You don’t always get what you need when you need it, but sometimes you do. Other times, you don’t even know what you need and then somehow what you need finds you anyway.
I met my husband 8 years ago today. It was 11 days after September 11, 2001, when the world felt chaotic and troubled, unstable and unclear. It seemed like we were all trapped in one of those glassine phone booths with papers flying around us - everyone was trying to find something to grab onto.
I was not affected in the way that many others were by 9/11, in that I do not know anyone who died or was injured that day. I watched it unfold on TV, from the safety of my small town in Athens, Ohio. I viewed it with the same disbelieving horror as so many others, listening to hours and hours of coverage on NPR hoping it would somehow help me understand how this could happen. I remember Noah Adams’ voice cracking as he read a transcript of one of the calls from flight 93. I sat in the living room of my parents’ home, all of us in stunned silence watching far too much footage of the Towers collapsing.
I did not lose anyone I knew that day, only a piece of myself - the part of me that was always a bit afraid to fly but did it anyway. I spent countless hours imagining the experience of the people on the planes, much to my own detriment. I haven’t flown since, a battle I hope is not yet over.
I had kind of sworn-off men when I met Brian - I was coming out of a long relationship that ended badly, wanting to focus for once on my own needs and charting my own course. I almost didn’t join my friends who went to see a band play at Casa Nueva that night - it was a Saturday night, I’d already had a long day. I had just started a new job, was in that place where your new coworkers are still people you’re just getting to know and your old ones are friends you miss and need to see regularly. But, for some reason, I went. And, as they say, the rest is history.
We got engaged on my birthday two years later, and were married 6 months after that. It was a wonderful time - full of excitement and newness and passion - and one of great challenge as well. We didn’t live together until we were married, a decision I still believe was right for us. Our first year of marriage saw us through some great upheaval - graduate school, my mother’s illness and death, decisions made about career and future. There were times when I truly wondered what I had been thinking, and times when I felt so incredibly happy I didn’t know how I could ever be happier.
Having a child certainly threw a wrench in things, more than either of us could have imagined. While we both love Isadora with an intensity that is overwhelming, we also have both seen our marriage change in ways that have not always been happy. The process has taught me that, like everything else in life, marriage is cyclical. There will be ups and there will be downs, and the one constant is - must be - each other. I’m sure that having a second baby will throw everything out of whack again, but I hope we have learned some things in the process of becoming parents to Dora that will help us through those challenges.
In spite of the challenges we’ve had, I can think of many, many times that I was so, so happy that Brian was the one by my side. Of course, it is easy to think of the difficult times that he has seen me through - losing my mom, battling my own internal demons, changing relationships with other family members, helping friends through difficult times. When Dora was about 4 months old, we thought she might have a seizure disorder. She had a few strange episodes that no one could explain. She had to have an electro-encephalo-gram - a very non-invasive but still disconcerting procedure. I cannot imagine having had anyone else stand by me while I lay next to Dora on a hospital bed, her tiny head covered by a cap with hundreds of little electrodes and wires protruding from it.
I can also think back on many happy times that I have shared with Brian, for which I am eternally grateful to have had his companionship. Marriages of friends, graduation from my master’s program, the purchase of our first home, vacations at the beach. There are the small things, too, which have been wonderful - our shared love of pets, Seinfeld, giving each other back-rubs every single night. Brian understands me in a way no one else does, and we share a sense of humor that, when we remember to call on it, softens the darkest of moods.
On Sunday, we went to one of Dora’s little friend’s birthday parties. Dora was very, very excited, because she and this little boy are attached at the hip. It is really charming to see that, even at 2 years old, children can develop an intense love for others outside of their immediate family. We joke around that they might end up married, and, honestly, they do have quite a thing going. The party was at High Flight Gym, downtown, where the kids could really run around and get the energy out - perfect for a rainy day.
The gym has a pit full of foam blocks next to a trampoline. Brian and I and some other parents were lounging in the blocks, watching our kids jump in next to us. Dora liked standing on the edge, counting to 3 (or 5 or 10) and jumping in. After all of those jumps, a bumper on the edge of the trampoline designed to protect little heads had slipped, and Dora jumped just a bit too close to the edge. We both saw her hit the side, but she was out of reach of both of us, wedged almost out of sight between the edge of the pit and another parent whose back was to her. It seemed like we were moving in slow motion to get to her - she had that open, silent grimace that precedes a loud scream. Brian got to her first, picked her up and held her close, as I ran towards her. Usually we don’t over-react to injuries but this one seemed worse somehow because we saw her alone and scared for a moment.
As I got closer I could see a dark spot on the back of Dora’s sweet little head growing darker - her head was bleeding. Head wounds notoriously bleed A LOT, and this was no exception. It took me a few seconds to gather my thoughts for what to do - grabbing a wad of paper towels and ushering Brian into the bathroom. It all turned out fine - the bleeding stopped quickly, one of the other moms is an urgent care doc and took a look at the wound, deeming it not a big deal and not needing stitches. In less than 10 minutes, Dora was back with her friends, tearing around the place in spite of the blood stain on the back of her shirt. Still, I cannot think of anyone I would have rather had holding my sweet girl at that moment. I didn’t know what we were going to do when I saw the blood - I imagined stitches and hours in the emergency room. But, I did know one thing - my girl was safe in her daddy’s strong arms, and no matter what else happens, that is just what I needed right then.
Wedding photograph courtesy of Denise McGill. Color photograph of Carrie and Brian courtesy of Sam Girton, Easter 2005, Athens, Ohio. Flower photograph and black and white family photograph courtesy of Kendra Stanley-Mills.