West Coast Trip: Part 1

I promised myself that I would do a blog series about my trip through the West Coast. I've been home for almost four weeks and I've been mulling over all the ways to make it happen. I want it to be personal, but not TMI. I want it to be fun and exciting and a little bit of a getaway for any readers that stumble upon it, but to also be heartfelt and authentic.

But life happens, doesn't it? It all gets so busy and something that feels a little frivolous just falls to the wayside. Or maybe, more accurately, the things we know we have to do, but desperately don't want to do, become easier to avoid when life gets so busy. 

I took this trip as a way to cope with Kymberley's death (see the first Word Blog post) and some traumas that occurred around her death. I wasn't really able to acknowledge how much these events impacted me because I was in cheerleader mode. Lauren had been let go from her job weeks prior to Kymberley's death. In fact, we were in California, trying to escape the impending doom of unemployment, when the events occurred that would lead to her death. We would have to come home to New York, get the terrible phone call, then turn around and go back to California for her funeral less than a week after coming home. Travel gets confusing. The coming, the going, the time changes, the reasons. 

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Fast forward six months of unemployment and deep winter and I needed to reset. When I was in California for Kymberley's funeral back in October, I had to confront a whole mess of things I'd been avoiding. It's also fair to say that the mess had always been there and I just couldn't ever fully grasp it as part of my reality because children don't have any context for their realities. It just is. It's all they know, so it is their normal. It was my normal to have massive amounts of trauma leaching down and through my maternal ancestral line dumping onto me like a sewage line dumping into the ocean. I didn't know any different. But being away, more or less for nearly ten years, I was able to come back with fresh eyes. And I realized that in order for me to heal, I would need to face the mess.

I'm strong enough now. I'm wise enough. I know who I am as an individual enough to look at who I am as part of an ancestry. I am intuitive enough to feel out the pain, to locate the tumors, to sniff out the toxicity, to name it, to know it intimately and then choose to walk away from it. But not without thanking it. Everything in life has a purpose. I believe that. I believe that every tragedy happens and can shed light on our inner workings, our inner pain that is dying to be acknowledged. And we have to give thanks to it. Even though it can be ugly, traumatizing, debilitating, anxiety-inducing, stomach clenching. 

I'd been planning to go to Washington state to visit some family. Originally the trip was to celebrate my "nephew's" (he's really my second cousin, or my cousin once removed or something bizarre) fifth birthday. Five is a big deal. I had been there the day he was born. I rushed to the hospital to greet him as he entered the world. Ocean Shores is about three hours away from Seattle, where I lived at the time. I had been baking all day at my internship and then babysitting after that, trying to save money so I could move to Europe, for good, potentially. I was one month away from graduating pastry school. It must've been 6:30pm or so by the time I could get on the road and get to them. I walked into the room ten minutes before he breathed his first breath. I held him in my arms and my heart shattered to pieces. It burst right at the seams and had to be rebuilt to accommodate all of this new found love. This great, enormous, expansive love for this teeny, tiny creature. I was twenty two years old. 

 

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And now, five years later, Greyson has twin siblings- Penny and Abel are two and a half. I relate to his growth trajectory. In five years, I've lived in a handful of cities, dated a handful of people and found love. Like the real kind- the uncomfortably, undeniable kind. I got married and he brought us our wedding rings. He loves Lauren as much as he loves me. He's a quirky kid, something I can relate to. He still blows me away. 

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I'm thrilled that I spent his birthday with him and his siblings and his parents and my (our) grandparents. I wish I'd taken more photos, but alas, I did not. Too busy enjoying the moment, I suppose. Lauren came with me for this little stretch of the trip and it's always so nice to share my family with her. 

I saw my little sister at work for the first time and I was overcome with pride and joy. She's 19 and she works at Starbucks and seeing her in her apron literally made me cry. "She was my baby"; a phrase that always comes out of my mouth when I talk about her to someone new. Justin, my brother, and Jenna, my sister were my babies. I lived for them. I would do anything to have them as small kids again. They were my whole world. A writing prompt in this book, The Artist's Way, asked "what were your favorite toys as a child?" I didn't have an answer. But I could give you a list of Justin and Jenna's favorite toys, comfort items, movies, shows, foods. 

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For reasons I mostly won't get into, this was the hardest part of my trip. One reason being that it's always hard not having enough time with the babies. Gresyon, Penny and Abel are growing like weeds and it pains me that I live on the other coast and several time zones away from them. I miss them with my whole heart every single day. But that's life sometimes- separating away from our foundation, our family, to live our own lives, to be our own protagonists. 

My mom asked me to take her photo. She couldn't stop laughing and it got very silly as we tried to take a good headshot for her work profile. She's an incredibly driven woman. Fiercely independent, fun, a little eccentric, and she's my mom. I love her dearly. And with that comes its own set of pains. Almost like the inverse of holding Greyson for the first time- I can't quite pin down the feeling, but I know it's more painful for her than me. Which somehow increases my pain. Pain and love are not math. 1+1 can equal a trillion tons of gravity.

 

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I said goodbye to my wife at the airport and headed onto the next part of my journey: staying with The Kornfelds, a family I'd babysat for since I was all of 19 years old, a newly dropped out teenager, engaged to her high school sweetheart. They've known me through so much. i can't wait to share on the next post about how much I love this surrogate family of mine.