So, for the past 4 years we’ve done the same thing every Memorial Day. We visited Grandpa Walter’s (my husband’s grandfather’s) gravestone in the national cemetery in Bushnell, FL. Walter didn’t die while in the service but at the ripe age of 82. We visited the cemetery on Memorial Day because we knew it was a date we wouldn’t ever forget and let slip by. Walter died the day after our oldest son’s first birthday and so none of my kids knew him but it gives us a chance to talk about how dear he was to us and they, in return, feel connected to the story of how much we cared for him. We would discuss in very little detail the real meaning behind Memorial Day seeing as how our kids are pretty young and sensitive to any conversation about war & violence.
As things go, we obviously were going to need to change up our traditions pretty drastically having moved 3500 miles away from the cemetery that holds Walter’s stone. In the past, we would follow up a visit to the cemetery with a stop at Cracker Barrel, a game of over-sized checkers on the porch and then a way-too-long wait for food as it was one of only two restaurants anywhere near the cemetery. Unfortunately for us, not only were we not within range of Bushnell, FL but the nearest Cracker Barrel was a whopping 6 hour drive. Don’t even doubt for a minute, we considered taking that 6 hour drive.
We landed on a new plan altogether though. A pretty good one, I think. We considered going to the services at the local national cemetery here in Portland but we weren’t sure that our 2.5 year old would be able to maintain a respectful demeanor and I’d worry about disturbing other visitors. With both the cemetery and Cracker Barrel out of the question I was desperate to hang on to some remnants of the traditions we had in place already, be it as simple and seemingly meaningless as they may have been. Amazon saved the day. I ordered an over-sized checker set just like the ones they sold in the ‘Old Country Store’ at Cracker Barrel.
Still desperate to connect the dots and not lose hold of remembering their great grandfather but wanting to get a better grasp on the idea of Memorial Day I skimmed through pictures of years past and found our golden ticket. What a relief!
On Walter’s gravestone the words “Loyal, Faithful, and Generous” can be found, all of these ran deep in him. So, we made a plan. We packed a picnic and set out for a farm on Sauvie Island for some strawberry picking and a nice long chat about character. We talked in great depth about the meaning of each of these traits, where we could find them in our own lives and how we can try to grow in these areas. We talked about how Grandpa Walter lived these words and how it’s really easy to see these traits in the lives of the men and women who fell while serving our country. I so love it when all of the things come together so perfectly. The kids moved on to writing a sentence and drawing pictures to represent which word stood out to them the most. It went better than I could have imagined. Our two-year-old was even happy to scribble beside them.
Next we surprised them with that checkers set and their reaction was better than I could have hoped for. They’re always very grateful when I bring a little bit of their “Florida life” to their present. We rounded out the day with strawberry picking, mostly because berries are red and, hello, photo op. 😉 I’m pretty excited about our day, I feel like we really nailed it and I can’t wait to do it all over again next year. Now, we have some strawberry jam to make…
Back a few months ago, after hours sitting at a children’s hospital & talking to a specialist trying to find the root of my son’s chronic cough, the nurse entered the sunny exam room and took a seat in front of us stating the doctor was wanting to see our son again in 3 months.
“How does March 13th sound?”
Already drained and overwhelmed by the ton of information the doctor had laid on our family and trying to absorb every word as she talked in depth about the six medications she was prescribing, I found myself utterly distracted. “What’s going on in March?…something is happening in March…Good grief! Why can’t I remember…”
Obviously frazzled I scrambled around to find my phone (I was VERY pregnant, everything I did appeared to be scrambling, don’t poke fun!). I texted my best friend.
“When are you guys leaving?”
The reality sunk in. Three months is no time at all.
Some time last spring my husband & I’s very closest friends traveled to Portland, Oregon and without much mention of it, we all knew where things were headed. In the end, they would fatefully come home and announce their plans to move 3000+ miles away.
In my teen years I moved from Florida to Costa Rica and back to Florida again, living as a family of six, to divorced parents, to just my mother & I, to just my sisters & I. It was interesting. Somewhere in that mess of a few years I formed some sort of post-traumatic stress social anxiety, on one visit to Florida late in that game of moving back and forth I found a church and at that church Melissa found me. She didn’t seem to notice how complicated I was and I tried my best to stick to what & who I knew so it wasn’t until my next and final arrival back in Florida that it registered with me that this was a person who wanted to be my friend. It turned out she was nice, funny, and interesting, so friends we became!
Over the next sixth months or so I would begin to spend far too much time at her house (sorry, Robert & Brenda!), begin to date my husband (a friend of hers since childhood), and eventually become so close to her, my boyfriend, and her boyfriend that we would joke about starting a commune. I know, we sound weird, but we really hung out together THAT much and we were all in our late teens (maybe Josh, Melissa’s future husband, was 20?) and we were trying to conjure up plans to move out of our parents’ homes. It was a joke, but it felt like it made a little sense. We never did act on the idea but fast forward five years when we were all married and shopping for homes at the same time the jokes started happening again, cause we were still hanging out THAT much.
Some time in all those years of commune jokes, Portland, Oregon got involved. I’ve no idea how. I remember one night Peter, Josh, and myself, on break from our jobs at a call center, sitting at McDonalds discussing the few facts about Portland we knew. Anyone reading this and not having ever visited Lake County may not know that it’s one of those small town areas where a lot of kids complain there’s nothing to do and how one day they’ll move away, so, there’s a point in the joking about moving away that you wonder introspectively if you’re serious. You talk about it so much you aren’t sure if you’re talking about it because that’s what you’ve always done or because you really want out. They really wanted out.
Over the last 11 years, there have been countless hours spent between the four of us. In a life that’s felt often times to be filled with enormous amounts of unnecessary drama, these friends of mine have always brought out any side of me that resembles a person of patience, rationality, and sensibility. I’m not capable of the eloquence it would require to put into words how inspired and encouraged I am by both Josh and Melissa. I think they know, the rest of you will just have to trust me when I say it’s a lot. A whole lot.
So, I sat there in that exam room three months ago and thought carefully. I like to think of myself as a strategic planner. (Really, I think I’m gosh awful smart) And I told her, unsure of what time my friends’ flight would be on March 13th, that I was busy that day. But the 14th would be perfect. The kids’ doctors are about an hour & a half drive from home and close enough to Disney that we make an extended weekend stay in Orlando when we have to go. Eventually we would end up figuring Josh & Melissa would be leaving before dawn and we would set more appointments for the 13th as well. My plan? My plan was to distract my head from processing that my best friends were gone, to keep myself absorbed in my own family, and to have my husband around in case he or I fell victim to our emotions. We’re both a little on the sensitive side. My plan worked like a charm.
And so, it’s done. Our friends moved across the country on March 13th. My kids survived another round of doctor appointments and we’re still a little achey from 5 days of walking around theme parks. Moving forward, Peter and I are really looking forward to the change. We’ve hung out with the Blount’s one weekday every week for nearly 7 years, sometimes under the guise of a Bible study or life group but for the last 3 years, just as friends who take a night to catch up, slow down, and grow together. One less night with friends is now one more night to just soak up our kids and try to get a little less caught up in the busy. We set the kids follow-up appointments for three months from now, which is June. That’s like no time. And no time plus one month is July. In July our family of five will be boarding a plane or two and making our way to our next family vacation in Portland, Oregon. Excited.
They didn’t move for no reason at all, by the way. It wasn’t without thought and consideration.
I never read much but just last week I had my nose in a book and read, “To say that geography is no longer our master isn’t to say that place isn’t important. Where we choose to live still has a huge impact on the work we do.”
Josh and Melissa, I can’t wait to hear about the work you do.
*No mention of Conor Blount seems wrong, he’s my kids’ bff and there are lots of wonderful things a person could say about him. We’ll miss him more than a little.