So first off, yes, I totally stole the title of this blog post from an episode of Sex and the City. An episode I actually never even watch because I simply don’t enjoy it. But what I love is the use of “defining” as both an adjective and a verb. Moments that are both defining you and moments that you must define. As anyone who has read my blog knows, my family went on a 12-day road trip to Kentucky (and various other states) for my husband to work. Unbeknownst to me, this trip would redefine my views on myself and each of my family members…in a way that is so much more than that last statement could possibly state. I guess that’s why the post didn’t end with that one statement.
Lydia. I’ll start with my 3.5-year old daughter. On our first full day in Louisville, which was Sunday June 9th, I put the kids in the double-stroller and took them for a walk all around downtown Louisville. I had no idea what we would see or do, especially on a Sunday morning, but I figured it would be a fun little morning adventure. I took pictures of historic monuments, informative signs, buildings, nature, and my children, of course. As we were walking (and we had to have walked maybe 4 miles?) we saw a wooden cut-out of a mermaid in the middle of the sidewalk. Lydia asked me to take her photo, but the space for her head was too high for her to reach. I told her we would return to the sign one day with daddy so he can pick her up and I could take the picture. About 3 seconds after the words escaped my mouth, they were forgotten. We continued with our walk and then took a car-ride to a farmers’ market and some other stores. Well, 2 days later, we left our hotel room to walk around town and find a restaurant for dinner. After dinner, Lydia turns to me and goes “Can we take that picture with the mermaid now?” How the HECK did she remember that? I had completely forgotten. We walked around town trying to find this cut-out, but I honestly could not remember where we had seen it. Lydia attempted to give me some directions, but they were not accurate (although she did point to several places we went to on our long walk Sunday morning). Mermaid forgotten by me, again. So the next day, we’re driving around with Richard and all of a sudden she goes “Look, I found the mermaid!” We excitedly stopped the car, parked it, and took the picture. I was reminded through this experience that she is her own person with her own memories and her own desires. What was fairly irrelevant to me was so important and memorable to her. She will set her own goals and follow her own ideas…and as with this mermaid, I’m hoping she will always need a little guidance/assistance from her parents. (And as you can see…we learned the mermaid cut-out was advertising for an upcoming museum exhibit.)
Bryce. Bryce’s defining moments were not as obvious as Lydia’s. Two different events shaped my perception of him. First, when we went berry-picking…We picked blueberries first on our ‘berry picking’ trip to Indiana. I put Bryce in the Ergo on my back so I could pick berries without having to monitor him too much. Next, we picked strawberries, and I put him in the stroller, again, so he wouldn’t run away. When we went to pick raspberries, I decided to let him do his thing. Turns out, he was a great berry picker! He walked from bush to bush, picking berries (and eating them of course). When I told him to stay with us, he would catch up. He had fun laughing and running around with his sister. I was reminded that as he approaches 2, he’s really becoming a big boy!
The second reminder regarding Bryce was that although he is becoming a big boy, he still really needs me…and I need him, too. We went to Mammoth Caves in KY (I will be writing more about this in another post) and I wore Bryce in the Ergo, front carry. When I was scared because it was a really tight space or a really big, deep drop, I held him closer. When he was scared or tired or just plain grumpy, he asked me to nurse him. This symbiotic relationship still exists and is very strong. And although sometimes I’m irritated by nursing him all night long still, I genuinely appreciate how much we still rely on each other each day.
Richard. So I’ve told my husband several times about this post (that I would be writing a post entitled “Defining Moments”) but I didn’t tell him why. There are two things everyone knows about my husband: he’s an English teacher and he loves sports. I have always disliked (loathed may be a better word) sports. This is one area that has caused us conflict throughout our relationship, and he has gotten much better about making sports not a priority in his life as we try to balance time spent with each other, times spent with the kids, time spent working, etc. He’s a Miami Heat fan. While we were out of town, they were in the playoffs. Game 6 was on one of the last nights we were there. I tend to whine/moan a bit about watching sports, but I know how important the playoffs are, so I said not much of anything. He turned the game on, and I nursed Bryce to sleep. I also fell asleep. Well, with about 3 minutes left of the game, I woke up. Richard was sitting at the edge of the bed watching the game. He didn’t realize at first that I was awake. I just laid their and watched him watching his team. Had the Spurs won that game, they would have been the NBA Champions as they had already won 3 games. That would’ve been it for the Heat. When I woke up, with just a few minutes left on the clock, the Heat were losing. I could see the intensity and fear in Richard’s body language. All of a sudden, the game turned around and went into overtime — And the Heat won! And for the first time in the almost 15 years that I have known him, I felt Richard’s pure joy. I experienced it with him. I thought about how I felt about my hobbies/interests. The excitement I feel when I start a sewing project or try a new recipe or find a new you-pick farm. It’s like my happiness and excitement drive me to look at my ingredients over and over…look at my fabric over and over…look at pictures of the farm over and over. I imagine the “what ifs” of my upcoming projects or recipes. THAT’S WHAT HE FELT. I guess I kinda always knew this on a superficial level, but I never absorbed it. I never owned the pure bliss. His pure bliss. And watching him watching the game in a motel room in Savannah helped me experience my husband in a new way. When we got home, I watched the final game with him. And I must admit…experiencing his excitement once again made the game enjoyable to me.
Me. This is probably the most difficult one to write about. Your relationship with yourself is like no other. You are incapable of truly responding to or analyzing your own actions and emotions objectively, so the process of self-reflection, particularly recognizing your personal biases based primarily on life experiences, is generally challenging even for the most intuitive learners. When I told my mom I would be visiting Cincinnati the following day, she warned me not to go. She told me there would be horrible storms in Ohio and northern Kentucky…but I figured living in Florida and surviving hurricane season annually would prepare me for this, so I continued with my plans. I was driving there, no problems at all. It started to get dark and drizzle, no big deal. Well, then it started to downpour. And it was that rain that makes it so even with your lights on and your wipers going, you cannot see anything in front of you. I couldn’t see cars or trucks or exits or signs. The winds, according to something I just read, were up to 70 mph. Did I mention the tornado warnings? Scarier than that, there were two lanes traveling in each direction. The median was a deep ditch…and off to the right were drops. We were driving in the mountains, so if you swerve off the road, you’re dropping hundreds of feet to your death. All of this would have provided me with ample fear, but when I looked in my rear-view mirror, just feet behind my car, was a giant semi-truck. All I could see was the truck’s grill. I was going between 50 – 60 mph, which was already an uncomfortable speed based on the weather. This is when I realized several things:
- If I tried to slow down at any point, the truck would crush us to death.
- If I tried to switch lanes and I swerved at all, I’d go off the edge of a mountain.
- If I tried to exit and the exit was one that curved a lot, I’d drive off the edge.
- If I tried to stop at either shoulder in the road, I would likely drive into a ditch or off the edge.
And then the truck starts honking at me. I look down, and I saw something on my dashboard I never saw before. Did you know there’s an orange triangle with an exclamation point that flashes sometimes? I looked it up in my driver’s manual, and it said:
So, pretty much, when your car is losing control, this happens. It tries to help your car. What happened was, I was basically hydroplaning and swerving uncontrollably. Sheer terror. The rain began to die down a little (I’m guessing it was like this about 20 minutes.) I switched lanes, exited, and pulled into a gas station. I looked at the weather report and saw this:
I had about 30 more miles to go until I arrived in Cincinnati. I sat in the car in the gas station, safe, with my children until my nerves and the weather calmed down. I got back on the highway and arrived safely about a half hour later. When I got there, roads were re-routed to avoid damage. Large branches fell and trees were uprooted.
I had never felt the presence of my life and possible death so strongly before. Realizing I was safe. Realizing my children were safe. Realizing that life within me and around me continued…was nothing shy of magnificent. I cried a few times about this after. I was even scared to drive on the highway in the rain in Florida after this. But I survived – and reflected – and will appreciate this experience eternally.
These moments on a roadtrip to Kentucky defined me. They taught me more than I could’ve possibly learned sitting at home for those 12 days. I was forced to face my fear of heights, my fear of motion, my fear of small spaces, and my fear of losing my loved ones. And while these moments were not in anyway intentional or planned, they provide me with a greater insight into who I am and who my loved ones are than I ever could have asked for. And I am forever grateful they have.
One more thing that happened on this trip, because my children really only had each other as playmates, their love for one another and their bond grew significantly.
Oh, and if you actually read all of this, thank you. I genuinely appreciate sharing my journey with you. Please feel free to comment and share your journey with me, too.