival. The overwhelming feeling continued as we set up camp. I’ve always considered myself a hands-on person, but putting up a tent for the first time without either my dad or my brother, both of whom are Eagle Scouts, made me panic. Luckily, Will does well with my panic and we worked together to get everything set up. At this point, half my clothes were already off, due to the heat, and they stayed that way for the course of the weekend. We began drinking, playing cornhole, and enjoying the crowd. Into the evening, we ventured into the festival. We didn’t have any bands we really wanted to see, so Thursday night was just about exploring and getting a feel for the festival grounds. It would have been more effective for me to not be so drunk when exploring, but whats the fun in that? The first band we saw was terrible. Terrible to the point that the group decided we had enough and moved on. Over the course of the night, we partied our way to Amos Lee. Never heard of him, but I was more than impressed. We danced and sang along to all the covers. For the first time in the weekend, I remember thinking that this festival was going to change my life. And I was so right. We began the long stumble back to the campsite. And I began the hurt that would stay the remainder of the weekend. The walk took forever, even despite the stop for ice cream and being drunk. I had read that it was going to be a long walk, but I figured I was in fairly good shape, so really how bad could it be? Remind me to work out my ankles the next time I’m at the gym.
I woke up the next morning in a good amount of pain. Surprisingly, not hungover. Will and I stumbled around the campsite, and he figured out how to cook us cup-of-noodles, which would become a staple meal for us. I joked Will when we were pre-festival shopping when he decided to pick up 12 cup-of-noodles. I wondered what was going on in that brain of his that made him think we needed that many. Truth is: it was the best idea ever and I wish we had gotten more. I also sucked down some instant coffee. Its absolutely disgusting, but it does the job. Once we were done with grubbing, we decided to figure out how to shower. What an interesting task. Punching holes in the top of a large jug of water, Will acted as my own personal shower head, allowing me to wash and condition my hair, and even wash my face. We finished the process of “getting ready” for the day, and began to consume alcohol for the second day in a row. Cornhole, tequila shots, and beer bongs. It was how we prepared for that day of the festival. Once we felt good and ready, we started the long walk into the festival. I found that the walk in was always so much better than the walk home. Maybe it was the excitement of the music we were going to hear or the fact that we still had energy. Friday was hot. I wore nothing but shorts and my bathing suit, shoving a shirt into my purse for later in the evening. We explored the festival grounds again, losing most of our group. We took refuge from the sun in hammocks in the wooded area lining the grounds. A haven of hippies, possibly sleeping off the night before or getting ready for the night that lay ahead. I was most excited for Friday night. Foo Friday. I’ve always been a fan of Dave Grohl. I grew up on Nirvana, like most of my generation. But Dave Grohl has always stood out to me most because of the Foo Fighters. After Nirvana, you think someone may feel a bit defeated. I mean, I know I would be if I had experience the loss of Kurt Cobain in the way he did. But he decided to push on, and created the Foo Fighters. Putting out their first album all by himself. I couldn’t believe that I would finally see this man in person. I would get to see him perform live. Perform some of the songs that I’ve placed meaning to in my life at one point or another. I remember the rush when he appeared on the stage. I felt like this was the whole reason I came to Firefly. I can’t put into words what I experienced during that show. Dave Grohl is a true rockstar. An amazing performer. And he put together a band that compliments his talents, and pushes him to go beyond. I left that show feeling like I had seen one of the best concerts I will ever see. My mom forever relives a Peter Frampton show. I’ve heard the story over and over again. So much that I feel like I’ve seen him. I feel like this concert was my Peter Frampton show. One day I will share my memories of that show with my kids, hopefully giving them the same love for music as my mom did. By the time the Foo Fighters was over, I was ready for bed. I had seen all I really needed to that day. But in the spirit of music festival and the experience, I pushed on. I remember at one point Will asking me if I wanted to go home. I did. I so badly wanted to crawl into that tent and fall fast asleep to bear cuddles. But I really thought about it. You can sleep when you’re dead. Push on. When are you ever going to be in this moment again. The weekend was a series of moments. Moments that made me feel alive again. I got to forget about everything in my life. I got to stay in those moments for as long as they lasted. I was so thankful for that, so I couldn’t be the one to end them. We danced to Girl Talk late into the night. And then we, yet again, stumbled back to our campsite, only stopping to get some amazing pizza.
On Saturday, I woke up feeling more pain. Still not as hungover as one would imagine. We completed the same routine as the day before. Breakfast of noodles, coffee, showers, and then began our drinking. Saturday was overcast, and it was seen as a relief. It wasn’t an overcast that bummed anyone out. We appreciated the sanctuary from the heat. Third Eye Blind was set to play in the afternoon, and one of Will’s fraternity brothers was the ultimate superfan. We got as drunk as we could, then worked our way into the festival so he could have his Peter Frampton concert. We were running late, so the group decided to literally run in order to see the show. I remember feeling an immense amount of pain in my stomach. All the beer I had consumed was sloshing around, looking for an exit. I had to stop running because I was not ready to puke on myself or any other festival goer. Will stopped running with me, while the rest of the small group continued. Will and I saw the show by ourselves, and I was actually happy with that. We got time to ourselves during the trip. Lots actually. But something about the little moments within the festival felt special. I felt like that Third Eye Blind show was a little special. Call me sentimental or call me drunk. We joined the rest of our group immediately after the show and ended up rolling around the festival, heading at one point to the Dogfish Head Brewery. It was at that point we decided we needed a bit of a festival break and headed back to our campsite to eat dinner and continue drinking. After that, we were ready for another night of partying and music. The events of Saturday are the most fuzzy to me, due to the excessive amount of drinking. There were moments of Arctic Monkeys, and walking around, and I vaguely remember seeing some other musical acts. Saturday night peaked with Outkast. Normally, I would not consider myself an Outkast fan. You won’t find me seek out their new album, or put on their Pandora station. But Outkast is one of those groups that when their songs come on, everyone is amped. And they put on a show in that manner. Everyone was singing along, and it felt like we were in a giant party. It was during this party we decided to bite a glow stick in order to release its glowing goodness. We bit the glow stick, which tasted terrible and my mouth went slightly numb, and sprayed the contents all over our clothes. The light didn’t last long, and it tasted so bad, but obviously in our inebriated and altered state, it was a great idea. Glow sticks were such a huge part of Firefly. I don’t think you can have a music festival without them. I felt like a glow stick magnet. It was a habit of the crowd to toss an exorbitant amount of glow sticks every time the beat dropped. Those glow sticks normally came right for me. I would be a rich lady if I had a nickel for every glow stick that bopped me on the head. Or a beach ball hit me. Or someone’s foot as they crowd surfed. Or even a rock someone thought would be a great idea to throw into the crowd. Moral of the story: I got hit in the head a lot with flying objects. It was just my festival luck. Post-Outkast we headed over to see Pretty Lights. I ended up taking some Fireball to the face to keep my drunk going. Problem was, I hadn’t had enough water to last me throughout the day. I felt like either passing out or throwing up was inevitable. Will was able to find me a cup, which I promptly filled up multiple times in order to rehydrate myself. I was able to dodge the negative effects of dehydration and continue the night. Another night at the festival ended with the strenuous walk back to the campsite. I couldn’t manage to stay awake to socialize with anyone. My whole body was aching, and I was ready to sleep it all off.
Sunday morning was unlike any other. I finally felt like the 3 previous days of partying caught up with me and slapped me in the face. I was incredibly hungover. Add the intense pain of walking around during those 3 days, and I was spent. I couldn’t believe we still had an entire day of the festival left. But thank goodness it was the last day. Will and I both opted out of drinking that day. We rehydrated, ate breakfast, and showered. At that point, we were ready for the end. But we decided to make the best of the time remaining and enjoy the final day. We headed into the festival and saw a band I had never heard of. At first, I was less than wiling to stand in the heat for some no-name band. But by the end of their set, I was actually enjoying myself. While we waited for future shows to begin, the group made their way to the silent disco. A highlight of our festival experience. Each participant in this uber fun dance party is given a set of headphones. Two DJs are able to play music, which comes into the headphones, and listeners can pick between the 2 stations. You’re dancing to a song, you look over and notice someone has to be dancing to a different song. You switch over, and OMG its the best song ever. It was not only enjoyable, but absolutely hilarious. But all good things come to an end. We moved on and found ourselves standing in the heat again to watch Weezer. I felt like my skin was melting. Once we felt like we experienced enough, we ventured off in search of a phone charger. During our charging time, we decided we wanted to spend a little downtime back at camp and headed back to make dinner. After dinner, Will and I hiked back into the festival to meet up with the group to watch the USA v Portugal World Cup game. Although the results were not what the crowd hoped for, it always feels great watching our country fight for something so big with a group of drunk American-loving people. The group decided to find a nice spot in the back of the crowd for Jack Johnson. We were all tired of standing so it made sense to relax in the back. Will and I were staying until Monday while our entire group was heading back home that night. During Jack Johnson’s set, we said our goodbyes and we separated from the group. Will and I were left to relax and enjoy the rest of the festival alone. We danced together and had another solo moment I truly treasured from that weekend. I was so happy spending that time with him. I consider the time we spend together to be very precious, and I was on cloud nine dancing with him to Jack. Finally we made the hard decision that our festival time was over. We began walking home, but we found ourselves yet again at the silent disco. Will wanted to go in just to see what songs were playing. Well, an hour later and we were still enjoying the experience. Firefly fireworks went off, and we kept on dancing. It wasn’t until I felt like I couldn’t dance anymore that I peeled Will off the dance floor and we went home. The last night of cuddling in the tent. Cuddling and hoping hippies didn’t try to steal our junk.
We woke up and all I wanted to do was jump in the car and get out of there. After my last bathroom trip to the disgusting port-o-potty, we packed up the tent and headed for the beach. Ocean City eased the pain and sadness of our vacation ending. Reflecting on the entire experience, I was so blessed to have been given the opportunity to go to Firefly. And more than that, I was so blessed to have gone with Will, met so many amazing people, and create memories I will never forget. We learned so many lessons to use for future festivals, and truly let ourselves go in those 4 days. I would not have traded those 4 days for anything.