With Mike working nights lately and Piper taking up a great deal of our free time, there hasn't been a lot of time for Us. Because of this, and unbeknownst to the other, both of us planned a trip to St. Augustine. I gave Mike a night in the Bed and Breakfast we stayed in when we got engaged for Father's Day, and he gave me a weekend there during the 450th Birthday Celebration in September for our anniversary. Both of us recognized we needed some couple time and both of us had a similar solution. I think that's kind of hilarious.
I tried to make it a surprise. So he wouldn't make any plans, he knew we were going somewhere, but not the exact location. I arranged for my mom to come that afternoon to watch Piper for the night, stashed an overnight bag in the car, and headed out when he was up for the day. Of course, as soon as I veered onto 95 North, he knew exactly where we were going.
My trip for Mike was as close as I could get it to the trip we took when he proposed. I stayed in the same Bed and Breakfast and we went to the Floridian for dinner. Granted, we always go to the Floridian, but whatever...it's delicious! I wanted to try to book a trip to the Lighthouse, but it so happened they didn't have any night time events going on and MIke only really has about 1 1/2 days off because of how night shift is scheduled. I also wanted to keep our options open because his schedule doesn't always allow him to be home right after his shift and I wasn't sure how much sleep he would have received that day.
That night, after a delicious dinner of shrimp and grits for me and steak and potatoes for Mike, we walked through the cobblestoned streets, holding hands and people watching. The summer air was thick and heavy with warmth, and the walking ghost tours were just gearing up for the night. We had no plans and nowhere to be. It was then that I realized just why I needed to come back to this city. Why I needed to plan a trip here as opposed to date night anywhere else.
St. Augustine represents who we were. Before life turned cruel. Before we knew what was in store for us. When I think of St. Augustine, I think of the carefree couple getting engaged on top of a lighthouse, bundled up in warm coats for the Winter Solstice. I think of the soft, green shirt I wore for our engagement shoots. The "Save the Date" sign I made. The cannon we sat on. The smiles we gave each other. I think of our wedding day. Seeing his face as I turned the corner of the garden to walk down the aisle. Binding our hands with ribbons. Dancing the night away with my friends, my family, and my love. I think of the me I used to be...the "we" we used to be. I miss her. I miss them.
Everyone's life changes. Everyone goes through stages where parts of their own life seem like another timeline completely. Everyone used to be someone they might never be again. But, I think there is something in child loss that makes that line more pronounced, more definite, and more severe. Mike and I have talked often about how different we are than we were. We are lucky we haven't let those changes divide us.
As I walked through the night with my husband, I told him I knew we would never be those people again. We are so far removed from them, they often seem like strangers. But, every so often, we can visit them. We can remind ourselves of a different time, when our hearts were whole and our hopes intact. That is what St. Augustine is to me. It is a reminder of the light and innocence I used to know, of days before heartbreak. I think everyone needs a place like that. A place where you can go to feel a little like who you used to be. A place that makes you think of joy and love and happiness, untarnished by life's experiences.
No matter where life takes us, we will always find our way back to the Ancient City. To remember what it felt like to not be so heavy. To reconnect as a couple in love, and to remind ourselves that we are more than a parent, more than a bereaved parent, more than a griever and a diaper changer and a trash taker-outer. (That's a word, I swear) We are so much more than life has pigeon-holed us to be. All of us are.
Sometimes, I just need to go back and remember the person I used to be. To say hello. To tell her I miss her. To let her know I'm still doing the best I can.
The city of St. Augustine is full of ghosts, including mine.