I have just reread this a few times and I have no idea if this just pointless rambling, or if it actually makes sense. So thank you in advance for reading the whole thing. I thought it would help me sleep, but now I am going to have to try and not worry about whether or not it all makes sense.
I’ve been spinning a couple of ideas around in my head the last few days for blog posts, but my thoughts keep leading down some very seemingly unconnected paths. And that actually gave me an idea for a post. So I’ve been playing with the idea of how small, and big, moments in our lives can have such amazing impacts on the paths we take, the places we go, and the people we meet along the way. Hopefully this will all make sense, because it’s still kind of a jumble in my head right now, but I have to get it out so I can sleep.
I started out thinking about writing about my son, the Buzzsaw, and I still might, he is going through so many changes right now, some are funny, many are exasperating. At the same time I have been thinking about all the things my best friend and her husband have been subjected to from their 15 year old son and newly 20 year old daughter. Every child is different, every family is different, but I also know that at 3 years old, my son is beginning to get the foundation of how he will deal with things later on down the road. Becoming a parent much later than most of my friends, I have had the luxury of witnessing the highs and lows of their parenting adventures. I have kept a mental list over the years, of all the things I would/would not do once I had my own child. Some have worked, some I have remembered after the fact, and some have been scratched off because I quickly realized I had no idea what it is really like when you are a parent and not a bystander.
My 20 year old Goddess-daughter is currently trying to learn how to wear her “big girl panties”. “Let me be 20” is her current mantra, but she is struggling with, like we all have done, what that actually means. I thought I had chosen a difficult road when I was that age; she seems to be adding potholes to her road. . . from my outsider’s point of view. So today, on my way to work, I drafted a letter to her in my head regarding some of the decisions she is and will be making. More than likely I won’t actually send her such a letter because quite frankly, I’m positive she wouldn’t heed my advice. That’s no knock on her, I’m positive I wouldn’t have heeded the advice either. But the whole process got me to thinking about how the significant, and insignificant moments in our lives direct our destinies in ways we could not possibly see without years and years of hindsight.
Some of these forks in the road are pretty easy to see, sometimes with very little passing of time. I was around the age of 23 when I began to consciously think about the impact of certain turning points in my life. My father’s battle, and thankful recovery, with substance abuse and my parents subsequent divorce is a major turning point. How different my life might have been had they stayed together. How many people I might not have ever met, places I might not have gone, things I might not have done. Would I trade all of that? No, and that’s a very easy question to answer. It occurred to me that because of my parents splitting up, I was given the opportunity to forge more intimate relationships with my grandparents. I had time with both sets that I would not have had because at differents times my dad and I, and my mom and I, lived with their parents. I have memories and experiences my cousins never got, and I am so very grateful for that time with them.
I was a terrible student in high school. I didn’t like to study and I carried a resentment on my shoulders because it always seemed like school came so easy for so many of my classmates. It pissed me off that I had to work so much harder than “everybody else”. I realize the bullshit in my thoughts now, I just didn’t like to study. Because I screwed around so much, I ended up having to repeat a quarter of my senior year. I almost screwed that up, but fortunately a principle pittied me and I finished by the skin of my ass. If I had been a better student, I might not have found myself desperate enough to get out of my hometown that I joined the Navy. I might have tried to go directly to college. I could have easily become a party-animal in college and ended up a drop-out with huge student loan debts. Instead, I screwed around in high school, joined the military, partied as I traveled to places I had never heard of, earned an honorable discharge as well as a G.I. Bill, and eventually went to college when I was mature enough to handle it.
All of this is leading to a point. I’m getting there I promise.
I found myself thinking about that pivotal time between my extended senior year of high school and when I enlisted in the Navy. A light bulb flashed in my grey matter and I narrowed it all down to a moment shortly before spring break. The moment when I crashed my mother’s car. See, she had finally gotten herself to a place financially where she could buy a new car and give me her old one. I wasn’t doing anything wrong (for once), and I wasn’t anywhere I wasn’t supposed to be (again, for once). I was running errands. I found myself in some weekend rush hour traffic. I was trying to change lanes and because of my lack of experience, I spent too much time looking behind me to make sure it was clear for me to get in the next lane. The car in front me stopped but I didn’t. The damage wasn’t horrible, but the car was 7 years old and it would have cost more than the value of the car to fix it, so the insurance totaled the vehicle. No car of my own meant I was limited to jobs within walking distance of my home. This led me to the situation after high school of needing a better job to save for a car, and needing a car to get a better paying job. This viscous cycle left me no alternative except to run off and join the Navy.
In the middle of all of these thoughts, it was sort of like quickly flipping through a stack of photos, I had a major “wow” moment. Playing back all of these moments, it’s kind of a “duh”, to say how different my life could have been if I hadn’t crashed that car. And it’s pretty easy for me to say that, in the end, I really am happy with how things turned out. I’m very glad for the experiences, good and bad, and for the path my life has taken. But the “wow” moment came when I realized one certain event never would have happened, one person whose path I never would have crossed, if I hadn’t crashed my mother’s car. I mentally choked up at the thought of never having this person in my life, even for the short time we spent together.
As I mentioned earlier, the car crash happened before spring break. Where I grew up, everyone headed to Panama City Florida for spring break. And I was finally getting my chance. I had saved my money, my best friend and I had plans for a hotel with other friends, the bathing suits were purchased. We were going to party with the cool kids with no adult supervision! Crashing the car changed all of that. My saved money was now earmarked for traffic fines and insurance increases. But we had to do something! After all these years I don’t really know how it all came together, but we ended up going to Florida with some other friends. We didn’t get to go to Panama City; we ended up outside of Orlando. My BFF’s grandfather had a house in Kissimmee and we had some friends with a car. We spent one day at Cocoa Beach dodging seagull poop grenades, and another day at Disney World.
This is finally the point of this post. All of these other thought threads, curving and winding as they are, led me to the realization that I never would have met the boy from Denmark, standing in line for a ride at Disney World, if I hadn’t crashed my mother’s car. He was an exchange student on vacation with his host family. My BFF hit it off with his host-brother while he and I flirted with each other. We spent the rest of the day with each other. And I remember standing in an elevator at his hotel at the end of the day, my friends honking the horn for me to hurry up, while he and I shared our one and only kiss. I felt like I was living out the plot of some teenage romance novel. I spent months harboring fantasies of being reunited with my Denmark dream dude.We actually kept in touch. We called each other once and awhile, back in the ’80s that was a serious phone bill, and wrote good old fashioned letters.
In spite of my fantasy teenage crush at the time, I really appreciated the friendship that developed through our calls and letters. He always made me laugh. When I was on board a ship during the first Gulf War, his letters gave me a reason to laugh and smile. He was an amazing letter writer. I still have them, I found them in a box a few years ago and rereading them made me so happy because I knew how lucky I was to have had this friendship. And I realized how much I missed him and his letters. We had lost contact. He came to visit me when I was stationed in San Diego in 1991/2. Sometime after that, we both got busy in our lives and just lost contact. I have never been really good at keeping up with correspondence, so it was probably my fault. Thank the Goddess for Facebook because I found him on there a few years ago. We are both now happily married and parents. We get to see pictures of each others families, and when he posts in English, I get an idea of what is going on in his life.
There are so many things that I would not change in my life. So many experiences I am glad I had. So many people I have met that were worth the bad moments I had to go through to have them cross my path. I am grateful for all of them. It was such a weird thought process that lead me to the realization that so many things had to happen in a certain way for me to have met my Danish pen pal. In the grand picture of my life, our time together was just a blip, but the friendship that developed was so important at the time. I had some really lonely times when I was on that ship. Times when I felt so far away from the people who loved me, cared about me, and liked me for who I was; the letters I got from my foreign friend kept me going. They helped me remember that there were people who actually liked me and were my real friends. For a short time in my life, he played an important part. And I owe it all to my lack of driving experience when I was 17 years old.
I have no idea how what kind of person my little Buzzsaw will be when he is a teenager or young adult. I have a lot of hopes, but no solid ideas. We are struggling with potty training and officially entering into the “why” stage of his life. Listening to the struggles my BFF is going through with her 15 and 20 year olds, I would gladly stay at this stage forever. It also has made me aware of how things I do now will affect who he is in 10 years. I have no idea which moments will be major points for him. It could be little things I do, or it could be major decisions that will put things into place that will shape him and his path in life. And I really wish I could figure out a way to express to my Goddess-daughter that sucking up the lumps in life now may just very well lead to some unexpected but important moments later on down the road. Crashing my mother’s car and not being able to party with the cool kids when I was 17 seemed like a devasting and life-ending drama at the time. But because I sucked it up and made the most out of what I had, I met an amazing person who was able to get me through some tough times when I really needed it. I’m trying my very best to instill that type of thinking in my 3 year old. I’m trying to lay a foundation for him now that will carry him through the tough road of life that is coming. I don’t know if it is as simple as “everything happens for a reason”; but I would really like to beat my Goddess-daughter upside the head with “maybe it is”.