Years ago, I had an “incident” with a fun house barrel. A and I, along with my brother, his wife, and their two boys, had taken our girls to a local fair (years before our son was born or even thought about). The small town agricultural fair is pretty much tradition for anyone who grew up where we did, and we were introducing our daughters to the wonders of midway rides, which I strongly believe was the foundation for their current love of theme parks and roller coasters.
On this night, we came to the so-called “Fun House” and my brother took the three oldest kids inside. Our four kids were almost exactly a year between each, and he went in with our 3-1/2 and 1-1/2 year old girls, and his 2-1/2 year old son while my sister-in-law, A and I waited outside with the 6 month old.
We chatted and laughed and watched for the small group at the exit, which required walking through a rolling barrel. We soon saw my brother on the inside, carrying the two younger kids, one in each arm, while our little princess refused to step onto the rolling platform. He looked to us perplexed, and (I’m sure) just a bit annoyed, wondering how he was going to come back out with no free hands with which to guide the stubborn one out.
Without thinking it through, I walked into the barrel and to the other side, grabbed my daughter’s hand, and started to lead her back out. When she stepped into the barrel on my left side, however, she panicked and refused to move her feet at all. She just sort of planted them and stood there, which resulted in the movement of the drum forcing her into my ankles and taking my feet out from under me.
Now picture this – a grown woman with a diaper bag across her chest, rolling around in a giant open-ended barrel, arms and legs flailing while her dress flies up around her waist, trying to simultaneously pull the dress back down into a more modest position while making her way to the exit and trying to not crush her little girl in the process and still somehow get her daughter out, too.
At some point, my husband ended up running up the few steps, grabbing our daughter and taking off to who knows where while I tried to crawl out of the barrel and find my footing, my brother and the other two kids trailing behind. I sort of remember my sister-in-law’s shocked face and the amused ones of far too many strangers, some of whom were whooping and cheering, while I was trying to compose myself and then find A.
That was probably one of the only times I can remember where I had completely embarrassed my husband to the point where he didn’t even want to be seen with me, let alone claim that we belonged together! We did finally catch up to him a short while later and after the humiliation had worn off, had a really good laugh about it all – us, and who knows how many other witnesses who would randomly approach me the rest of the evening and ask such “clever” things as “Did you have fun in the fun house?” [Insert eye roll here…]
The point of this totally mortifying story is that I recently started to compare that day in the fun house to life as a widow. There are several lessons to be learned:
- You will be off balance It will feel as though your world has been swept out from under you. That’s because it has.
- You must keep moving forward If you simply stop, panic, and refuse to act, the world will knock you down and send you into a spin cycle from which it is hard to get out.
- Accept help If things become too challenging, let someone take you by the hand, and then follow their lead. Sometimes someone will be there to pick you up and carry you for awhile, and that’s OK, too.
- If you get knocked down, keep going until you can stand again Walk, crawl, drag yourself if you have to, but eventually you’ll be able to stand on solid ground again. And have people cheering for you when you get there.
- There is a light at the end of the tunnel Although it sometimes seems as if the days all run into each other and there is no end in sight, one day you will realize that things got easier somewhere along the way and then you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come and the obstacles you’ve bested.
- Laugh hard and often At yourself, at the situation, at fond memories. Laughter really is a healing force.
- BONUS: Always wear underwear This one is pretty self-explanatory – it applies to life in general and not just widowhood – but after flashing a small crowd at the fair, I was thankful I had been prepared. I was more thankful that this was before the age of cellphone cameras or I can almost guarantee this would have been a viral video. (Perhaps “don’t wear a dress to the fair” or “don’t go into the fun house trying to rescue a preschooler if you do” might be better advice, though…)
When all is said and done, I look back on where I started a year ago, how unsteady and shell-shocked I had been, acknowledge where I am now, and look toward a once uncertain future that seems to be coming more into focus all the time. I know that I will continue toward whatever life has in store for me, for as long as I am able, and will be thankful for each and every day, knowing how precious a gift each one is.
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