Falling into Place

July 25, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Posted in Family, Transylvania | 16 Comments
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Fort Stockton, Texas.

It’s been a garrison in the flat, dusty West Texas nothingness for 150 years or so, protecting settlers from Indians, Yankees, and wayward steer. I was there once. Back when my husband and I could load one tiny bag in the tiny trunk of his tiny convertible and just go. Anywhere. Any weekend. Because we felt like it.

We stopped for lunch in Fort Stockton on the way to hiking and moon-watching in Big Bend. Over a Nachos Supreme, I nonchalantly said, “So, we might need to get a pregnancy test. I mean, I’m probably not pregnant, but we brought all that wine. So I might need to know if I can drink it. You know, maybe, just in case.”

But my maybes and probably nots didn’t fool either of us. We wanted a baby — and neither of us wanted to hope too much.

We moseyed over to Walmart and bought a two-pack, as casually as if we were buying Doublemint or Doritos. And we drove on, pretending to forget about it. We took one the next morning. Two lines. Two pink lines. The first tangible sign of new life, new beginnings, for us.

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Another couple passed through Fort Stockton recently. On their way home from vacation in Colorado. Their two little boys and their daughter sat in the back of their minivan, probably playing Nintendo games or looking for slug bugs. A car going the other way crossed the center median. It smashed into them.

The mom died instantly. The dad died later at the hospital. Both of the boys are paralyzed. Their sister has lots of broken bones.

Their family is broken, too. Where Fort Stockton was the beginning for my family, it’s an ending for this one.

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I reflect on all of this 6,000 miles away from that dry, desert cowtown. From my apartment balcony in a foreign city where I’m wearing a sweater in July. Where piles of red cherries decorate the concrete below me, knocked down by the afternoon hailstorm. Where my ears listen keenly for the squeaking sounds of Bun waking.

When he stirs, I load him into the stroller and we walk to the park. We pass the small white church, and I detour into its rose garden. I stand there, letting the sun soak through my clothes as the wind stirs up a faint, flowery sweetness. I notice the doors are open. We tiptoe inside.

The deep blues and oranges in the gold-leaf frescoes zero in on me, on my helplessness and sadness. The congregation chants words my heart needs, even though my brain doesn’t understand them. I feel the simple joy of just being there, of just being.

But I can’t ignore the sickening ache right in my core. Another mother is out of moments like these. Another family is irrevocably altered.

I turn away and slip outside, dropping a few coins in the wooden box by the door for a candle. The wind whips as I try to light it and push it into the sandy stand in the corner of the garden. It blows out. I light it again, and twice more, until I find a spot in the back where the wind can’t reach.

I watch it burn for a while. I say their names out loud, as if making my declaration will soothe their souls, or cement their memories, or heal their children, or something, anything. I stand there until the wind blows Bun’s hat on the ground. Then I put it back on and we walk to the park.

We swing together, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, each lost in our own thoughts. I can’t help but think of the similar momentum of life. Back, forth, up, down, and again, until it stops. Until we stop.

I think of this place I’m in now, an ocean away from that place, the one where life was both celebrated and taken. I promise myself I will keep swinging, keep pushing forward, keep looking up until it’s time to stop, until it’s my time to stop.

I’ll do it for me. And for them.

How do you cope with tragedy? With reminders of your own mortality? How do you keep going, and do you believe it makes you stronger?

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Fluffy Bunnies in Romania:
Read the tales
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See the photos.

16 Comments »

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  1. This story has really touched me, too. In some of my recent studies, I have been asked to consider what our spirits come here to experience, what work we need to do before we move out of this space and time? It’s so hard to reconcile a tragedy like this…bless those children.

  2. So sad. It brought tears to my eyes. I hadn’t heard about this before… I don’t pay attention to the new because it can be so sad.

  3. I think tragedy sharpens and amplifies our strengths and weaknesses. You have to make a conscious decision to work on those weaknesses instead of drown; that decision makes us stronger.

  4. Stacia, sad, vivid and beautiful.

  5. Beautiful, Stacia.❤

  6. Stacia,

    There has been a lot of worldwide tragedy lately (always?). I think the best it can do is sharpen our resolve to live and love well right now.
    This was a beautiful post. You have a beautiful outlook.

    • Thanks, Rachel. I wrote this before Oslo happened and couldn’t help thinking the same thing as I was editing it and getting ready to publish it yesterday. It’s so easy to get lost in all the sadness out there.

  7. This reminds me of a post I wrote on my daughter’s birthday this past year. On January 8, we celebrated her birthday at an ice skating rink, while in Tuscon, only 60 miles away, a nine year old girl was killed by the gunman who also shot Gabbie Giffords. I couldn’t help but think, I am celebrating my daughter’s birthday, while the mother of that little girl is mourning her daughter. It made me really appreciate how quickly the pendulum can swing in the other direction.

    • I remember that post well, Rudri. It’s comforting to know that other mothers like you know this feeling, as terrible and haunting as it is.

  8. This is very sad, made even moreso by a connection no matter how loose. But when you’re far away you feel it more deeply too.

  9. Stacia, a poignant, beautiful post. I hate to admit this but I avoid watching/hearing the news for this reason: I just can’t handle all that sadness and tragedy around the world. Shutting myself away from them – ignorance is bliss no? – seems to help but even then I know that while I blissfully sit here typing away with my family in our home, someone out there is grieving, someone is dying.

    • I don’t watch the news either, for the exact same reasons. And what might be even more sad is that I get most of my news through Facebook (the Phoenix shootings, the Oslo terrorist attack, this family’s tragedy). That’s the power of social media for you, I suppose.

  10. Heartbreaking. I haven’t heard this story, but my heart goes out to those children and the extended family who know and love them. Such a tragic loss.

  11. wow Stacia. Your writing skills are incredible, I am so impressed with how beautifully you write. Tragic story. we do get lost in our own lives, while others fall apart. It’;s so important to reflect and remember these people’s lost moments in time. so sad.

  12. Terrible tragedy and the beauty with which you wrote it makes the story strike a chord with much more meaning than just reading about it in the newspaper. Thank you for sharing it in this manner. So much more powerful. Makes me want to hug my babies a little tighter.

  13. Oh wow Stacia. Very well written, but so very very sad.


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