This April will mark five (oh my god!) years since we packed up the truck and headed the wrong way across the country. After half a decade of winters I can promise you that people headed west for more than the chance to strike it rich. More like the chance to feel their extremities during the year.
We willingly gave up established and well connected careers to move to a land where we knew no one and had nothing. Even after we arrived and thankfully- found work we were still homeless for three months. With two dogs and twice weekly visits from two kids. Living out of hotels and vacation rentals.
All of this so my partner would have a chance to be the parent he wanted to be. To demonstrate to his kids what it means to be a dad.
All we were trying to do was be a ‘normal’ family; no matter what. Our sole focus was (and is) the boys. They are the measure of all things, the compass that directs our path. More often than not- through country that seems impassable.
They light the way.
There have been many times when we have been at our wit’s end. Out of resources and options, with nowhere to go but forward. Through an unsure future that seems determined to bite and rend apart all we have managed to scrape together.
We have been blessed, though.
Maybe the best example is from our time in Hampton Beach. The first time I was going to meet the boys on this side of the country. By this time, we had been here more than a month and their weekly visits with daddy had become routine for them. I think my diary entry of the day says it best:
Oh my god! Your dad says you’re in the car and on your way, I can’t believe that after more than a year and 5000 miles later that I will actually get to see you both in person.
My heart is in my chest and I can hardly contain myself. I have never been so nervous before and certainly not about playing with kids. But I am and can’t help it. Two weeks ago I did a tasting for the ex governor of New Hampshire with old produce, no plan or menu and no running water and I wasn’t nervous at all.
But the thought of getting to talk with you and play with your brother is making my stomach do flips. I hope you and him feel comfortable here and that today is fun for…
Oh my god you’re here!!!!!!!!!
Today was the first day I had the pleasure of your company again and what an amazing day it was. I wasn’t going to go with you all, or even to ask if I could.
I was just going to wait and see, say “hi” and then let you both have a daddy day, but the fourth sentence out of your mouth was “me, daddy and Brother are going to the beach, do you want to go with us?”
I almost lost it and cried right there. I knew that would send a mixed message so I just peeped “yes, that would be lovely.” How welcoming and open you are. I doubt I will ever be able to express what your kindness today has meant to me.
We made a sand monster while Brother napped; protected from the sun with shirts, shorts and Daddy.
You even wanted to look for shells with me. Your goodwill is such a blessing and I can still barley believe that after all this time. All that we have been through; the miles we have traveled, that today I got to hold your hand, talk and play. It has made everything worth it a million times over and I am just so very grateful that you have given me the opportunity to get to know you and your brother.
Today, life was at its best!
Reading those words as I sit here now remembering the week that we just passed makes them mean even more. We had the boys (now both in school, yikes!) for their February vacation. Nine whole days of being snowed in.
We had no money to blow on a getaway or expensive day trips and they had no desire to do so. Instead, we entertained ourselves any way we could think of. We made up a series of events- dubbed the ‘Snowed-inlympics.’ It lasted two days, the winner is still unclear.
They helped shovel walk ways and entrances;
– take care of the animals, cook their own meals and once we even saw the floor of their bedroom for about three minutes. Daddy and I made the time in our work schedule to be there together most of the week.
I only had to go to work one day and even that was too much- according to them. When it came time to leave the Little One latched on like some kind of rabid monkey and declared that he had “checked his schedule” and that he was going with me.
The Oldest asked with his biggest most helpful smile; where my keys were so he could “get them for me.” Which translates to “I’m going to take them and hide them” I smiled back that the car was already started.
He pouted. I hugged and kissed them and ran before they could regroup and come up with a new plan.
It can be hard for any family to spend that much time cooped up together. Especially in less than 1000 sq feet; with three dogs and one very cabin-fever filled feline. It wasn’t without trial or free of necessary corrections and consequences but it was enjoyable. It was chaotic and certainly NEVER quite but it was comfortable and balanced. Everyone just being themselves.
For nine whole days we talked, laughed and played. I thought about everything I gave up; all that I have missed in the five years in-between and I knew I made the right choice. Because when we are together…
We can fly.