My day washes off of me slowly as the edges of night close in. The kids in their bed, reading and close to drifting. My youngest finally breathes slow, and night makes herself known. The glow of the lamps turn the floor yellow as my feet tread their path.
I grab what’s close at hand as I walk to the back door, a green towel, plush and full, hanging from a door knob. I wrap it around my shoulders like a shawl. I open wide the door, calling to the dogs to come in, and as soon as I do a memory smashes into me sideways. Unexpectedly and immediately I am in a land 1,000 miles away.
The bitter wind in my lungs, white the only color I see. I once knew her so well, this lovely world of cold and snow, and in one second I am taken back to when it was my home.
I won’t tell you all of it. What I will tell you is that there are moments that define us, and this is one of mine, for this is when I began to realize that strength forms when you have no other choice but to find it…
In February of 2019, I had promised my children a trip to see the new baby (hey, Saw man) down south. It had been planned, and everyone was expecting us.
What no one knew is that I was living in an actual hell, and things were finally starting to fall apart for good. I kept everything from everyone for years and carried it alone. What a giant whole other thing that is to write about, but for now, the memory that blew in with the winter wind is enough.
The debate of what to do with the planned trip was pointless. My babies and I would still go. I had never made that trip alone with all 3, but it didn't matter. I had already told my children, and I was not about to cancel plans and disappoint them. I would figure it out, something I have become very adept at doing.
So, I packed suitcases for 3 young children. One still in diapers and breastfeeding, rear facing car seat. All the snacks and all the onesies. Sippy cups and wipes. All of it, and off we went. My 3 hearts in the back, we drove through half the country on our first of now many cross country journeys. And it was fine. Truly.
They wrote on their faces (see photos for proof) and screamed and cried. We took breaks to climb and pee and run and eat, and deep breath, we made it. We met baby Sawyer for the first time, and that little fart is currently chomping Cheetos at my kitchen table like a squirrel.
But. Minnesota, the blessed tundra she is, gifted this exhausted and weary mother with a lovely, mile high snow storm (or 3) to return home to after 20 hours alone in the car with an exhausted 5,3, and 1 year old.
I remember pulling up to the house, tired and frazzled and so ready to get those babies out of that stupid vehicle only to be met by a very impassable driveway. The only lights to be found were those of my minivan headlights shining on a very unshoveled stretch of concrete that I needed to pass through. I knew immediately that was not going to happen. I was full blooded Minnesotan at this point. That driveway needed a hefty snow blower, which I didn’t have. This momma would be shoveling.
But for now, I needed my babies out of that car past the snow-walled in doors into their warm beds, and the only shovel I had was in the walled off garage.
I distinctly remember sitting in my driver’s seat with all 3 either crying or yelling and feeling completely defeated. I gripped the wheel tight, and a sob caught in my throat. Everything inside of me wanted to break down, yet I remember very clearly not doing anything of the sort. I remember so well my entire world hitting me in that single moment. I sat. I swallowed it down, and I opened my car door and started working. My children needed out of the cold.
It gets a bit fuzzy at this point, but I remember hauling barefooted, freezing cold babies into their home, and shoveling, and the bone deep exhaustion of the entire situation. It was such a tangible expression of my life story that forever seems to be “Put one foot in front of the other and move.”
What other choice is there?
Now let me finish with the best part of this story.
As I was shoveling in that quiet, cold night, a woman’s voice unexpectedly called over to me. I barely knew her, but what I did know is that she was a single mom raising a teenage son alone in the house across from mine. That lovely woman, who I can’t remember the name or face of, came over with her snowblower and finished my driveway in 20 minutes. It would have taken me hours. But, she looked out her window to see another woman alone, doing it all, and she moved.
God love her, she will never know.
So, when I opened the door the other night and was unexpectedly taken back to that night and remembered all of it, I smiled at the bitter cold and the memories she brought.
It was a lifetime ago, and also part of why I am who I am today, and I wouldn’t take it back for anything.
And lovely, beautiful neighbor lady, may I always be like you:
The one who brings the light.