Summer 2015 Purgatory
This was it. The time had finally arrived. At long last, I would lay eyes on the house we bought.
Yes, you read that right. It was a leap of faith. And possibly questionable sanity.
We drove from Maine to South Carolina over the course of 5 days. It wasn't all bad! We decided, per usual, to take our time and make the best of it. Our first day we didn't even travel far, but stayed just in New Hampshire at this place with bouncy castles galore, the biggest sandbox I'd ever seen, and even Swan boat rides. The next day, we toured the Crayola Factory. And by day 3, we realized the drive was going to be a whole lot of interstate and we were just ready to be there. So we booked it on down. Pennsylvania, North Carolina (I think, though I don't remember exactly - it was a blur), and finally, our new hometown.
When we arrived in Spartanburg, we stayed in a low-to-medium-budget hotel upon our arrival, since we had beat the moving truck there and needed a quick night's stay. Beyond this, there are no pictures. On the photography, I will comment, though, on the series of Grace with the stuffed animals. It's really about my own fear, played out in a playful and colorful way. It's about how we disguise our fears about real things in cheeky and playful ways as adults. In my specific case, I was concerned about my ability to handle three children. I knew if she had enough animals she would eventually drop one, and she did - strangely when it was just the three left she hadn't thrown out of the frame for fun. I worried about my ability to give all three the attention each needed. I already felt divided with two. Looking back now (I'm writing this in retrospect; Eloise is now 19 months old) - I know - that was so unnecessary. Today I saw a marquee in front of a church that proclaimed, "Where God guides, He provides." Kitschy phrasing, but true sentiment. (Isn't that the point of a marquee anyway?) And yes, I have found it to be true.
In a red & white cooler during this trip, I had maintained the frozen state of the little plastic Easter egg with our miscarried baby inside it. Frozen, because when I miscarried him or her, there was 5 feet of snow on the ground. So I encased & froze it until the ground was thawed enough. It had not both thawed and re-firmed enough to bury the egg by the time we left for France all summer. So I kept it in the freezer while we were gone, on a big ice pack in case of a power outage. We returned, prepared to move, escaped to The Cabin, and within 24 hours of arriving back from The Cabin, the moving truck arrived. The move was haphazard to say the least - we were two still young people with two very young kids, not enough boxes...they were sticking moving labels on loose items and throwing everything into the truck. We had at least one substitute mover and a guy who showed up hours late. Amid the chaos, Geoff and I saved the baby from the freezer. Every day and night on this 5-day summer trek, I faithfully maintained the ice. Through loud, sweaty "IWANTAHAPPYMEAL!" stops at McDonalds for ice, draining water onto steamy parking lots, filling at night with more hotel ice from loud whirry machines in moldy fluorescent corners. It was a lonely task. But the egg remained frozen and safe, my solace each night to reassure this baby that it was not left behind or forgotten. I was, in a way, grieving through private, compulsive actions. Each time I heard the ice machine, I could feel relief, like quieting the sound of a crying baby.
Then the moving truck was untraceable for almost two weeks.
And the fridge in our house was broken, so I had to continue to maintain the egg in the hotel.
And the hotel room fridge was broken. And we could not move rooms just yet.
So ice again. And then one night, it was all too much for the egg, too long away. One night, I saw a breach. A little breach of blood from the tiny air hole in the egg, into its encasing plastic bag. Just a hairline leak, maybe 2/3 of an inch long, but a vision it was - no longer was this frozen item a hypothetical, abstract concept. This blood was our shared connection, now fresh again. As fortune would have it, they were able to move our hotel room just as I was getting the kids into bed that evening. So I put them to bed again, and saved the egg while they slept.
They never knew about this baby.
We stayed in the hotel some more while we waited for the truck to reveal itself.
Geoff started his new job.
I stayed in the hotel, now 30-some weeks pregnant, with our two little ones.
I managed what little laundry we'd packed for what was going to be a 5-day trip in the hotel quarter machines, and breakfast in the hotel lobby. Styrofoam cups full of over-sweet apple juice and gummy, processed muffins are fresh in my memory.
Somehow, I lost a load of laundry with some...important things in there for me...in addition to my swimsuit, most of my t-shirts, all of my maternity shorts except one pair, and most of Cannon's pants. I lived in this long blue dress day and night now...ironically, the one I'd been wearing on Mother's Day when Geoff took a photo of me holding our two children that I'd use to announce our current pregnancy to the world. (The caption read, "In this picture, I am carrying THREE babies!)
We did the hotel swimming pool in the rain. We had the long nap refusals in the light-leaky hotel room.
The tap water smelled foul. Really foul. (I later learned there was an algal bloom in the county's water supply. It really was foul.)
I began to worry over my pregnancy, in the absence of distraction or other adults to talk to during the day. Geoff was working long hours at new faculty functions and setting up his new lab. I still hadn't received any prenatal care for this baby. Was everything OK? Was this water bad for the baby? Would they ever find our moving truck?
It was one of the least stable times in my life. Over the weeks, keeping the kids clean and entertained and the car in decent condition became overwhelming as heat and (what I didn't know at the time was) pregnancy-related anemia washed over my best intentions and ability to power through. We looked ragged and filthy. Everyone needed a haircut. We ran out of clean underwear. I nested in our hotel room, lining up bags of microwave popcorn and leftovers and plastic spoons we washed over and over, each night thinking, tomorrow we'll get out of here. Then Geoff would come home from this other world of stability in his new job, with his combed hair, and we'd eat microwave noodles from plastic single-serve gas station bowls, because that's all we could walk to, since Geoff had to take the car to work each day. We'd put the kids to bed and I'd hand-wash the spoons again, in the stinky water. And I'd line up all our shoes by the door. Each night, that task took me more and more time as I aimed to gain control over a situation where I had none. One night I was so tired, I laid down by the row of shoes to get a better eye on them and fell asleep on the floor. Geoff didn't get me off the floor, because he apparently fell asleep in a similarly exhausted and overwhelmed condition, with all the lights on, on the other side of the hotel room.
Then there was this bright spot at the bottom of the dark well of unknown. I no longer cared that I'd lost my swimsuit and just wore clothes into the pool. I no longer cared that we had no clue when we were leaving or when Geoff would ever get a break. I no longer cared that I was exhausted, I just took the kids swimming, again. I no longer cared about sunscreen for half an hour outside, or that I'd just left my hotel room key in the room, again. I just quit caring about anything but finding joy. I had nothing left to give in exchange for anything else. So I chose joy, even over perceived necessity. And I found it.
With each child in my arms, I found it. We danced across the pool and sang, and sang, and sang. We giggled, and I thought of my baby dancing in two pools at once, hopefully upside down. I thought of Cannon standing below my belly and pushing it up, saying, Jumpy Baby, Jumpy Baby! over and over all summer in France. I had on no makeup, probably no shower, just some of Geoff's clothes. I left our pitiful load of laundry in the hotel dryer. I let the kids eat the muffins *and* the sugary cereal. I learned to let go, and the weightlessness I found carried me and all my children.
This was my way out - diving in.
And this is what I saw.
(As seen from the moment we arrived home from The Cabin, to the day I became too overwhelmed to shoot - basically only 3 days into this whole ordeal! I'll pick up this story when the moving truck arrives and we move into our new home.)