I accomplished something this weekend that has been hanging over my head since I lost my husband.
An entire weekend…overnights included…with just my children. No extra adult help. Just us.
I know this may not sound like much, but for someone who is a paranoid planner…taking 3 small children away from the old comfort zone is something I’m pretty damn proud of. And I’m beyond thankful that it went so well.
Don’t get me wrong…we have gone places. I haven’t restricted us to the Denver-metro area. But every time we’ve gone on an “overnight” there’s always been another adult involved. And I really wanted to know that I could do this on my own. I wanted to have a couple of days of just us…without having to worry about anyone else’s agenda.
In reality, I’m just starting to get to the point where traveling with the kids sounds at all appealing. When my sister told me a few years ago that she and her husband were going to take her 1 year old and 3 year old to Hawaii for 9 days…I have to say…that sounded like hell with a cocktail umbrella thrown in. So, even if my husband were here, I think we’d still be sticking to more local attractions.
For this trip, I felt like I had pretty much set us up for success. I chose a place only an hour and a half (or one DVD) away, booked a hotel with an indoor pool, and made a plan to take the kids to a little amusement park we had never been to up in the mountains that has a Christmas theme.
I know that sounds odd…but the fact that it’s this close to Halloween meant that there were no lines and that my kids could spin in little ornament-shaped cars on a giant Christmas tree until they themselves were green. Trust me…I was a hero this weekend. And I would personally like to write a letter to the designer of that place (who I’m sure is probably with my husband by now since the park is so old), thanking him for giving me the empowering feeling of providing this raging success of a weekend. Not only could I manage this place on my own…every “big kid” ride had a “little kid” ride right next to it. So while my 2 oldest sat strapped into a Tilt-A-Whirl designed to make them throw up the $5 ice cream I had just bought them, my youngest could mosey around on a plastic horse that went in a slow circle and feel like a champ.
We had the usual arguments (“No, son, we are not going to eat McDonalds at every single meal”) and, once we got to the hotel, countless trips to the car. But for the most part, we just had a fantastic time. I think this is because my kids are at that golden age when, really, their expectations are low (Nick Jr. is much more exciting on a hotel T.V. that’s, in reality, much smaller than the one we have at home) and their excitement levels are high (“What do you mean we get to eat Subway in our hotel room????”). I should do this more often before they hit the age when a big trip to the Comfort Inn is met with an eye-roll and jacked-up volume on the iPod.
Going new places after a loss (I would imagine any loss, but I only know this one) is filled with heart-catching moments. You’re either passing by things that remind you of something you did with your spouse, or you’re passing by things wishing your spouse could be there to enjoy them with you.
This little road trip not only made me wish my husband could be here to see the delight on the faces of his children while they raced around on a mini roller coaster, but the trip down was a short ride through memory lane for me. From passing by his alma mater (where we first met) to riding past restaurants where I remembered we liked the margarita glasses As I drove past the hotel where I got ready for his graduation ball and he surprised me with the most beautiful bouquet of roses I have ever received (before or since), I had the temptation to just pull off the highway and stare.
But whether doing something I’d done before (with him) or something new (without), remembering him or wishing he was with us, I felt like he was there. Just along for the ride (but, unfortunately not able to help with any of the luggage). I felt like I grew a little bit this weekend, in my own little widowed world, and confirmed what I’ve been thinking these last few years: That life has changed, but I’ve changed with it. And that even though he’s not here, there is still joy to be had.
And now that I’ve figured out that I can be a big girl and actually get from point A to point B without someone yelling at me because I can’t read a map, there is just one thing I keep thinking over and over.
Look out Disneyland. We’re gettin’ ready for ya.