Somewhere along the line, or you know, a second before I started writing this, it had a new title. Let’s see how it lives up to the new one! I have no idea yet – the hows and whys of this post. I think I’ll figure that out before the end. I often do.
The end is the beginning. At the end of another story, I got the guy. Not just any guy, but the guy. The heartbreaker. The one that got away. The one I would possibly have thought about through every walk of life – peering down city streets or listening to the right/wrong song on the radio at the right/wrong time. It would have been ok. It always is. We heal with time. We move on and out. The people, places & things in our lives turn over so completely, that sometimes it’s hard to find the old hidden under all the clutter – of lives lived fully in our 20’s and 30’s. It would have been ok. It would have been different.
I didn’t have to find that way. I’m finding this way. In this Once Upon a Time story, I got that certain guy. Not only that, I got a kid. And then another. The rest of it has been unfolding behind, slightly, messily, beautifully out of order.
The first time I went through the White Mountains of New Hampshire, as far as I can remember, was the weekend we first met. We met at JFK Airport in New York City, got lost in The Hamptons, drove all night to his mom’s house in western Mass, spent a few days there, and then drove up to Bethel, Maine, by way of the White Mountains. He took this with my camera:
After we had broken up and I was on my strange quest to see moose again, without him, and to date again, without him, I went to the White Mountains many times. With many different guys too. I’m not necessarily proud of this, but I was so heartbroken and temporarily dead inside, that I was doing anything to feel alive again. If I went to the White Mountains with a guy, it generally meant I felt something for him. Maybe even something strong. Also I was 25. Sometimes that’s what you do.
I don’t remember how many times I went to the White Mountains in that two-year period, or with how many guys – a few serious and some just as friends. I remember every stretch of highway and all the little details, although they were all crunched together in my mind. One town, instead of miles and miles of moosey highway. I remember going to the Blueberry Muffin Restaurant. One day I sat there and watched a family with two kids and I thought, “One day I’ll have that. Love, marriage and kids. And I’ll take that love, that marriage, and those kids, right back here. And I’ll know – I made it back.”
When I decided I wanted to come back to the White Mountains with my family for my birthday, I didn’t know what to expect. As with anything, it never looks the same. It never feels the same. We all go through swirls of change and time. I couldn’t help thinking along the way, about what my life used to be like, about what I wanted it to be like, and about what it is now.
It’s funny to feel a little achy and a little mournful, while also feeling the joy. No matter what your wildest dreams are, sometimes when they unfold, they’re even better. More 3D. More achy. And they’re also even worse, while still being even better, because they’re no longer always glossed over by youthful imagination. They have cracks and gray hairs and stomachaches. There’s sometimes even a slight backache too. I used to drive away from the White Mountains and feel full of holes – for broken hearts and moose not seen. What I didn’t expect this time, was to drive away and still feel full of holes – even now. I’m a little proud of them, I guess. We all have holes in our hearts. We always will. The key is to not let those holes fill up with water and sink us. These holes are best served to let out some of the pressure inside, and to buoy us home again.
Last year I was on the verge of panic attacks for Des’ birthday, Scarlet’s birthday and then mine. This year I sailed through their birthdays with no problems, but I did have anxiety the day before my birthday. We had Scarlet’s summer camp play (adorable) and then a four hour drive to New Hampshire. By the time we got to our surprise rented condo (Thanks, Cassidy!) I couldn’t shake the anxiety. Even though we were all so excited to be in a condo and in walking distance from Story Land.
It’s rare for me to have an anxiety attack I can’t shake. Usually it takes ten minutes. This was..considerably longer. Cassidy knew and I told him I was anxious and exhausted. He took the kids to get dinner and I decompressed in the condo for an hour. They came back, I felt better and we went for a drive to get dinner for me (Red Fox Bar & Grille) and to see mountains.
The bad spell finally, completely broke and I was ok. I woke up on my birthday morning a little apprehensive, especially because Des ate such a big piece of banana before we went out that he sort of barfed it out on the rug (I’m a vomit-phobic) but the spell really was broken. Breakfast was at The Blueberry Muffin, as previously mentioned, and everyone smiled at us and wished me a Happy Birthday. We really had become that family I had once envied, years ago. Then we continued our day.
Then we took a gondola up to the top of Wildcat Mountain (4062 feet) and hiked the forests up there. Scarlet was a natural at leading the way. She kept calling it “bondola”, which was adorable, but sadly she learned the truth soon in.
Then we did the Mt. Washington Auto Road! It was foggy and as scary as I remember. Also, I got clam chowder at the top. (a life dream) I ate it alone while the kids went to the gift shop and I was among many sweaty hikers.