The first time I saw pictures of Switzerland, I fell. Head over heels. Hard and fast. I used to wish on stars - the shooting kind and the first one I spotted in the pre-night sky - that one day I'd make it there. That I'd walk down Swiss streets and play in the snow on the Swiss Alps. I didn't know when I'd make it here, if I ever would, and when we landed in Geneva, all I could think about was the hours and days and weeks I'd spent dreaming of that very moment. All the late night Google searches, and all the plans I'd made over the years that had never come to fruition. But I learned then, as we joined the crowd of people waiting to deplane, that everything happens when it's meant to. I was reminded of that during the week we were there, while enjoying the sights and sounds, playing in the snow, and visiting all the places I had only imagined myself in. As much as I had always wanted to visit Switzerland, as much as I'd dreamt of what it would be like to experience all of those things, it wouldn't have been the same without him there to share all of those moments with. The early mornings when I dragged him out of bed with all the excitement as a kid on Christmas morning just so we could stand in the snow for an hour. The late nights when he practically had to carry me from the car to our room just to tuck me into bed because I was so tired from all the exploring we had done during the day. The afternoons where we found ourselves walking amongst throngs of people, arms wrapped around each other as we pressed our way between the constantly moving bodies, in search of everything and nothing in particular all at the same time. It didn't matter, because he was right there by my side.
I grew up on the slopes. Every winter was spent building snowmen, making snow angels, and having snowball fights. Skis and poles and snowboards were so often tossed aside in favor of stomping through the snowy woods and nestled amongst the branches of one snow covered tree or another. I've lost and found myself more times than I could ever count in the midst of winter storms that have lead to being curled up in front of a fireplace. There's something about standing in the middle of an open space, knee-deep in it, with your gloves off and your face turned toward the sky that makes you feel like you're caught in the middle of an act of a God you don't believe in. And maybe that's always been part of the appeal for me, or maybe it has nothing to do with that at all. What I do know is that in all of my nearly twenty-seven years of life, standing in the snow at any time of day still gives me the same feeling it did when I was two and four and six and eight and dreaming about one day being a professional snowboarder. (A dream that didn't last very long at all, because music was too tempting a mistress to walk away from.) But it was better here, exploring a place I had never been before and being able to share that experience with the most important person in my life.
If I tried to trace the lines back to the root of my obsession with castles, with palaces, with brick and mortar and towers that stood out against the sky whether it was day or night, they would lead me right back to my obsession with Disney. To dreams of being a Princess, with flashy ball gowns and sparkly tiaras and secret passageways behind bookcases that took me everywhere without anyone ever knowing. I could roam the halls in the middle of the night, and discover all these little secrets that no one else could ever possibly imagine. The childish dreams dissipated as I got older, because that's what happens when you grow up. (Or at least that's what's supposed to happen, but it doesn't always work out for everyone.) But the love, the obsession, that was nurtured at such a young age never went away. The secrets the walls could tell if they could talk. The histories they held. The stories that came from them, whether they were true or not. I wanted to know it all, to experience it firsthand, to walk those halls and see what others had over the entire history of civilization. And maybe I'll never know all those secrets or stories, but I got to learn a little more about the histories of a few of those in my (third) favorite place in the world. Ever the wanderer, it's no surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite part of this trip was the wandering. Down narrow back alleys and wide city streets. From the slopes to the store fronts, in and out of shops, and winding our way betwen buildings. There was so much to do, so much to see, and there were moments where I felt as if I needed to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't* dreaming because that's what it felt like sometimes. A dream that I would wake up from in a matter of seconds. Maybe longer, if I was lucky. But it wasn't a dream, and that wasn't even the best part. We might not have had time to experience everything this beautiful country had to offer, but that didn't stop us from trying. It didn't stop the midday strolls, the running through train stations, or the way I couldn't keep the smile off my face even if I tried. (I didn't want to try.) It didn't stop the hours spent enjoying every single second of every single day that we were there. With every new adventure (within an adventure) we found ourselves on, I found myself growing more (and more) in love. With where we were, with what we were doing, and with who I was lucky enough to be able to experience all that with. I can't imagine there could have been a better time to have with anyone, at anytime.
There's this place I live, somewhere tucked between fantasy and reality. A place where I can wish on stars and make my dreams come true. Except, of all the dreams I've ever had, the one where I get to share them with him are the best yet. And, for a week, I had the best of both worlds when fantasy became reality. And that place I live, tucked in between the two, became a place I never wanted to leave. It wasn't because of the snow or the castles or the way we could wander for hours upon hours and still have so much wandering left to do. It wasn't even because we were in a place where I had only ever hoped to visit for most of my life. Sure, those things might have played a part in that feeling, but there was more to it. Something bigger and something better. Something I never thought to dream for until I already had it. It was being able to experience all of that - all the wonder and awe and excitement - with him. It was the mugs of hot chocolate at the end of the day, and cold toes tucked beneath the mattress and the box spring while I laid on the floor, stared up at the ceiling, and regaled him with tales of whatever adventure we'd had that day; tales that he'd been there to witness firsthand because I wanted to live in those moments, in the memories that we were making, for a little longer than time and reality would allow. There's something to be said for wanting to drag something out for as long as we possibly can, right? And who's to say there's anything wrong with that. I spend some nights staring up at the stars, wondering how it is I got so lucky. Because I did, and I am, and I can't wait to go everywhere with him, even if everywhere doesn't take us very far from home.