Wednesday, September 7, 2016

First firsts: Happy Anniversary

We never sleep in. Like, ever.  It’s either school or work during the week. Saturdays were for dance or baseball, and now soccer; Sunday brings Sunday School and worship. Not one of these is a bad thing. It just means we don’t sleep in. Ever. 

Until last weekend. Thank you, Labor Day!

Saturday was a prep day. Get ready for the chili cookoff, clean out the car, then take it to get washed inside and out, run a few errands, bring stuff to the house and finally, leave for Pennsylvania. We left later than I’d hoped, but I tried not to freak out much. We didn’t have to be there a specific time Saturday; I just wanted to be there earlier.

It had become a bit of a tradition that Ghon and I would always have dinner at Texas Roadhouse on the Saturday before the PA State ICS Chili Cookoff in Hanover. Our hotel was in the same parking lot and we both like steak, so why not? This year, I told the kids we were going there, as that was tradition. And they were cool with that. And they were cool with dining outside. I made them survive the entire 2 hour trip with no electronics (gasp!) and they were still pleasant at dinner. A winning situation! I thought it was kind of funny, that the night before I logged into Ghon’s facebook and saw the On This Day app – it was recalling a trip to Hanover and Texas Roadhouse from a few years prior. Dinner was not so relaxing. It was late, the kids were tired and cranky. Genevieve sat on Ghon’s lap the entire time. Spilled applesauce on him and I think his food. Ruined his meal and he refused to eat; boxed it up. It was an angry Ghon that night. Oh, how times change.

Sunday we were off to hotel breakfast. Me, alone, scrambling after two kids who insist they can serve themselves but need help opening the cereal box, pouring the milk, getting the butter packet open for the toast they did successfully make, and trying to let them know that no, they do not need more eggs. Or donuts. Finally, we get to the cookoff.

I said before, it would be harder to not be there than be there. And that was true. As with the day of Ghon’s Celebration of Life, the morning was the hardest. (Don’t feel bad reading this Dave…) From the moment I first said Hi to our friend Dave, who stepped in to be Chief Judge in Ghon’s place, I started to well up and get the lumpy throat. There it was, right up front, that this day was different. Ghon was not there. During the cook’s meeting, Dave shared a few wonderful words in remembrance, and asked for a moment of silence. It was then, that I knew Ghon was still with me. As a few tears rolled down my cheek, I closed my eyes, and lifted my head to the sun. I stood still, absorbing it’s warmth, and saw an abundance of red swirling in my eyes. It warmed me, and my heart. 

Then the wife and mom in me fought the urge to go wipe Dave’s emotionally charged dripping nose. (Sorry, Dave. :))

The Chairman of the cookoff, John Loose, never failed to remember that this cook-off fell on our anniversary weekend. He once again, presented me with anniversary flowers. As did our friend Laurie Ryffel. I’m feeling the love. As I passed out judging cups, I was wrapped in the warm embrace of many of our friends. It may be a hug to some, a simple offer of condolence to others, but those words and those hugs – they are what give me that “strength” everyone talks about. I’m an energy vampire, in a good sort of way.

Things went well the rest of the day. Typical, well run PA State Cook-off. Jonathan competed in the "Ghon Eckley Memorial Youth Division" cookoff, and was pretty upset when he didn't place. 

Genevieve served chili most of the day with Miss Laurie. And when someone gave her a $1 tip for being a good server, she later told me she went to the french fry stand and tried to buy fries, but didn't have enough money. 

Jonathan wanted Rita's Italian Ice early in the day. I was surprised, asked him what flavor, how much, and to see if Genevieve wanted some. They came back, I gave them cash and a bit later, they came back laughing so hard. He was so proud of himself for tricking me, and both of them getting fries rather than ice. I'm doomed.

Since our friend Miss Laurie knows the best ice cream spots, Genevieve asked if we could join her for ice cream after the cookoff. We headed out to Baugher’s in Westminster MD. I grew up going to Baughers, and Ghon and I had our first date there. When we could, we’d celebrate our anniversary there. We did for our 10th   and last year, since the kids were with another great friend for the weekend, we celebrated our 16th there, then went for a walk around my college campus and took a picture in front of the chapel where we were married.  After dinner, I took the kids for a tour of the campus, showing them where daddy got dressed for the wedding, where I’d worked and got ready, the dorms I lived in, where I had classes, the Western Maryland Railroad caboose, and Baker Chapel – where we were married. They were pretty excited for the whole tour, and Genevieve wants to go there when she goes to college. Which is subject to change because two days earlier, she declared she didn’t want to go to college. 

Baker Chapel
WM Caboose

Baker Memorial Chapel and Reflecting Pool

With the stops and the long ride home, I declared Monday, sleep in day. And that we did.  I think I woke up around 930, fell back asleep and finally got up around 10. Jonathan followed around 11, and Genevieve, well, she surprisingly slept until noon

I had the most relaxing morning. I made some breakfast for me, and ate on the front porch in my pajamas on one of our gliders. Jonathan came down and sat with me, as in, on my lap. We talked, I ate, and we heard little motors buzzing. 


We watched them dart around and hit a feeder. I quickly refilled an empty one, then we hung a new bird feeder together. The hummingbirds were busy doing their thing. It was great to see them around. Next spring, it's full on planting and getting them back in full force like I remember in 1996. 

Wow. That was twenty years ago. Not only was this our 17th wedding anniversary, but also 21 years together. Ghon liked to joke about the time we spent together and couldn't wait until I turned 38 - every day after, I officially spent more than half of my life with him. Sadly, I needed three more years to say that to him.

After we fed the birds, we put out some new solar lights I picked up for our walk way. I need to get another box or two. We didn't do as good of a job spacing them out as I'd like, and after seeing them lit, I think I want them down both sides of the walk, not just one. 

I'm just so tired of shopping at home improvement stores. They aren't nearly as exciting anymore as they once were.

Once both kids were up and fed, we headed to my dad's house to try to bring a load of stuff back. My goal was to finish Jonathan's room, and we came close. I was able to bring my mom's desk, kid recliners, and most of Jonathan's stuff. The other big move was 3 out of 4 pets. Monday night, we brought our cats and dog back with us.

The cats seem to be doing OK. I think they missed us; they are attached to me and haven't climbed on me that much in bed in forever. Jase is adjusting, but I think he feels out of sorts too. He'll get there, I'm sure. 

Lefty - lounging on my mom's desk
They say firsts are the hardest. The first year is hard because of all the firsts. There was the first PA State, and the first anniversary. I'm glad I went, and glad I had my friends there looking out for me and helping in the judging area (thanks Cindy, Chris, Doug, Jason and of course, Dave!). I was right, not being there would have been worse. And thanks to that very peaceful morning, and a little one on one time with Jonathan, the tone was set right for the day Monday. I was a little agitated near the end of the day and could just feel that I had to get home. But once I did, I was OK. Two down, a gazillion more to go.

Yes, I was pissed. But he paid for it. I shoved cake far up that nose!
September 5, 1999

This week, goal is to move Kola in, finish emptying Jonathan's room, master bathroom, and then perhaps some stuff that's already boxed and in the living room. I'd like to get my sofa too. Then off to Genevieve's room and the rest of my stuff. My room is hard. Between my stuff and Ghon's, well, I'm just not sure what to do with all of it. But that, well that is an entirely different post. 


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