Amid all of the sadness we have been feeling, collectively, I thought I would share one of many visitation tales that at the time seemed tragic but now make me chuckle.
Two years ago, when my husband was "living" among the Adirondack mountains, I made plans to visit him for the day with our 13 and just turned 3 year olds. The previous night (Friday) my nieces and nephew were visiting, so the house was 'lively'! I cooked dinner while entertaining children and also threw together our travel bag for our trip. The bag contained birth certificates, clothes, shoes, snacks, toys for the way, etc.
Early the next morning (at about 5 am) I rose up the teenager, picked up the sleeping tot, put her in her car seat, and set out into the dark road. Driving next to an obviously grumpy, sleepy and perhaps angry teen-aged girl is the stuff nightmares are made of. I apologized to her, knowing the sacrifice she was making by even being here, to which she responded, "uh huh!" Thank goodness the sun would soon come up and the view was spectacular.
The drive was long and boring. While the girls slept I thought about calling my mom so she can bring me up to speed on the family down in Florida and Puerto Rico. I re-considered after looking at the clock and seeing that it was barely 6:30 and I would't want to scare her with an early morning call. So I did what I always do when I need a little pick me up, I did my version of car Zumba. One day I will market the idea :) What I do is play my Zumba playlist and "dance" while I drive... following the routines as much as possible. I know it sounds silly, but doing this has gotten me to Florida and back several times!
At about 7:00 the girls were awake and hungry so we stopped at a Dunkin Donuts and grabbed some nutritious coffee and doughnuts. We also used the restroom. I thought about changing the little one into her visiting clothes (she was wearing a footie pajama) but didn't; I figured she might get all sticky and would need to change again. About two hours later, we were approaching the last rest area with restroom facilities. I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw a sleeping three year old. "Well, I guess I'll have to dress her once we get there," I said, and kept driving.
Half hour later, we drove up to the towering concrete prison, the one that always takes my breath away (no matter where he is, they are all the same in my mind). I parked the mini-van (which I had just cleaned out) and proceeded to gather the necessary items. IDs, money, clear change purse... now to dress the 'baby.' Working as a team, the teenager handed me items as I got them on the child. Once she was dressed, down to her socks, it was time for the shoes. One shoe on... other shoe? "I can't find it," she says. So we look, we tear the recently cleaned mini-van apart... no shoe. So we look some more, inside the mini-van, under the mini-van, around the mini-van... no shoe. Then it hit me. I was packing when one of the kids needed me the night before, I never put the second shoe IN the bag.
I strapped my daughter back in her car seat and got back in the mini-van. I sat there for a minute, lamenting and blaming myself, questioning how can someone be THAT dumb... but, that wasn't going to make the shoe appear. We were wasting time. So, what now? We were in the middle of the mountains. The last shoe store we saw was half hour down the road. This kid needed shoes, without a doubt, she would not be allowed to visit her dad with no shoes and this was his visiting day, we couldn't come back the next day.
I started to drive in one direction and after a few minutes realized it would be better to go back to where we came from. I remembered seeing a convenient store, maybe they had rubber shoes, I hoped. Once there, I asked if they sold shoes and the man behind the counter said no. I said that I needed a pair of shoes for my daughter and everyone in the store had a word of advice. Several people mentioned a store a couple of miles up the road but were unsure if they might have children's shoes. I thanked them I went on my way.
After driving for a few minutes, we arrived at a large hunting store. I parked and ran inside. I had never seen so much camouflage gear in my life! I asked if they carried children's shoes and they pointed to the adjacent room. I made my way to the wall where all of the kid's shoes were displayed. I sighed. There were Crocs, cowboy boots, hiking boots, winter boots and a pair of sneakers. All of the shoes were way too big for a three year old. The sneakers were the smallest, a size 12. She wore a size 9 at the time, but they would have to do. I paid for the shoes, ran back to the mini-van and quickly put them on my daughter's feet. They were big, but we tightened them as much as possible and off we went.
I was so relieved when we arrived at the parking lot for the second time. "Let's try this again!" I said. We got out of the mini-van and as we started walking, we looked at that little girl and had a good long laugh. She was walking in the funniest way; she was scared to take her feet off the ground so her feet were really wide apart and when she took a step it was straight up, resembling a man walking on the moon. It was the cutest thing ever!
The rest of the day was 'normal.' We had a good visit, in spite of a rocky start. My husband got to hear all about how "Mami freaked out, you should've seen her... oh my God, where is the other shoe?" They had a good old laugh at my expense.
Those shoes lived in their box until recently. Now they fit my soon-to-be five year old properly, and she loves wearing them!