September 11

Tragedy, especially global tragedy, truly has an effect on a country’s population.  I remember growing up hearing stories of people recalling exactly where they were and what they were doing when they got the news that JFK had been shot.  My parents, grandparents and all of their friends would describe the day in great detail.  Some even welled up with sorrow as if he were a close friend, as if it had happened only yesterday.  I never understood this concept and thought it was ridiculous until the global tragedy of my generation happened.  September 11th.

I have only been called to jury duty twice in my life.  The first time I was dismissed before ten o’clock in the morning.  That day was the best.  I was excused from work with pay and spent the rest of a beautiful June day at the beach.  My second time being called to jury duty was the polar opposite.  It was the day that holds a vivid image in my mind.  I can recall every waking moment of that day just like it was yesterday.

The weather was gorgeous.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  Although it was September and fall was looming, it felt more like spring.  I remember feeling sorry for myself because I was going to sit around in a dreary courthouse all day.  I remember having a little pity party for myself because I wasn’t going to be around to get my Kindergartener on and off the bus.  It was so upsetting.  It was only his first week of “big boy school” and he was having trouble adjusting to new people and new friends.  I needed to be there yet I also knew that getting out of jury duty took some real finagling and I could never lie about why I couldn’t be there.  After all, it was my civic duty.

I entered the court house a bit nervous.  To me, this was the city, a place where I was always uncomfortable, no less having to factor in criminals.  I was uneasy.  Metal detectors screeched in alarm every so often, shifty-looking people were coming and going, and there was an echo reverberating throughout the building.  The pool of jurors was shuffled in to a long corridor in the basement where we were to wait for further instruction.

Our further instruction came just moments later when a frantic looking court officer asked us to step into a large conference room where we were going to be able to watch some breaking news events unfolding on television.  I was very confused and didn’t understand if it had something to do with one of the cases we were going to hear.  Just as my eyes found the small thirteen inch television in the corner, the second plane hit.  It was surreal.  Still confused, just as confused as everyone around me, the newscasters tried their best to stay composed and share with our nation what they could gather.  Finally, twenty five minutes later, the President confirmed it was a terrorist attack as he stood in front of hundreds of elementary school students inside a school in Florida.  Those twenty five minutes waiting for confirmation of the speculation that was flying on every news channel seemed like an eternity.  I sat silently waiting, holding my breath, waiting for the next life changing moment to happen.

My rare request to fulfill this civic duty was a small price to pay for being able to be an American, affording me all the rights and freedoms that I am so lucky to have.  That day, so many people were not as fortunate to be Americans, targeted as a whole population by a group with such hate inside of them.

Terrorism?  Confirmation of terrorism and here I sit in a Federal Courthouse.  Am I safe?  Are federal buildings all going to be the next target?  Let me the hell out of here!  I was frightened, wondering where my husband was working that day, wondering if my children were safe, wondering what, if anything, my kids had seen or heard.  Our lives as we knew it did not feel secure any more.  Our safe American soil had been spoiled.

Close to ten thirty, they finally let us go.  They let us go without very little conversation, only letting us know that we would receive formal compliance paperwork in the mail.  Who cares?  There may not be a judicial system left after today, let me out of here!

I was able to get my child off the bus that day.  I remember seeing his huge grin as he stepped off the bus.  He was so surprised to see me getting him after I had specifically given him instructions on going with the neighbor.  If the alternative would have been for me to stay at jury duty and America would have remained unchanged from the day before, I would have given up getting my child off the bus for that one day.

 

The Real Journey Started in 1990

I loved him and I knew I was doing the right thing or at least that was what my naïve, twenty year old mind was telling me.  I made a rash decision to move eleven hundred miles away from home.  I withdrew from college with just three semesters left.  I quit a decent, full time job that could have been a career.  I deserted a loving family who were always caring and supportive.  I did all of these foolish things just two weeks before Christmas, Christmas the biggest family day of the year, with just a promise to come back and visit some time.  Was it the right thing?  Who knew, but I was sure as hell going to find out.

As my parents stood in the driveway wiping away tears, all I could think about was myself.  As I drove away, I ripped their hearts out, dragging them, slowly beating like the U-Haul I was towing.  Selfishly, I didn’t care who I hurt as I ran to him, it was all about me. Me, me, me and whatever I wanted to do.  Was I making a good decision?  Did I consider the feelings of my family who urged me not to go because I really didn’t know him?  No, I was a twenty year old college drop out who’s only future plans rode on the pipe dreams of a wanna-be whom I’d only been dating for three months.

They say hindsight is twenty-twenty, that couldn’t be any truer!  Had I known what I know now, would I have made a different decision?  Probably, but what happened in my life over the next two years was meant to be.  It was the most eye-opening time of my life.  Fate, destiny that is determined before you take your first breath, had carved out a scenic route for me.  On this part of my life’s journey, there were so many twists and turns that I thought I may have lost my way while spiraling out of control.  Today I am thankful that I landed face up in familiar territory.

My eleven hundred mile trek dropped me in South Carolina with him.  This part of my journey I like to refer to as “driving through the storm”.  This storm lowered my self-esteem and made me unsure of every move I made.  I worked two jobs to pay all of our bills and he claimed to have a job.  As far as I knew, with a job came a paycheck, this never happened.  His lack of a real job led to drinking and drinking to excess.  Drinking to excess led to hostility and anger.  Anger led to huge arguments and mean, nasty words.  Arguments led to him storming out of the apartment to the local bar.  And finally, more drinking led to cheating.  I won’t even dignify his presence in my life by writing or speaking his name but I do owe him one thing.  Thank you.  Thank you for opening my eyes to a world outside of Massachusetts.  Thank you for showing me what kind of relationship is never worth having.    But most importantly, thank you for leaving.  The mind games in which I had been the pawn finally stopped.

The next part of my journey is referred to as “the accident”.  He was a guy from the golf course, he was married, and he had kids.  I was drowning my low self esteem in Crown and water.  We hit it off right away.  He told me that he was married but he and his wife were treading on thin ice.  I wonder if she knew that but of course I believed him because I was a starry-eyed twenty-one year old.  He shared that he still lived at home but it was only because of the kids.  None of that seemed to matter to me.  I was on the rebound and needed someone to treat me like a girl was supposed to be treated.  What a twist in the road.  I was the one being cheated on last time around but this time I was the accomplice in the cheating.  What a terrible irony.  Unfortunately the only thing wrong with this relationship was that he was married.  Oh, did I mention he was seventeen years older than me?  Alright, so there were two things wrong with that picture.  Enough said.  The fun was short lived but well worth it.  I regained my self-esteem, grew a conscience and vowed to always be treated as I should in a good relationship.

I was having the time of my life, feeling good about myself, living on my own, working hard, attending classes at University of South Carolina and visiting my family whenever I could.  On a visit home during the spring of 1992, I caught back up with Mark.  Mark grew up a mile from me and I had known him since grade school.  He was “a friend of a friend” and when his eyes met mine while I was spending my last night in town out with a group of friends, I felt like he was the only one in the room.  His smile made me melt from the inside out.  The way he laughed with such innocence took my breath away.  Why did I have to run eleven hundred miles in the other direction only to find the love of my life living in my hometown?  Was it my destiny?  Was it for personal growth?  It was fate that took me on this scenic journey.  In the blink of eye my life had changed.  In less than one year from the day we re-connected, I married the man who had become my best friend.  This final part of my journey I like to call “reaching my destination”.

Music Is What Feelings Sound Like

The leftovers are put away, family and friends are gathering their things to head home, the dishes are drying and as you reflect on the day, it’s obvious you’re thankful for the people in your life but I have to say, I’m most thankful for music.

Music sets my mood, enhances my mood and sometimes even changes my mood. Songs from my playlist, songs on the radio, background music in a store; the words, the tempo, the melody, make me think of specific people. Those people are the most important people in my life, the people who have shaped me in some way. Music makes me think of these people in their own special ways.

Anything from the 70’s – Barry Manilow, Kenny Rogers, Jim Croce, the list goes on and on – reminds me of my Mom. The music always blared as she cleaned the house, cooked, dusted, did laundry…it didn’t matter what the chore was, there was always a playlist to accompany it before playlists even existed.

Eighties hairbands immediately make me think of my best friends and the carefree days of dreaming about the future, always looking out for one another, doing our makeup, and giggling until it was almost dawn.

Country music brings me back to a time in my life when I wasn’t sure which direction I was going. I can still picture the faces of the people that I met along the way and those that influenced my direction when I was so far from home.

Songs from concerts I’ve been to make me smile and reminisce about who I was with and the time we had. Always wishing for that one more song.

Every time I hear anything from the Kidzbop CDs that were stacked in my car, I immediately picture the two most adorable little boys singing along in the backseat.

As I grow older and become more in touch with who I am, music plays an important part in my life. Each and every significant person in my life has their own soundtrack. What’s yours?

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