Monday, March 31, 2014

Baby Daluca and Heaven Above

There might be two or three people in the world that look at Sea World photos and think about and hear what I think about and hear when I look at them. 

When the boys were 2 and 3, we moved from The Woodlands to San Antonio. Steve and I had done many weekend road trips to the tourist mecca 3 hours west of Houston over the years, and I even traveled there as a child with my parents and with various school groups. It always held an attraction for me. If Houston was the reliable aunt as a town, San Antonio was the fun cousin. And who doesn't love a fun cousin? So, when Steve's job offered us a relocation to San Antonio, we felt like we had won the lottery, and promptly began packing our bags.

We lived there for three short years. Steve didn't get the memo to do poorly and stay planted at his little store for a good 5 or 10 years. A larger store loomed and the promotion was too good to pass up. I never felt like I got enough time to live with my fun cousin, my riverwalk city, my cactus in bloom countryside. While we did live there, though, we made the most of it.

San Antonio was an amazing place to raise toddlers. So many warm and sunny days in any given year that provided an ideal climate for two outdoorsy boys who loved to run and climb and chase and roll and swing and slide. City parks and neighborhood playgrounds were abundant and many errand days or outings began or ended with a stop at one of them. It seemed natural, too, to invest in season passes to SeaWorld. 

I would be hard pressed to tell you who was more fascinated by the giant marine mammals - Steve and I, or the boys. We all delighted in taking in the shows, following the herd from one arena to the other on well manicured pathways defined by borders of lantana. We knew enough to avoid the splash zones and loved to sit where we could see all of the tricks and acrobatic maneuvers of the beautiful animals.

My favorite was always the beluga whale show. They seemed so graceful and full of secret stories as they slowly made their way along the walls of the giant tank of water. And I never see a photo or think of a beluga whale that I don't remember two tow-headed little blonde boys singing, 
"Baby daluca in the deep blue sea, swims so wild and he swims so free. Heaven above and the sea below and a little white whale on the go...Baby daluca, oh baby daluca...Is the water cold? Is your momma home? What makes you so happy?" 
I always secretly loved that they initially pronounced beluga as daluca. If you had any question as to what they were saying, their crescendos on the chorus line put your questions to ease.

Many family outings were spent at SeaWorld and living in town gave us the perks of going when the rest of the world wasn't invading our home town, allowing us to avoid the crowds. Once we moved south, we never really returned to SeaWorld. It was as if we were unwilling to become "those tourists" and, having lost our home field advantage, we opted to stay away either out of self preservation, or an unwillingness to face up to the loss we felt over missing our beloved riverwalk city. 

Ten years and eight months after moving away, we did return to San Antonio for a few days as a family, and we did also return to SeaWorld for the first time since moving away. It was so much fun to be back where things were so familiar and so full of memory, to take in the tradition of the same shows, and to discover the new features of the park. I always love to go back with the boys to a place they have been before and get them to compare and contrast, to remember and to tell.

We went to our same shows we always had loved, and we went to ride some rides and we went to the penguin habitat. I can still see the baby penguin in my mind. It was a great day to be together. SeaWorld had a way of making our day a little brighter, our world a little smaller, taking us back in time. 

When the day was over, we had fun recalling over dinner our favorite parts of the day. I was not surprised when the majority of the table answered that their favorite show was Shamu. It's hard to not be overwhelmed with amazement at seeing the giant Orcas swim and perform for a delighted stadium. I remember, too, that years ago, we would go for days to only see simply Shamu. Some things never change. And I'm secretly delighted by that. 

I think the song lyrics are spot on - "Heaven above and the sea below, and a little white whale on the go...." That is the stuff that days are made of, days that make you happy.

Simply Shamu ~ SeaWorld ~ March 2011

Paper: Echo Park

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Moments Worth Remembering

Trace Adkins has a song called "You're Gonna' Miss This" and it just tears me up every time I hear it. {And you can read that tears to rhyme with pairs or to rhyme with hears. Works either way.}

I had a handful of random photos from a windy spring day that never seemed to amount to much in the scrappy layout world. Just the boys and Steve tossing a football and wrestling. Simple good times. No great shots. Just a few photos that were snapped as I sat on the chilly grass and watched my guys. We all love the outdoors and love to get out in it as much as possible. I have never minded being the one to watch, the home base, the keeper of the time and guardian of our stuff. Such was my perch on this Sunday afternoon, camera in hand, laughter in my heart.

The photos of that Sunday afternoon sat in my "to scrap" binder for most of 2008, all of 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and half of 2013....They seemed too small to mean much. The funny thing about stories is that they are organic. They morph and change and grow and shift. What was once just a windy day at the park over time turned into our last day playing at the park, the timeframe when Philip could tackle his younger brother, the days when Steve was taller than our boys....

As I worked on clearing out the 2008 album last year and wrapping up the loose ends of passed over photos and untold stories, I came across these photos and knew the moment was now tender enough and precious enough to scrap. This wasn't just a day at the park anymore. These days when we had their attention all Sunday afternoon were good times. These days when they could wrestle and not seriously hurt one another were fun times. These days when Steve could keep ahead of them were precious times. These days when they would need to run to the sidelines and camp out with me for a break from the action were tender times.

The reality is that when you are IN the last moment of something, you are never fully aware that you are IN the last moment. Had I known this was our last day at the park, I would have taken more photographs, staged some backdrop, taken a picnic...done any number of things to make the day more monumental, more concrete, more significant. But these photos remind me that we don't often know what lies ahead. We cannot see around the corner.

I have a sign hanging in my office, alongside photos of my three guys. "Live in the moment and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering." It's a paraphrase of a quote by Ida Taylor Scott. That sign is my clarion call, the reason I make the decisions I make, the ideal that keeps me focused. Trace is right. When the moments are only behind you, you are left to rely on a few silly photos, and if you are lucky, some beautiful memories in your heart to go with them.

You're gonna' miss this,
You're gonna' want this back.
You're gonna' wish these days hadn't gone by so fast.
These are some good times, 
So take a good look around.
You may not know it now,

But you're gonna' miss this.

I miss these little boys with their tender hearts, their innocent smiles, their round cheeks and twinkling mischievous eyes. I miss sunny Sunday afternoons spent together at a park, playing with few cares of the world on our shoulders. I miss silliness and games of chase and tackle. I miss these moments worth remembering.

Park Play ~ Arbor Hills Nature Reserve ~ April 2008

Paper: My Minds Eye, Pebbles

Monday, March 3, 2014

He Grabbed My Hand...and My Heart

The second week of January this year marked the thirtieth anniversary of the day that a skinny red-handed Yankee wondered into the dorm lobby at Cathcart with my friend Mark. He was a transfer student and -- back in the pre-internet day when you had to go to school to register for your classes, buy your books, and stand in line to garner a chapel seat assignment -- we always arrived 3 days before the school semester began to handle this big college chores. 

We all learned to get it over with quickly on the class and book thing, and to go together to end up sitting with someone you actually knew in chapel. It certainly made the 5 day mandated attendance a little more palatable. Big semester plans out of the way, we had a little precious time to kill before the semester began its onslaught of assignments and papers and readings and projects. 

It was in that pre-semester lull of the second semester of our freshman year that I met Steve. Cathcart was the freshman girls' dorm and the big lobby right in the middle of campus lent itself to many a gathering. Clusters gathered around the TV to watch one of the 3 channels. Groups lounged in the overstuffed chairs and sagging couches, chatting about all of the important events. Couples sought some level of privacy in a room full of anywhere from 10-30 given the time of day. Cathcart's lobby was also the mecca of knowledge. 

In the pre-cell phone days, it was where you went when you couldn't find someone, because there would always be at least one person there that had seen who had come in and gone out and in what grouping of students. I still love to see in my mind the swinging door that residents passed through to go to their rooms and that same door serving as the barricade in a non-coed dorm. The Resident Assistant on shift sat at the desk near that door, daring any trespassers to appear, and keeping guard on all the activities in the lobby as best as she could. Her perch three steps up gave her a nice lookout and those very same steps served as a warning to any non-resident, specifically male, who might approach that swinging  door.

There was a whole big bunch of us that ran around together. We didn't date per se - we did bunches of people to bunches of events. It was almost as if you had a family that was made up of 50 people at any given time. It was wonderful. When Mark finished his registration, he headed our way as Cathcart Lobby was the unofficial gathering spot for our bunch activity planning, and he brought with him a new transfer student he had met in the process. Steve and I became fast friends, and it was an often occurrence for him, Mark and I to go to the cafeteria together or the campus movie or the student center.  We were all three business majors, so our schedules and routes followed the same circuit. We became our own little mini-bunch within the greater bunch, so much so that people often quizzed us to see if we were siblings.

The three of us rocked along in this friendship thing for 2 years, over 4 semesters. I remember fondly setting Steve up for dates with girls in the dorm. I remember talking to him in the lobby about who he would like to go out with, and me running to the girls to see if the interest was mutual. I remember calling him out of the blue one July during summer school for his birthday. I can still hear his dad's sleepy voice, as I had not allowed for the central to east coast time change.

It was in the middle of the fall semester of my third year that things began shifting. He showed up on the patio of my dorm more often. And alone. He would walk me to my classes. He would be waiting for me in the student center near the mailboxes. He would angle to sit near me in the cafeteria. It seemed we were out of the big bunch more than we were in it. I took it all in stride until one afternoon, as we walked from the Mabee Business Center back toward Sears Dorm, that he grabbed my hand to hold and forever sent things sliding in a new direction.

So caught off guard was I that I stopped dead in my tracks, pulled my hand out of his, and said in a not too friendly voice, "What in the world are you doing?" What I know now, looking back, is that he was falling in love...and so was I. We had a relationship that easily and quickly slid from dear friends to casually dating to seriously courting in the span of about 4 months. By the time Thanksgiving came, I knew enough to tell my mom that I thought I was dating "the one". 

There was never any doubt in our love, never any heated argument, never a break-up one. We laughed together, we talked together, we walked together and we enjoyed each other's company as much while we were dating as we had while friends, if not more so. We learned to finish each other's thoughts and sentences, we found out favorites, and we realized that we had been given a true gift - a friendship that grew into a romance that seemed destined to last the test of time.

We are far today from those skinny college freshmen that first met in January, 1984. But, we have spent the last 30 years together building a life full of moments - memorable times, everyday mistakes, chaotic mundane. It has been truly a great gift for my heart. He is my partner like I could never have dreamed. He has pulled out of me the greater part of myself that I would never have had the courage to reveal. He has rounded out the rough edges that I would never have had the humility to conceal. He has buoyed up a heart that was fragile and wounded that I would never have had the tenacity to feel.

30 years, 5 cities, 2 sons, endless memories. As much as I like my alone time and my privacy, my heart always yearns for this man to come home at the end of his work day and light up my life with his twinkling blue eyes, his infectious smile, his spontaneous belly laugh. Of all the places I have been and all of the things I have done, anywhere with him is my favorite place. And doing anything with him is my favorite thing. Thanks, baby, for walking into that lobby and my life thirty years ago, and for grabbing my hand on that fall afternoon in 1985. Today and always, you are my favorite thing.

You Are My Favorite Thing ~ 23rd Anniversary ~ July 2010

Paper: Websters Pages