The time we spend on this earth is made up of moments and experiences. Nothing more than that. Moments and experiences. Then, at the end of it all, you’ll look back at the choices you made and reflect on the life you lived and you’ll realize the scale of true happiness you created through it all.
I will never be one to tell others what makes for their personal happinesses. For some people, it’s a closet full of shoes and a penthouse in the sky. For others, it’s a down-home country farm with some goats and chickens and a stray dog or two. I know people who appear very content with their cats, their comics, or a passport full of stamps. I’m a strong advocate for “doing what makes you happy” even if it may not be what would make ME happy.
Tonight, as Nate and I walked up our driveway towards our little Minneapolis home, I stared at the darkened windows, the trampled hostas and the yard consumed by waterguns, soccer balls, and styrofoam rocket ships. We walked in to complete silence. No dog. No children. No noise. Nothing. Tomorrow we fly out to Napa Valley to celebrate five years of marriage, and I could not be more excited! Wineries, warm weather, ocean views, and quaint shops will quickly fill the next three days. To travel as a couple requires that we pawn off the children, so we met the doting Grammie and Grampie half-way and said our goodbyes. My anticipated joy of sitting in the passenger seat of our car (since I am always bottle-feeding our little porkchop in the backseat with her brother) was barely acknowledged due to the tears that immediately began pouring out.
“You’re so emotional, it’s cute,” commented Nate as we headed the opposite direction down Highway 94 towards home. Cute? Wait til he sees me ugly cry! Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that point. It didn’t. But, it came close.
As I stepped foot into our empty house an hour later, I was overcome with a slew of emotion. Might sound stupid, but I was brought back to five years ago, when nothing living was in our home to greet us when we arrived there. No dog, no kids, no fish (we’ve had two, who’ve both passed on…RIP Sunny I and Sunny II). I was brought back to the day after our wedding when we walked those same steps, feeling that same feeling of genuine love for my husband and pride in what he has helped me to become. Pleased with this (albeit little) home, so well decorated and warm. Enthusiastic about all the question marks that lie ahead. I wouldn’t trade these feelings for anything.
But, at the same time, when I opened the front door and saw the wall of toys covering the entire left side of our house, these feelings no longer felt “complete.” They are amazing feelings, but not “complete” feelings. Not anymore.
We stopped at a liquor store and bought fun beers and ciders to drink while packing tonight, and blasted music throughout the house since it’s something we just can’t do anymore. We closed the TV armoire because it makes the room look so much prettier and no one will be requesting to watch Clifford the Big Red Dog tonight. Nate even mentioned wanting to sit on the couch naked with his beer playing on his iPad (this never happened, in case you were wondering). But, it could’ve happened, and that’s the point.
I realized that blasting music and drinking beer until all hours of the night and, hell, even sitting naked on the couch, no longer sounded as grand as they used to.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m ecstatic to have one night, or two or three, of complete and utter freedom from responsibility. To let go of maternal moments like cheering for poop or sweeping the floor of Cheerios. I am completely aware of the necessity of getaways like this. I’m an advocate for regular date nights and mini child-free vacations. So, don’t think for a minute that I’m sitting her wallowing in the absence of my children. I’m having fun weeding through cute hats and comfy shoes and funky jewelry. I’m loving the fact that tomorrow night, I’m going to be wearing a non-office-casual dress at the sushi restaurant of my choice on the coast of San Francisco. I’m over-the-moon about the idea of holding my husband’s hand as we drive through the hills of Sonoma, seeking out family-owned vineyards with killer Cabernets.
My point is that MY idea of true, unending happiness has changed with the growing of my family. This trip will be one of those experiences that I’ll recall later in life with no regrets and fond memories. As a couple, we have created a new level of experiences and memories. Every time our daughter laughs or reaches out for a toy or scoots her little butt two feet from where she was initially set down, I feel it. Every time our son does his silly dance or reads Go Dog Go or spells his name and looks around to make sure someone applauds it, I feel it. Every time Chloe lets the kids pet her or walks around the block obediently without a leash, I feel it. I am so happy with this life we’ve created. This little home, well-decorated and warm, now represents so much more than it did five years ago. It represents my memories, my experiences, my everything. This home holds my happiness.
…(It also currently holds my Oktoberfest-filled husband. I love this man.)…
I’m off to the land of adulthood…raise a glass with me to finding your own true happiness and embracing it with both arms.