Monday, April 14, 2014

The defining moment

You know that moment in a burgeoning relationship where you know that you’re in it for the long haul? The moment that takes you from good to wow? That tells you, yes, this is it, this is your future, and you can’t imagine being any place else? With My Guy, this was our defining moment: our electric first kiss. And for Austin, this moment happened to me this weekend.  

It all started with this sweet little neighbor lady who mentioned to the girls and me, after allowing us to pet her little pup, “Take them down 360, the bluebonnets are everywhere!” I made a mental note of it.

My Guy was due home from his long work trip to Chicago that day. He was driving 1300 miles in his car, and at that point in the morning, he had already reached Texas. Yes! Except, this being the largest state in the contiguous U.S. also meant he was still nowhere near. To distract ourselves, we walked to a nearby bakery for breakfast and procured some ribbons from another store to create a banner that Little Miss suggested, “to welcome daddy home!” and the girls dedicated the rest of the morning to making it.

When My Guy finally walked in at the end of the afternoon, this was the first thing he saw:

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And then there was a mess of tangled limbs and excitement and a constant flurry of daddy this and daddy that, which they had saved up from this past week. It was a good reunion. Especially when he delivered this to me, a perfect souvenir that we could only get from Chicago. In fact, it’s the only thing, other than our friends, that I had been missing and craving from our old city. Man, he knows me well.

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For dinner, I couldn’t think of a better welcome back to Austin than food trucks, and remembering the lady’s words, I recommended that we took 360 downtown. And I think that’s where it all began. This moment. 

Who knew that 360 was the scenic route? Certainly not us. Our jaws dropped at the picturesque view that took us along hill country and across the Colorado River. We saw expansive views of rolling hills, creeks, and hillsides that were dotted with the colors of wildflowers along both sides of our route, most notably the blue of the famed bluebonnets, but there were also fiery orange-red and yellow and even pink ones, much to the delight of our girls. We couldn’t believe it took us this long to discover this!

We lived right next to this highway, and we always turned left to jump on another highway to get downtown. Who knew that turning right would also get us there? It may be slower, but it’s certainly a hundred times better. This is, of course, no secret to the locals, but being new to the area, we became over-reliant on GPS to take us places. After all, shouldn’t it know better?

Apparently not. It gave us the shortest route from Point A to Point B, but that’s often not the scenic route. In fact, it rarely is.

I wish I had pictures to share but we were zipping past in our car, completely entranced by this new route, that it didn’t even occur to me. Besides, there are plenty of great pictures on the Internet, especially of the bridge we took across the river, like this one. And for the first time, we didn’t even look at our GPS. We knew this route would eventually take us downtown, and we didn’t care how long it would take or where we would end up once we were there. Today, it was all about the journey.

I also realized that funny things happen when you’re on a journey – you get to discover little gems that you never knew existed, or at least didn’t think to look for because you never knew it existed. That’s how we found this place that caught our attention as we drove past it, and we just had to turn back. Everything about it called out to us.

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Midway Food Park. It was a park with a playground and a live band on stage, surrounded by food trucks. In short, heaven.

Because dinner was no longer about trying to enjoy our food while trying to keep the girls entertained. There was plenty of entertainment, and we could savor our food that came from several different trucks – lobster roll, some meaty gourmet sandwich, patatas bravas and fried artichokes – uninterrupted by kids whining for attention. The girls would linger long enough to eat several bites and then its off to another quest.


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But it wasn’t just the food that found its way to my heart. It was everything about that place that said so much about this city. The lovely, temperate spring weather that brought this park to life, the live music that was characteristic of this live music capital of the country, the vibrant green space when most of the country is still trying to recover from the drab grey of winter, and the kind, friendly people. Like this dad who gave rides to random kids in the playground on a little red wagon, and of course Pickle, who’s never shy, climbed right up and made her place among unfamiliar faces, perfectly content to be dragged around by a strange man, which I suppose could be a good and bad thing. But she never left our sight, so today, it was a good thing. Then there was this 13-year-old who was so taken with Pickle and vice versa that they rarely left each other’s side. So smitten was Pickle that she brought me to the girl, who introduced herself as Suzanne, and said, “this is my new fwiend.”

Little Miss joined them for Hide n Seek, and My Guy and I just hung back at our picnic table and watched the lively scene around us – smiling parents with happy kids who harmoniously stretched out in a space that had something for each of them, the bright colors of birthday parties, flying bubbles and bobbing balloons adding texture to the landscape, a healthy line by the lobster roll truck, my feet tapping to the folk music from the stage. This was an evening made for us.

Then I remembered the scenery that accompanied us here and realized that we never reached downtown. We didn’t even know where this was, but we didn’t care. We had all the time in the world to get to where we wanted to go.

At that moment though, we were exactly where we needed to be.

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That night, after the girls were in bed, I was sitting on the couch when one of the banners we made fell, but instead of trying to fix it, I left it that way as it now makes even more sense. After a week of doubts, it’s almost like it knew I needed this.

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It’s most definitely a sign (hah!), because for the first time since we arrived here three weeks ago, it finally feels like home.