The Week I Killed The Beast, Ran Away, and Remembered What Life Is All About


That was my motto for two long, hard years. The first nine months after I left my ex I didn't even have a car. Then I was able to scrape together $1700 dollars and purchase this 2001 Buick Park Avenue. It wasn't as glamorous as the name implies, believe me. Take a look:

The roof had once been imitation leather, but it was shredded and destroyed by neglect and years of the blistering desert sun. The leather seats were cracked, stuffing was coming out in several places, but that was nothing compared to the engine issues. Truth be told, my first experience buying a car solo was a miserable failure. I stuck it out though, and saved and prayed and made do as long as I could. When the kids would complain that they were embarrassed by our car I would explain to them about compound interest, and how those who understood it earned it and those who didn't paid it. Secretly, though, I was just as embarrassed by the ugly beast as they were, because it was proof that I didn't know what I was doing when it came to choosing a car.

It was so unreliable that I refused to take it more than a few miles at any one time. Going downtown was an exercise in anxiety, as I waited for something to fly off on the freeway and kill some poor unsuspecting commuter in the car behind me. The shocks were completely gone, so it rattled and shook with every crack in the road. The check engine light was on from the day I bought the car until the day I sold it. Nothing the mechanics tried could get it to stay off.

The most humiliating part of the car, though, was that I had only one key. I locked my f***ing keys in that car NINE times in the 15 months I owned it. I have never gotten so much use out of roadside assistance in my life as I have in the past year.

I didn't dare take it on road trips. Even if all the parts had stayed where, and done what, they were supposed to, without electronic devices we all would have suffered. We can only play 20 questions for so long in this family before even I don't care what celebrity they are thinking of anymore. The only time I have ventured more than 15 minutes from home in the past 15 months was 4 months ago, when we went to Sedona, Arizona, to pick apples. That trip was bliss, but to get there I had to rent a car.

Last week I locked my keys in the car for the final time. The next day I took my income tax refund, two years of savings, and my sweet sister's employee discount to the Ford dealership. Two hours later we drove off the lot in the most beautiful, appreciated, luxurious-to-us car ever made in the USA. Two days later, Saturday, I woke up and decided it was time to go on a trip. I called the kids down for a family meeting. They came running with concerned looks on their faces because usually that means somebody is in trouble.

Those looks quickly turned to shocked smiles and the air was filled with screams of happiness when I told them to pack up, we were going to Hollywood. We were in the car and on the way within an hour. Los Angeles is a six hour drive from where we are, but thanks to the many, many electrical outlets and the sheer newness of the adventure, the time flew by. Even the dog puking on my oldest's pillow was met with shrieks and excitement, rather than horror and disgust as it would be at home. We tossed that pillow out and continued on our way. We spent that night in a shockingly expensive hotel, and the next morning hit the beach at 8a.m. Parking was a dream, and within minutes our toes were sinking into sand so impossibly soft the kids couldn't even believe it.

I was stunned to realize that this was my 6 year old's first trip to the ocean, and the first trip that my 8 year old could remember. Where have I been? How did I let that happen? There is nothing on earth more soothing than sitting on a beach, watching the waves and the sky and listening to the sounds of the sea. Why did I let so much time pass without giving them that experience? That's what depression will do for you, my friends. I completely forgot how much my body and soul are fed when I spend time in nature. That is so very sad! I sat and watched my son swing. How perfect it was that there was a swing on the beach. He loves to swing, and being able to do it in that gorgeous place was heaven for him.

I saw a tender and gentle and quietly happy side come out of my normally prickly and anxious middle child.

I saw my oldest, who never is far away from access to her friends, put down her phone for three hours and play with her brother and sister just because she wanted to. I saw her smile and laugh and relax and not spend one minute worrying about her hair or makeup. She is so beautiful to me when she is like that.

I saw my funny, sweet boy who normally hates to be dirty, be absolutely fascinated by the way the waves made the sand "melt" beneath his feet when they drifted back out to sea. He couldn't get enough of that sand, and made me laugh when he came running to show me how he finally had chest hair.

As the midday sun started to beat down on us, the kids got tired and I began to worry about sunburn. We spent a good long time trying in vain to shower off all the sand, finally declaring it good enough and piling back into the car. I tried not to wince at the grains of sand that fell on the new carpet. Those could be whisked away by a vacuum cleaner, but we would never lose the memories of that perfect morning on the beach.

On the way home we stopped at the Walk of Fame in Hollywood. I have never seen it, and it was pretty exciting for all of us to be in a place we have seen on TV so many times. Did you know Tinkerbell has her own star?

The kids never wanted to leave, so I promised that we would have many more adventures like this in the years to come. Never again will we be desert-locked like we have been in the past few years. Momma needs the ocean! On the long drive home I listened to them chatter and plan and wish they could live at the beach, and my heart was calm and happy in a way it hasn't been in a very long time. This is it. This is what I want my life to be. I am going to fill our time with discovery and joy and adventure and surprises, and never go back to "boring" again.

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