It was the morning of our 20th anniversary trip, 6 months late. We had been trying to find a free-ish weekend, and my mother-in-law happened to be coming to town, so it was perfect.
I stumbled outside with the puppy to make sure he made his one outside poop of the day. He refused, and raced back into the house. I ran after him, lost my footing on the deck stairs, and ripped a few holes in my right leg.
The pain was excruciating, and panic flashed through my mind - what about the trip? But, after I wrapped my leg in paper towels, and made sure I couldn't see bone, I resolved that this was not worth cancelling our big weekend. This was just one little thing.
So, I settled in to my day, and waited for my son to get home from basketball training. When he walked in, I could feel the heat emanating off of him.
"Mom, I think I have a fever."
Definitely, he did. This was a larger problem. I could hobble my way through the weekend, but could I really leave a sick child behind? My mother-in-law assured us that she was fine with it - he was just going to lay in bed all day anyway. So, this was just a second little thing. We had not hit the "bad luck three" yet, so we were still good to go.
Thus, with reluctance and a dampened mood, my husband and I set off for the hour-long drive to our little oasis.
We made it about 5 miles.
Cell phone rings. It's my daughter.
"Mom? We were leaving the restaurant and trying to turn but someone hit us and I need you to tell the EMT that I am fine and don't need treatment."
We pulled over into a parking lot, where I tried to come back down to earth and have a lucid conversation with an affable, deeply Southern, paramedic. He cheerfully assured me my daughter was 100% fine. Walking around, talking normally, all good. I made her FaceTime us to show us her actual body. She told us that everyone was intact, that they were just a little shaken up. She insisted she would feel miserable if we cancelled our trip.
My husband and I sat in the parking lot debating what to do. We called his mom to tell her the news. Within minutes of hanging up, our son texted us:
"That was number three."
There's an old story about a man stuck on his roof as the flood waters swirl around him. A rowboat, motorboat, and helicopter all come by, but the man refuses, saying that he was praying to God, who would save him. Well, he drowned, and when he got to heaven and asked God why He didn't come to his aid, God explained to the idiot that he sent three pretty big signs of help.
Despite knowing this story, and The Rule of Three, my husband and I took a deep breath and continued our trip.
I know we shouldn't have. I know we should have turned around and gone home. But with the assurance from both kids that they were fine, we made the selfish choice. We never have date nights, we never go away together, and the next opportunity wasn't even on the horizon. So we went.
It was a lovely little modern dwelling, courtesy of AirBnB, set amongst a green, organic, artsy-fartsy, farm-to-table settlement. We enjoyed a drink on the porch, and a delightful dinner at a charming restaurant.
Then we came back to our love nest.
The first sign of trouble was dog poop on the walkway. Then, upon opening the door, we discovered that the unit above us was now inhabited by some type of monstrous creatures, clearly engaged in an angry ritual dance that likely involved dead bodies.
I contacted our host, who was super sorry, who had received complaints from other visitors, and who had now updated the listing, and said - I quote - "But that doesn't really help you, does it?"
The noise died down that night, but picked back up again with an impressive fury the next morning at 7:00 a.m. I complained again, and received an auto-notification of a partial refund.
My husband asked me, "Is this number four?" To which I replied, "No, we have started back over, and this is number one."
We called home and turns out, the kids weren't fine. My son still had a fever, and my daughter confessed that she had lied, that the accident had been very traumatic, she actually had to help pull the driver from the car, another friend might have a broken bone, and she was sore and scared.
We weren't going to wait for number three this time. We left immediately.
But not before I bagged up all the dog poop and left it in a Kroger bag on our neighbors' steps.
After the dust settled, and my kids were on the other side of these setbacks, I needed time to process everything. I was very disappointed in how the trip turned out, and in myself for even going in the first place.
But then I realized, this is exactly what it means to share a life with someone for 20 years. It can be messy and stressful and the hits just keep coming, but my husband and I can take a look at these two decades and feel extraordinarily lucky that we made it through together. And we can remind each other of the happy stuff too --- our kids are in good places right now, we just had a wonderful family trip out west, and my husband and I still love each other.
The anniversary may have sucked, but this life does not.
Until next time, keep crowin' and watching for signs!