Hubbin chose our vacation spot this year and I have to completely give it to him, he did phenomenal job. Browsing flipkey.com, he showed me a listing and asked if he was reading it right.
Listed was a “Castle in the Sky“, high in the Smoky Mountains, and located in Sylva, NC. Built on 75 wooded acres, it had exactly what I wanted…a pool. And not any pool — a private pool. No yelling kids aside from my own, a pool that overlooked what appeared to be paradise? And affordable. And available.
So he booked it for the
second week of August. With 3600 square feet and comprised of five bedrooms and as many bathrooms, we asked Jason’s best childhood friend and his family to join us, and they accepted much to our delight.
The drive down was pretty uneventful. We pulled over at an overlook and I offered to take a picture of a family for them, and they happily accepted and returned the offer. So, we posed, our little family of four, and it wasn’t until I got back to the car that I saw this picture and just…laughed. Grumpy Toddler strikes again. That poor woman was just trying to do a good deed and take our family picture, and Grumpy Toddler looked at her like she wanted to burn down her house.
We arrived, jaws agape in wonder at nature’s beauty. It was more beautiful than in the pictures. Our friends arrived and everyone all got along beautifully. The children played constantly. We ate wonderful meals (our friends knew how to cook). We relaxed and unwound. We had s’mores and grilled out. We swam all day and lounged in jammies in the evening. “The boys”, Hubbin and his childhood best friend, watched our older girls play together and surmised that maybe, just maybe, they might be second generation of childhood friends. We talked about next year, and how we were definitely doing this again.
I somberly finished my book that was so good I would purposely stop reading it at times because I never wanted it to end. The book that was so good that I literally have purchased nine copies before I even finished it because it was just that good. It was a gift – one of thousands.
I snuggled my girls that seem to be growing at breakneck speed. I snuggled my husband who seems to be getting better looking every year and I kneeled in prayer to God for building this marriage that has withstood otherwise fatal attacks. I posed for pictures not caring what I looked like because I want pictures of my family and I’m not perfect and I don’t care anymore to have pictures that are edited or from this ridiculous angle held nearly over my head to keep my chin from looking like it actually looks.
We looked at the mountains and I took a million pictures because it always looked different. Seemingly more beautiful, if that were even possible.
We counted our blessings – me literally, by writing in my Eucharisteo book. We slowed this too-fast life down to a near stop with no itinerary and had lazy days and let the children be children and let the old childhood friends step back into that role for just a bit.
And us moms bonded as new friends, because you can never have too many.
I watched my children eat together at the table, and I struggled to hold back emotions as I recognized that look in Grumpy Toddler’s eyes as she stares at her big sister in wonderment. I did a lot of hard, self reflection after Hubbin’s friend offhandedly said something about me projecting their roles. It was really convicting and I really needed to hear it and see the Truth in it. It would be something that would stay with me through the week, and it is still with me. I’ve realized how much it colors the things I see, the way I parent, the way I feel about movies. It something that needs to be worked on and prayed about.
After Grumpy Toddler jumped into the pool without a vest and was rescued by Kelley, I later recalled secondary drowning and I sat and stared in paralyzing fear and analyzed her every movement, counting each breath, terrified that something could be wrong. Nothing was, thanks be to God and a close, attentive friend.
On Wednesday, we said goodbye to our friends, as they left to get back to work, and thanked them for making this vacation so wonderful.
Through the rest of the week, we napped and explored and went down to the local ice cream shop. We went on what turned out to be an unexpectedly very expensive tubing trip that Grumpy Toddler screamed bloody murder the entire way. I gave up on the fight for Grumpy Toddler to wear real clothing and let her wear her Frozen nightgown every single day, washing it while she swam. Because really, what does it really matter? At night when she refused to sleep alone, I tried to sympathize with how big this castle must seem to her tiny body, and we tried to alternate sleeping with her, but gave up and let her sleep with us every night, because it’s just going too fast.
I had written this by Friday morning and was proud of my growth. You see that word, pride? Oh, how it will get you every time. Later that night, riddled with exhaustion from poor sleep, the stress of the extended renovation cost, the loss of Hubbin’s very expensive glasses, the cost of another night of staying, the packing, and just all of it, I turned into a complete homicidal maniac that probably would have prompted Joan Crawford to call CPS, and Hubbin calmed me and put me to bed. I slept until 11 and awoke not screaming at people, so it appears his method is a good one. God, I love this man. He is such a godly man, too. I wish y’all knew the extent. I wish I could tell you, but it’s not just my story to tell, and at some points, it’s not my story at all. I want to write his name on every line of my Eucharisteo book, because he is my greatest gift.
The day before we left, we went to Cherokee and visited the stores and took silly pictures and bought ridiculous memorabilia. We went to a park for the kids to play and unwittingly stayed for what was a discussion of a crystal meth deal by two scary looking otherwise strangers, so we scooted out of there at a pace similar to the one below.
Best of all, I soaked in every moment of this life. On Saturday, we smiled under a “Life is Good” sign and I realized that it’s so beyond good that good seems somewhat – insulting. This life has turned into a beautiful life and I thank God for His forgiveness and redemption and second, third, fourth, and millionth chances to not just have it, but to live it.
Because isn’t that the point? Isn’t truly living it the point?