A week ago, Chris and I were making our way back home from a trip back to Virginia. We now know how very lucky we were to make it home.
He had driven back to help his parents move out of their home of 48 years. The home he and his brother were brought to as babies and were raised. The home where his parents worked endlessly and tirelessly to create the life of their dreams. Almost a half a century of memories made for my in-laws, Pat and Chris. Birthdays, anniversaries, bridge clubs, garden clubs, woodworking in the barn, gutting fish out back, canning fruits and vegetables from the garden and fruit trees along with endless painting, yard care and maintenance. The house had rhythm created out of the day in day out routine they comfortably lived in. The Giglios’ signature was everywhere. From the birdhouses he built to her formal rose garden by the enormous dogwood tree or her ceramic rabbits sitting next to the gardening boots on the brick stoop.
I have been going to that house for 26 years myself. Chris had some fun parties as teenagers while his parents were off to the beach or taking Pat to college. I remember my first dinner with his parents at the round kitchen table. I was so nervous, I had changed over and over again only to show up with my shirt on inside out AND backwards. She thought it was just the trend. It was the 80s! HA! I helped Chris pull potatoes from the garden, we worked on our wedding decorations in their lawn,we brought our own babies there to visit and now they too have their own memories of the house.
By the time I arrived, most of the house was empty. It seemed so much smaller all of a sudden and so very tired. On the brick chimney in the kitchen hung Mrs. G’s calendar. She has had the same one year after year. Her distinct handwriting neatly written across the days of upcoming birthdays, Chris’ arrival, and doctors appointments. Did she keep them all? I imagined them all stacked up and tied neatly together with a ribbon. I began my task of emptying out closets and moving the contents over to the new house. It shocked me how intimate it felt. I wondered if someday I would have daughter in-laws going through my closets. I began to wonder where they were now. Time will tell, so I sent good thoughts to all of those who will love my boys.
It was strange to be so aware of standing in the middle of my life… if I am lucky. I could feel it as I stood in my mother in-law’s closet. I was that young girl who fell in love with her son while at the same time a middle aged woman feeling grateful for so many memories but also the inevitable limits of time. And yet, I felt excited that I have so much more to look forward to as my children grow up (much too quickly) and create their own lives and families. How fortunate I felt to be able to look and feel backwards and forward at the same time. It made the present day so much more precious.
The next day due to snow storms from Virginia to Colorado we decided to load up and take off a day early. Before I left, Mrs. G. gave me one of her treasures. It was a painting of flowers done on slate that had hung by her bed for as long as I could remember. It was done by her father in law’s best friend. He had been a barber in Connecticut but loved to paint. I am so happy to have it. I will cherish it always.
We stopped by the house one last time. I could feel Chris saying goodbye. He took a few more things from the unwanted pile and the old butter-churn his mom gave him. We left in a mess of snow and worked our way in-between storms. Down the Shenandoah Valley, up and over the mountains of West Virginia and across the beautiful rolling hills of Kentucky. It was so nice to have Chris all to myself. A rarity these days. We reminisced a bit, caught up from the days we were apart and listened to audio books when it all felt too much. The next day we knew we were heading into another snow storm. We managed to get past St. Louis before the snow and work our way beyond Kansas City. It was now dumping snow. We slowly inched along and Chris was nervous as I drove. The steering felt loose, but not knowing his truck that well, I chalked it up to the snowy and icy roads. We finally gave up at 1 as we crept along at 18 miles per hour with almost no visibility. We got the second to last room at a hotel and settled in. For the parents of three active, loud and spirited boys, being stuck by ourselves in a hotel is not a bad thing! We enjoyed the forced time out and quiet.
Early the next morning, the snow has stopped falling and we took off in the dark. I called the house to talk to Alex before he headed off to school. Just wanting to say “I love you.” The sky in front of us slowly began to lighten. I turned to see the sunrise and to my surprise it looked like there were three suns rising. I had never seen anything like it before. Apparently it is called a Sun Dog. It was so surreal but beautiful. I felt like we must be on another planet. I felt giddy.
Soon, Chris realized that the steering felt loose and off. Again on bumpy snowy and icy roads and in the middle of nowhere, USA. We kept going, trusting that Chris knew best. I dozed off only to wake to Chris pulling off at the first exit he could. His eyes were a big and wild looking. By the time we got to the bottom of the ramp, the steering was completely out. Chris got out in the middle of the intersection and was underneath the truck asking me to pull and push the steering wheel back and forth. He managed to get the pin back in all while cars and semis were inches from him. I caught myself holding my breath. Now with a little bit of steering and a shit load of luck, we made our way to the Dodge dealership just a quarter of a mile away. It turned out, that when Chris had the truck serviced here in Fort Collins before his trip, they put the drive shaft and pin in upside down!!!! We were lucky that it was so long that it had room to bend. The mechanic, a huge man with a gentle face, came out shaking his head and looked at us and said “you two are so very lucky.” One more bump we could have gone flying off of I-70. He suggested that we go play the lottery right then. We smiled politely and nervously. I thought I would throw up.
Once back in the truck and only 6 hours from home, the adrenaline had worn off and I just wanted to be home holding my boys. Again the clarity of the present by looking back in how extremely lucky we were and forward to the life we don’t want to miss. Talk about a slap of perspective. Later a friend told me that seeing Sun Dogs are a good omen. I agreed whole heartedly!!
We got home right as school was getting out. We loved on and snuggled up with our boys. The best hugs and kisses ever. I didn’t want the moment to end. With all 5 of us piled on the sofa, I felt so at peace and overwhelming gratitude.
Later that night, after they were tucked in bed, I unwrapped the painting of the flowers on the slate that Mrs. G gave me and hung it on the wall. I love it. It reminds me to be joyful, to receive and share love, to follow my heart, to be grateful for the memories, the here and now and gifts of the unknown. Someday I will take it off my wall and pass it on to someone else, perhaps my own daughter in law. It’s lovely to think about but for now I am going to soak up today.