I have this distinct memory from when I was in 10th grade. My varsity cross country team had just won our school’s first ever district championship and had qualified for the state meet. Later in the evening we decorated a pick up truck and were given a spot in my town’s annual Halloween Parade to celebrate our accomplishment. I remember laying in bed that night, completely exhausted, but not wanting to fall asleep because I wasn’t ready for the day to end. In the decade to follow, I can only think of a few occasions where I laid in bed not wanting the day to end. And this was one of them. That may sound a little juvenile, but so what! It was a really incredible day that I will surely never forget, which is why I didn’t want it to end, and why I’m going to share about it here.
When Scott asked me to be his date to the Supply Corps Ball, naturally I said yes. A) Because he’s my best guy friend, B) Because it meant I had a reason to go gown shopping C) Because the event was being held at the Union League and since I don’t know people who throw hundred thousand dollar weddings or are big political donors, I’m probably never going to receive another invite to the swanky Philadelphia venue, and D) Because I just got invited to a ball and let’s face it, in the year 2013, we go to dinners, we go to bars, we go to weddings, we go to clubs, we go to fundraisers, we go to house parties, but we never ever go to balls. I was looking forward to the evening in a big way, but it truly surmounted any expectations I previously held.
Like I said before, balls aren’t a normal occurrence on my social calendar, so I figured if I was going to do this thing, I might as well do it right. Thursday night I stopped over to Christy’s, my favorite nail salon, for a mani/pedi. Normally I go for super trendy manicures, but I decided to stick with a classic French this time, and got my toes done in the color of my dress. I haven’t had my hair cut in months, so I decided to make an appointment for Friday afternoon to get a trim and a blow out. If you interact with me on any regular basis, you know that I’m completely incapable of doing anything nice with my hair. This seemed like the appropriate time to bring in the professionals.
Being a junior officer, Scott had to join the other Lieutenants at the Union League earlier in the day for some final preparations, so he hooked me up with our friend’s (another LT) girlfriend who was getting a hotel room downtown. I’d never met Nina before, but from what I heard, it sounded like we had a lot in common. When she sent me a text message asking if I’d like to order drinks while we got ready, there was no question in my mind that we would get along. 😉 At 3PM I hopped a SEPTA train to center city to go meet Nina at the Ritz to finish getting ready. We had a lovely afternoon, sharing a bottle of Chardonnay, and chatting about dresses, make up, workouts, and guys. And the view? I can’t believe I didn’t snap a photo because we were on the 21st floor, at eye level with William Penn who sits atop City Hall. Seriously cool.
Oh and how could I forget to mention my fur coat! My grandma Mimi has been trying to pass down my great grandmother’s fur coat to me since I was in the 10th grade. I’ve turned down her offer on multiple occasions because I legitimately had nowhere appropriate to wear a knee length fur coat, presumably from the early 1950’s. Now seemed like as good a time as any, so I agreed (quite willingly, actually!) to take the coat. It looked pretty fab with the dress, but nothing short of ridiculous with the red pants and nude flats I wore on the SEPTA train.
After getting dressed and meeting the men, we walked to the Union League where I couldn’t resist taking some photos on the incredible sweeping steps out front. Scott thought my fur coat was terrible, but he’s nice so he tolerated it. The inside of the 150 year old building was even more impressive than I imagined: long hallways, high ceilings, impressive artwork, lavish staircases, and elegant chandeliers. Oh. My. Gosh. Wow. That’s all I can say.
The evening started with cocktail hour and hors d’oeuvres, which I chose not to eat, because I was concerned that I couldn’t do it respectably. Ladies, back me up on this one. It is darn near impossible to hold a drink, a purse, and daintily eat shrimp cocktail, all while standing… in HEELS! God bless the women who can pull it off, because I surely cannot.
Cocktail hour was followed by a formal sit-down dinner. There were toasts, speeches, a ceremonial cake cutting, and a guest appearance by the “beloved” Philadelphia Mummers. And as a bonus, we got to sit at a table with our friends Lauren and Josh! Aren’t they the cutest??
Dinner was followed by dancing and socializing with important people (and friends). We then moved things next door to NINETEEN (the cocktail lounge on the top floor of the Belvue hotel) where I must admit, I felt like an absolute baller. There I was, sitting in a window seat, overlooking my city, surrounded by 6 handsome men in uniform and their lovely wives, girlfriends, and dates. I’m not sure who the cool person was that lent me her life for the evening… but I was loving it!
I don’t know if it was the presentation of The Colors; the playing of the National Anthem; the toasts to our Commander-In-Chief, our deployed troops, and our allies around the world; the cutting of the cake; or maybe it was just all the wine, but I felt proud. Proud to be an American. Proud to live in a country that celebrates freedom, and is full of citizens who volunteer their lives to defend that freedom. Proud that I’ve landed in a career that provides me the opportunity to support these men and women in a small way every single day. I felt proud to call Scott my best friend, and to look at my other friends and co-workers in uniform and honor them for their service. I’m so accustomed to seeing folks in uniform, that I often take the sacrifices they make for granted. They deserve to be honored and I was proud to be a part of it.