September 21, 2010
Sea of Love
A few years ago Jeff and I were in the middle of our favorite annual trip to the Jersey shore’s famous seaside towns when we happened to walk by a particularly beguiling fortune-teller, one who not only promised to predict the future, but also leave her customers satisfied. At the time my husband and I were high both on Kohr’s custard and that scent of the ocean that simply cannot be replicated by any candle, and together we decided satisfaction sounded great. I approached the booth and plunked down my money (Jeff graciously let me have the reading, because I’d received second prize with my seventh grade ESP science fair project just a few years back, and after all, I’d earned it). I informed my gypsy du jour I wanted a tarot card reading, and after pushing through the tattered velvet curtains and disentangling myself from multiple strands of crystal beads, my truthsayer and I got down to business.
There was, of course, the usual recital of love lost and found (I’m thinking my wedding ring might have helped her a little there), and struggles both vanquished and yet to come (she was a bit vague on specifics, but terrific on delivery). Then suddenly she became very quiet, absolutely mute for what felt like an hour, but since their trade depends on volume, the silence must not have lasted for more than thirty seconds. She actually put the cards down and grabbed my hands (at this point I’m searching frantically for the Death icon, wondering if she tells me about my imminent demise will I still be able to salvage the rest of this vacation), and looked me straight in the eyes.
In a compelling tone she said “In the next year, your reason for being here, your destiny, will be revealed to you”, then dropped my hands, returned to the reading to regale me with promises of one long marriage, kids, and travel, yada, yada, yada, all delivered with the same boisterous manner she’d employed prior to the hand grab that felt like the beginning of a séance. I felt like I’d better pay attention now, but the rest of the reading was inconclusive, no particular achievements pinpointed, yet no catastrophes revealed either.
I remember thinking maybe I had a hidden talent yet to be revealed to me, like knitting or the ability to send photos electronically, but that what I really wished for was something else, something far more tangible than a scarf or mastering a skill many kindergarteners could manage while simultaneously chatting online. I wanted a baby, we’d been trying for two years, and as my battle-scarred ass was protesting more and more indignantly at its grave misuse I knew we were nearing the end of our IVF rope, and time was running out.
The next month I was pregnant with the embryo that eventually became Justin, and boy, my destiny certainly was revealed to me that year. I feel like I should return to Wildwood and give her a finder’s fee.
And in fact, that’s just what me and my husband did this past weekend, embarked upon a seventy-two hour furlough on the southernmost boardwalk in a state which carries memories for us not just of childhood, but of adult sojourns too. As we strolled the uneven planks of one of Jersey’s greatest treasures we recalled trips from the past with our birth families, but more importantly, vacations from our glorious pre-baby days. We recalled the time I won $250 on those high-priced dollar slots (what was I thinking!), which at the time paid half my rent for the coming month. He reminded me of one late afternoon trip to Ocean City where we met our friend “Rick the Priest”, who while hailing from the cloth also remains one of our most fun-loving companions, one with enough gusto to indulge my lifelong desire to sport a unicorn tattoo on my ankle by submitting to a matching one of his own.
Yes, they washed off.
Of course, our most poignant memory entails the vacation a year into the fertility wars, where I had a broken toe from walking into my own sneakers, a debilitating case of bronchitis, and the denouement of contracting a particularly virulent strain of pink eye that literally rendered me blind for the last day of my trip (but not impaired enough to forego one last round of mini-golf). I recalled that I had been ovulating that week, and since we were taking a break from IVF had offered to put a bag over my head for the good of our future family, urging my husband to be a “trooper”.
He politely declined.
I find that reliving the memories is essential, not only because we are given the gift of remembering who we were, but are forced to assess where we are, where we’ve deviated from the path we set out for ourselves almost a decade ago, and where we’ve remained true to the plan. We have our two kids, our glorious, wonderful kids. Jeff, much to our delight, is still employed. I not only wrote that damn book that was scuttling around in my brain for years, but eventually mastered the use of my GPS as well. We are still married, and most days, even like each other. Perhaps that, and our sons’ happiness, is the greatest achievement yet.
As we continue to maneuver our way around the staccato boards of a path that marks both our past and our future, dodging the exuberant firefighters who are here for their annual trip down memory lane (I’ve never felt safer), I take Jeff’s hand, drink in that salty air, and try to decide if my next carb will be custard or fudge. And in case you’re curious, I decided on the seasonal pumpkin/cinnamon swirl with sprinkles (not jimmies!), AND rocky road, respectively.
Thank God my high school reunion is still a month away.