Monday, July 28, 2008

Mountain whispers

If you could hear me right now this is what you'd hear:


That's a sigh of relief, of having done something momentous and now feeling great to be remaking a life at home.

Our trip, which from here on out will always be called The Venture because that's how Liana says it, was truly a remarkable adventure.

I will also call it a vacation because I barely recognized my own home when we walked in the door. The dining table, the sparkle of that room looked odd to me, but it wasn't until I walked into the kitchen and did a double take that I knew ... I knew I had been away and that it had been a very good thing.

There is no way to truly describe how physically and emotionally hard those four days of travel were but if you've traveled with young children at all for, say, more than a three hours then you can triple or quadruple that chaos to envision our 1200-mile road trip. In fact, to write it that way just makes me want to collapse or faint or cry. It was a ton of work. What should have been one 12-hour car ride turned into two eight-hour days -- one way! Then back again, back again, jiggety jig.

Would I do it again? Not for a while, but while driving in the rural mountains of lovely northeastern Georgia, I realized that we have to do it again -- in May, when my dear brother graduates high school. Then again, I'm looking into flight rates ASAP for that. Or, at the very least, a minivan.

In the meantime, the mountains taught me more than I ever imagined:

I'm not who I thought I was: A few days into our stay at my mom's house, sitting on the living room floor, my mom told me something I never knew. She stayed home with me full-time until I was 2 and then she only worked part-time. My only memories are of her working and me being in day care. "That's why I'm so smart," I sung out. She laughed. Because of the divorce with my father, and the hardship that time caused my mom, I have avoided asking her many questions about my first five years. In time, she'll tell me more, I suppose.

I heart Southern hospitality: It couldn't have been more perfect for my interview with Jen Lemen about building community to be posted the week I was in Georgia, where we enjoyed the following gifts from neighbors: pasta salad, strawberry cake, zucchini bread and homemade peach ice cream. This in just five days, too. It's not just being kind ... it's their way of life, and I could easily get used to that. Oh, and the old man down the road selling tomatoes and corn from his garden waved to every car, every day -- even if you passed him six times in one day, which we did once. There's a real lesson there, I think, which goes back to what Jen said about not caring what people think. Smile, wave ... spread the happiness and kindness even if it's not returned.

I still get car sick: I'm not sorry to see the row houses that are my neighborhood any longer. Mountains make me sick. In fact, I might still be swerving as I type right now. Still, they are gorgeous, especially in the morning when the dewy fog and rain set in around them. I was listening to some meditation music on Day One of the return trip and it was almost a heavenly feeling to see those gigantic mounds of earth float by in such angelic music. I'd like to say that it helped the rest of the ride, but it didn't. Later, I cried from the exhaustion of it all, the stress of it all. And then I got bit by a spider, or something.

I'm not good at sitting still: Dan was the better child entertainer; I am the better driver. He's fine with turning around a hundred times, tickling their feet and interacting. I have to stay still or else ... see above. The pressure, too, was just so much for me. It's one thing to be able to pull out a bunch of paint and brushes; it's quite another to feel motion sick and try to calm two very bored, restless 2-year-olds. None of our toys worked. Very few games were a hit. Thank goodness for DVD players.

Home is where your mom is: My mom moved to Georgia when Jadyn and Liana were 6 months old. This was our first trip to her house, set deep in the mountains and nestled on a quaint campground, owned by my step-uncle. Most of the furniture came with the house and was new to me. She lives 600-plus miles from the home I grew up in and yet her house still felt like home. We immediately felt like we'd been there forever. There really is no other place than the place mom is.

Life would be easier with them around: Tommy, an active 17-year-old, easily entertained the girls with pillow fights, climbing on the playground like a crazy teen-ager can and just being present. My mom easily embraced them, sat on the floor with them and curled up on the couch with them. They ran to her each morning. She ran with them in the field, walked with them and carried them, too. The girls felt this energy and thrived on it. We could easily sit back, for once, and just take it all in. We weren't the only center of their world for five days straight. It was amazing and, for that very reason, it felt like a real break. That, and my mom cooked every meal, every day. I actually got to spend some quality time with the girls each morning and night without having meal-time hassles to worry about.

Reality bites: As great as it was to see my daughters playing and learning with my mom (Gigi), my step-father (grandpa) and my brother (Uncle Tommy), the reality is it really is the exception. We won't see them again until December, sadly. It's very hard when the people you love the most are so far away. As I've written before, I'm less angry now but it is still a situation I wish would change -- and soon. But, and listen up mom, I will be mad if you can't be here for their 3rd birthday party.

Elmo is evil, yet powerful: We do not know for sure, but the trip changed one of our girls dramatically. She arrived in Georgia practically saying Thank You to everyone, for everything. We can only thank the Elmo video that seriously was the only thing that kept those two happy and quiet in the backseat for most of the Venture. Liana returned home speaking in full sentences, much of which we cannot understand because she's making up words as she goes along, but it's so amazing to see. Her voice is even different. Somehow, between Elmo and Georgia, she turned into a little girl, and one that I hardly recognize. And yet ... we were with her the whole time, never missed a beat.

Or, perhaps I've returned home a little more awake, a little more aware and the fact that they are growing up is so very clear to me right now.

Thank you for visiting today. Stay tuned for our trip in pictures.

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LauraC said...

So very glad to hear you had The Venture! You have a lightness in your "voice" that has been missing for some time. The words of wisdom here are tremendous.

Welcome home!

RocketMom Cheryl said...

Welcome back to a clearer view. We missed you.

list mama said...

Funny thing, I had just spent 20 minutes looking at your blog and reading your posts. I went to check my email and you had just left me a comment! I am just learning how to use Twitter the way it is was probably intended. Glad to know it is working! Loved your take on family in this post.


Momma Bean said...

I'm glad you had a chance to "go home". My sister is visiting from Oklahoma and whenever she comes home, it's like she never left. And it's a little of a vacation for me too. I get to relax a little and let her be aunt and watch the girls fall in love all over again.

Octamom said...

Ditto on the car sick thing, ditto on being the driver so as to avoid the car sick thing, ditto on road trips not and yet needing to qualify as vacations....

Glad you are home!

justagirl said...

Hey shawn

I too am glad it all went well... and glad you had a bit of time where you didn't have to do everything, all the time.

Sounds like so many wonderful little things happened on the venture...



Dana a/k/a Sunshine said...

Glad you are home. Sounds like it was an adventure! Can't wait to see the pics!

Shannon said...

I could have sworn I said this here already...but, Welcome home!

Aren't the DVD players the life saver on trips? Though we made the mistake of getting a full legnth movie--Happy Feet--and Jayden started screaming when the leapord seal was trying to eat happy feet. I guess he was so close to the screen, he thought it could get him. OOPS.
Did you take lots of pics?

Candace & Anna said...

Welcome home!!! I am glad you had such a great trip. You know you could always move to Georgia *wink, wink! Then maybe we could eventually meet lol. Seriously though, I am glad you had a great trip and are rested and seeing things with a brighter light. I forget sometimes how lucky I am to have family 2.5 hours away that come frequently.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on an amazing trip. The best journeys are the ones where you find out something knew about yourself.

You're brave for going with two kids!

Shelli said...

You mentioned the good things I love about Georgia. And how I wish I lived in the mountains, although I'm happy in the foothills too.

I get car sick too. I often have to drive. It's so much easier.

I can't imagine taking such a long trek with two little ones, but I'm glad you survived, and I'm glad you cleared your head a bit.

Welcome home.

Claroux said...

You are very very brave for even attempting a car trip like that! When our girls were 16 months we drove 3 hours south to my Aunt's house in Baltimore. It was the longest three hours of my life. The girls were FINE - I, however, was on pins and needles the whole time - convinced that we were seconds away from a total meltdown. We were supposed to stay two nights and came home after one. Again, not because of the girls but because I was so darn anxious about everything going well. Regardless - welcome back! I can't wait to see more photos....your girls are beautiful!