Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend

We knew that Memorial Day Weekend had the potential to be really difficult this year. Ryann died on May 29 last year, Sunday morning of the holiday weekend. We decided early on to plan an abundance of fun things and quiet times in order to allow us to get through the weekend however we ended up needing to in the moment. This year May 29 fell on a Tuesday, which meant a very long holiday weekend for us.

I happened to have a credit with Southwest Airlines that needed to be used by the end of July. This trip has been rescheduled and rerouted numerous times. It was originally to Phoenix in December for a half-marathon, but then Clifton put the kabosh on that. Then Maryland for a graduation, but a family illness popped up instead. Finally Jared and I decided I should pop out to New Jersey to visit our long-lost friends from Walla Walla who are expecting their first baby in July. I've never before made such a spontaneous short trip, and it was invigorating. Laura and I enjoyed shopping and munching and lounging for two, comparing symptoms and worries and heartburn, while Matthew protectively buzzed around his house that now contained two pregnant ladies.

We had to laugh at our matching stripes and bellies.

I spent Friday evening through Sunday afternoon with them and it was the most relaxing weekend I've had in a while. We hung out at the beach and listened to the waves. We battled the crowds in Ikea. We trolled the Outlet stores for baby clothes. But by the time Sunday afternoon rolled around I was ready to head out. I could feel the 29th getting closer and wanted Jared, myself, and Clifton to all be home together.

Morning tea and a comfy outfit for Clifton.

Airport pizza and the most enormous rice crispie treat known to man.
It must have been a full 5x5 inch cube! And it was insanely good.

Somehow I don't have any pictures from Monday. We had another treat of a visit with a Walla Walla friend. This one was Sarah from Assumption in Walla Walla. She and I would frequently do the music together at mass and she watched Ryann for us a time or two. Sarah drove in Monday morning and back out early Tuesday morning. We spent the day lounging by the pool and then headed out for a Thai dinner at Blue Orchid and dessert at Bread and Cup (get their bread pudding). We were going to attempt to fit in a game of late-night bowling, but both of the alleys were closed due to it being a holiday.

In the butterfly tent.

Tuesday was the 29th. We relaxed at home for a while. Jared made a delicious fritatta and we watched an episode of Frasier. We looked through our IPhoto album and shared memories and laughs and a few tears. While I was in the shower, Jared posted one of the pieces that was played at Ryann's funeral to Facebook and watched snippets from the funeral itself.

Once we were ready to go, we headed out to the zoo. The Lincoln Zoo is a special place for us. It's where we planned to go the day that Ryann died instead. We were looking forward to showing her the animals and digging in the sandpits. Of course, we didn't make it to the zoo that day. We decided that we would visit the zoo with all of our close friends and family after we buried her. We drove straight from the cemetery to the zoo. I was a bit concerned over how the zoo would feel about such a large, somber crowd milling around a children's zoo. My Mom had called ahead to give them a head's up, just so that they wouldn't wonder about all the suits and dresses. When we got there, they asked if we were the group from the little girl's funeral. They waved us straight on through the gates and said how sorry they were. It was one of the unexpected kindnesses from strangers that touched us in those days afterwards. We've been back to the Lincoln Zoo many times since then. We can't wait to bring our other children to the zoo. In subsequent visits it has become so obvious how the Lincoln Zoo's mission truly is to children. I've heard some people complain that it's too tiny, it's pointless, there's nothing impressive. Especially when the Omaha Zoo is only an hour away. And I love the Omaha Zoo, but in Lincoln you can pop in with your kids to say 'Hi' to the penguins and then run on about your day. You can make an afternoon of it and see all of the animals without running into a meltdown due to missing a nap. The Zoo runs summer camps from ages 3 and up. They have volunteer positions starting with young children. They have hands on opportunities and feeding spots and creature talks and a sandpit to excavate bones. And they have a brick walkway leading to the butterfly tent with bricks that are each dedicated to family members who have died. The Lincoln Zoo is truly a Children's Zoo. It is their mission. It is their passion. And I love them for it.

Nutmeat tacos and a falafel wrap.

After the zoo, we stopped by Maggie's Wraps, down in the Haymarket. We ate out on the sidewalk in the shade and talked and relaxed. It was delicious. Maggie's has a great menu for people who are vegan or gluten-free and uses all local ingredients.

From the Haymarket we popped over to the Capitol. We walked around the view areas on the 14th floor and peered at landmarks across town. Then we headed back down to the main floor and found an open courtyard balcony to sit and read in.

Finally we drove back down to Collegeview to get some flowers from our usual florist. She has an adorable old shopdog who greets everyone at the door. We stopped by the local library branch and sat in the Children's department where Ryann's mind was blown on her last Friday. Then we took the flowers out to her grave and told her how much we love and miss her.

We both had a great day. A wondeful day. I know we were both thinking how much better it would have been if we could have shared it with Ryann. But that's not possible, so we succeeded in the next best thing. We spent time with friends and each other. We took deep breaths, walked in the fresh air, and ate good food. We allowed ourselved to feel the strong web of our support system and to know that they ached right along with us. Thank you.

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