23 July 2014

East Coast Romance

I will never forget the moment I first caught a glimpse of Curtis Hale. He was standing at the back of the bus, chatting with a few fellow low brass players. He had a tan, young-looking face with dark, compelling eyes. But he had an air of genuineness and warmth about him. I'm still convinced rays of sunlight were radiating from his presence. You may not believe in love at first sight. I'm not so sure that I believe in it either . . . but I distinctly remember thinking, I want to be his friend. I didn't know anything about him. I had never seen him before. I didn't even know his name. All I knew was that I was drawn to him. 

It was May 8, 2007. We were both on tour with the BYU Wind Symphony. Although we both played in the same room at least twice a week for the past five months, he just never sat in my line of sight: He played the tuba, and I played the clarinet—opposite sides of the crowd. It was easy to talk to him for the first time. I feel quite lucky, actually. Everyone on tour wanted to get to know everyone else. We were airing around Appomattox Court House with a group of fellow band members, and small talk sprouted among us. I found out what his name was, where he was from, and that he had just turned 19 years old. He had recently received his mission call to Berlin, Germany. Ooh, we've struck gold, I thought. I took German 101 this year on a whim (I registered for the 8 a.m. class on the night before the first day of school), and I was in love . . . with German—at least at this point. Let's keep digging.

Standing on the steps at Appomattox Court House in Appomattox, VA
Chatting after lunch at the (my best guess) Merchant Square Mall in Williamsburg, VA
Curtis didn't know that I was the girl whose father was in the hospital. He simply saw an attentive, happy friend. When he learned of the uncertainty and fear I had been dealing with regarding my father's motorcycle accident, he never once felt sorry for me. He never judged me or tried to brush away the fact that I was hurting. He was just a true friend. We began sitting next to each other on the bus and exploring the stops together. I was falling in love; he made it very clear that he was unavailable (to my dismay). But he never abandoned me or made me feel insecure. He was a sincere, natural, unwavering, true friend.

Reviewing pictures together somewhere along the East Coast
Napping on a long travel day to Mooresville, NC
Having lunch at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC
Posing in the Duke Gardens in Durham, NC
The tour eventually ended. He left the country for two years. I dated other boys. And somehow our friendship never died. We drafted hand-written letters to each other and sent them across the globe month after month, always anxiously concerned for the comfort and well-being of the other.

Now, seven years later, we are back. Curtis's job has brought us back to the place that our early friendship took roots. Last weekend, we reminisced on our first impressions of each other in one particularly enchanting location in Durham, North Carolina. We revisited the Duke Gardens, the first place we took pictures together while we were on tour. 

You can see for yourself how . . . handsome—I mean . . . I must be getting distracted by those eyes again! It turns out, we are living in one of the cities that we performed in. We drove by the Charles Mack Citizen Center in downtown Mooresville the other day, and we are almost certain that is where I first laid my head on his shoulder. (No, no, nothing scandalous was going on.) Curtis noticed that my eyes were quietly filling with tears. I don't remember what sparked my sadness; I had probably suppressed my grief about my father's condition for too long. He patiently pulled my off to the side and asked if I would like to get some air. He walked with me. He never left me alone. And I cried. On his shoulder. The moment was raw but, oh, so comforting. He is still my rock, my forever-constant, best friend. Even on the darkest days, he is my ray of sunlight. But I knew that the very first time I saw him.

12 July 2014

The Perfect Day

I wake up to the sound of clanging in the kitchen. The smell of fresh pancakes is in the air. I look over. Curtis is gone. I hear Sebastian chatting away in the other room. He's already been up for thirty minutes. I climb out of bed and bring my perfect Livia into the living room. The table is set. Pancakes are hot. Fresh strawberries are cut.

After breakfast, we drive to the perfect neighborhood park and splash pad. We warm up on the racecar-themed play equipment, which happens to be Sebastian's new favorite anything. When we hear the water come on, we race over to the splash pad. I sit in the warm sun with Livia in my arms as I watch Sebastian run around. He slips and falls, but runs directly to me, his lifeline, for two seconds of love before dancing back to the fountains.

When we arrive back home, Sebastian is sound asleep in the back seat. Perfect. He has been wanting to skip his naps lately. I carefully unbuckle him and carry him up to his bed. He stays asleep. Curtis changes Livia and makes us lunch, the second meal I haven't had to prepare today. We sit back and relax. We chat and enjoy our precious quiet time until Sebastian climbs out of his bed on his own.

Sebastian, Livia, and I play on the porch under the beautiful stone archway. Curtis locks us out until he finishes doing the dishes and mopping the floor. Perfect husband. We make the spontaneous decision to spend the night on the town, strolling through the streets of downtown Charlotte.

Sebastian falls asleep early and I prepare a perfect meal of creamy peanut coconut noodles. We can't remember the last time we had dinner alone together. We curl up on the couch watching the perfect combination of action and espionage. We fall asleep in our comfortable bed, reminiscing on the day's activities.

This is my vision of the perfect day. And today it happened.

07 July 2014

4th of July

"What color is the Target?" asked Scout.

"Gold," replied Eagle. "We better get out of here in case we are spotted," she told Watson.

Back at the safe house, Eagle and Watson waited with heavy anticipation. The Target could arrive at any moment. They had to prepare the Package for immediate detonation.

Scout was sprinting back toward the safe house, waving his arms with warning. "Keep out of sight. I'll let you know when to send out the Package," Snapshot instructed. The Target pulled up to the safe house, unaware of what was in store.

Operation Surprise generated the desired outcome: tears.

I suppose that's enough spy analogy for today. But this plot was about as close as I will probably ever come to being a spy: surprising my parents with their grandbabies for the Fourth of July.

We had been proposing ideas all year about how Mimi and Pappaw could see their new granddaughter and favorite grandson before the babies turned old and grey, but a reunion seemed unlikely since Curtis's job would be taking us across the globe for the rest of the year. At first, we planned to make every effort to come to Kansas City for the Parco Family Reunion, but Curtis wasn't able to get the time off he needed for us to make the trip. Mimi wanted to drive out to visit us in Charlotte, but they weren't going to be able to get their new van in time before we left for Germany. By the time we realized Kansas City was our only hope, flights were outrageously priced. And I'm not sure I was ever willing to fly with two babies by myself. It was a lost cause. A worthy cause, but lost.

The Friday before the Fourth, Curtis found out at the very last minute that he would be able to take off the next week if he wanted to. The project he would have had to work on was delayed until the week following the holiday. We decided we would attempt the 15-hour car ride (which, it turns out, is actually a 19-hour car ride with two babies), but we didn't tell my parents. We planned with Aunt Mischa to surprise them upon their arrival in Kansas City, and I texted my mom distracting texts throughout the week.

Uncle Will (Scout) kept watch for their gold van (the Target) driving past the park. Emily (Snapshot) looked out the window to let us (Eagle and Watson) know when to send (detonate) Sebastian (the Package) out of the (safe) house once my mom got out of the van. The rest is one of those must-see stories.

Family members gathered around their van, upbeat smiles on their faces. Gosh, we're not that big of a deal, my dad thought. Kids ran across the ramp of the van as my mom lowered it to the ground. One boy, in a blue shirt and plaid shorts stopped in front of her. She picked him up, slightly puzzled. She didn't recognize him as one of the cousins. "Is this mine? Is this mine?" she buzzed as she examined the boy's face a little closer. At that point, Curtis and I came out of house with Livia in our arms. Upon realizing what was going on, tears (of course) streamed down her face. "Surprise!" I handed her Livia for the first time.

The rest of the weekend was filled with fun, food, and faith. We shared a barbecue picnic with the neighbors for the Fourth of July and watched Uncle Will light fireworks in the cul-de-sac until Sebastian passed out. We attended the temple on Saturday morning and blessed Livia at Will and Mischa's home that afternoon. We ate lumpia, siopao, and pancit to our hearts' content that evening, and topped the weekend off with a little Magic Fish Pond.

More cookies during the car ride
Also not impressed with the car ride
Sightseeing in Independence, MO
I don't know how there could be a moment where no one wanted to hold her.
Liberty Jail
Watching fireworks
Watching fireworks but getting tired

After fireworks and officially tired
Sightseeing in St. Louis
Jumping in St. Louis

We loved the trip and loved getting to see the family. Thanks, Mischa, for hosting another successful reunion.