Independence Day

Posted: July 4, 2011 in Love and Marriage
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The restoration tour is all about setting things right and making them new.  It’s about healing and moving forward.  It’s really, in many ways, about freedom.  Freedom from the past.  Freedom from being held back by mistakes that were made.  And, mostly, freedom from the captivity of pain and sorrow.

That’s why it’s kind of neat that the Fourth of July, or Independence Day, is where things in St. Louis began for us, and where we ended up again this year.  Regret can be a cruel master, and sorrow holds so many people captive in a state of “what could have been.”  Once my wife and I were together again, we determined that we would break free from any hold the past had over us, especially when it came to those things that were truly important to us.

At first, I didn’t realize that there was anything about St. Louis that needed restoration.  Even during our separation, we still went, and it was still magical for us.  Things weren’t necessarily fixed when we got back home, but while we were there, it was still our special place.  In an earlier post, I wrote about the day in July with my daughter that was a major turning point during our separation.

In May of last year, while we were still living together, my wife had talked to me about wanting to take a weekend in St. Louis by herself.  I didn’t like the idea, but I wasn’t going to refuse her.  She said she wanted it to be a break for her from all the stress, and a reward for making it through another school year.  What I didn’t realize until later was that it was really a trial run at leaving me.  She ended up going with my sister, and I tried not to worrry about it.

After we’d been back together for a while and had talked through everything, we realized that we needed to take an intentional trip to St. Louis for restoration of those bad feelings and memories.  We didn’t do anything particularly different than what we usually do there, with one exception.  One of our regular stops is the Zoo, and within the zoo, the penguin exhibit.  My wife has come to love penguins because of it, and even if we only stay for a very short time, we always go see the penguins.

When we were raising the kids, we frequented Build a Bear stores, where you make your own stuffed bear or other animal, and it wasn’t only the kids who made bears.  The St. Louis Zoo has a Build a Bear inside, and you can make a lot of the zoo animals.  Naturally, they have penguins, and we decided that while we were there, we would make penguins to keep as a tangible reminder.  We named them, using nicknames that have developed out of our relationship, and carried them around the zoo to some funny looks from people who must have wondered where our kids were.

The last time we were at The Hill, I felt a twinge of regret when we passed by Mama Campisi’s, the restaurant where I knew my wife had gone the night she went without me.  As we were driving up this weekend, we had plans to eat somewhere else, but I kept thinking about it, and, even though it’s such a small thing, it bothered me that there was a place on The Hill that I didn’t feel good about.  The Hill is the most special place on the planet to us, and while I didn’t want to say anything, I finally did.  My wife immediately agreed that we should go there, so we went for lunch on Saturday.

Not only was the meal and the service excellent, but the things my wonderful partner and wife said to me, and the way she made sure to treat me the way I needed to be treated overwhelmed me with love and emotion.  She told me, “This place is ours.  I’ve only ever been here with you or your family.”  She reassured me that my feelings and our love was more important than any plans or agenda that we may have had when we left the house that morning.  I shed a few tears, both at the table and outside, and a lot of healing took place.

I know some of you reading this may think that’s all rather silly or even childish, but we are living the “happily ever after” dream that most people have given up on.  To have it, you have to be a romantic who believes in fairy tales.  You have to choose love and joy.  You have to choose to feel deeply and love lavishly, which probably is why children get it and most adults don’t.  Finally, you have to step away from the hold and the hindrances of a past that’s less than what you want your future to be.  That’s the kind of freedom we’re celebrating in our marriage this Independence Day.


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