Us

I was married on a Wednesday. May 1, to be precise. It was partly cloudy and about 60 degrees. The photographer said it was a perfect day for photos. Flowers were blooming, seagulls were wheeling, I was suffering from a bad hair day. I shouldn't complain; Shannon awoke that morning at 4:00 a.m. to allow a hairdresser two hours to stick thousands of bobby pins in her hair. It would've been disastrous if a massive sun flare had occurred during our photo shoot, with the sun's corona flinging billions of tons of electromagnetic material toward earth. Such a monumental CME (coronal mass ejection) interacting with the earth's protective magnetic field might have stimulated the bobby pins, messing up Shannon's hair. So glad we dodged that bullet.

This year marks seven years of marriage, which means that this is our sabbatical year. Aren't you supposed to take every seventh year off and, you know, do something fun and expensive? It worked for the Hebrews. Unless you count that whole Roman sacking of Jerusalem thing.

It's been a good seven years. We've spent close to three of them in the Middle East. We explored the mysterious East Coast of the US, which turned out to be a pretty prime place to live, apart from the mosquitoes and traffic. And housing prices. And toll roads. And yuppies with small, yappy dogs.

We've seen Pete Yorn and Jewel in concert. We've hiked the Blue Ridge mountains. We've climbed Mt. Nebos in both hemispheres. I've purchased over 150 CDs. Shannon has permitted it with gritted teeth. We've waded in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and the Medeterranean and Red Seas.

We've also waded through raw sewage to save sundry belongings when we returned home from Christmas vacation one year to find our basement apartment flooded with the upstairs neighbors'... you know... projectiles, due to a pipe blockage, perhaps from a rather large projectile.

We've had six cars. We've moved 10 times (the 11th time is looming in six weeks). And we've accomplished all of this shuttling from state to state and continent to continent with a munchkin or munchkins in tow; we were pregnant a week after we got married. It's never really been just Shannon and I. We wouldn't have it any other way though. Our lives would be empty without our munchkins. They're pictured here for your admiration. But don't admire them too much. That's illegal in most states and I swear I'll turn you in.

And now we've experienced seven anniversaries. Some have been more memorable than others. Our second anniversary, for instance, lasted for 34 hours. A 34-hour anniversary is great if it's just you and your schnookums reclining on some tropical strip of sand, sipping Slurpees, and maybe getting ready to go back to the hotel room to watch some Green Acres reruns. But 34 hours on airplanes and in airports flying westward through 10 time zones and enduring long layovers, with a 16-month old, is less romantic and more, you know, ghastly. It was a time when I kept repeating to myself my mantra: "My life would be empty without my munchkin. My life would be empty without my munchkin."

On top of that, I had a mishap in the Ataturk airport in Istanbul where I paid $100 for a Turkish visa to cross from the "international" area into the "Turkish" area of the airport to fetch our luggage, which I was told I needed to then recheck. In retrospect, I'm sure there had to have been a much easier, much cheaper way to retrieve and recheck one's bags, but I didn't know about it and nobody told me; to the contrary, I was directed by uniformed employees that I was going to have to buy a visa to get my bags. Which isn't surprising. The Turks excel at pilfering travelers. Whoa! Crusaders of cultural understanding, put down your weapons! I just call it as I see it. I know four families that have visited Istanbul and all have been pillaged in some way by vendors, taxi drivers, airport officials, or petty thieves. Which, I guess, probably makes Istanbul no different than Detroit, but I'm not talking about Detroit right now.

So, anyhow, I paid my $100 bucks, got my bags, but then they wouldn't let me return to the "international" area without a boarding pass, which wouldn't be available until two hours before our flight. And our flight left in 22 hours. Shannon and Savannah were in the "international" area with a backpack with a couple diapers in it. I had all our luggage and money. It took me seven hours and some threats to airport workers that I fortunately didn't have to follow through on, but I was eventually reunited with Shannon and Savannah. And I didn't even get tazed, bro.

Fast-forward many hours further into our never-ending anniversary and you find us in Frankfurt, Germany with a 6-hour layover. Shannon and I were getting our fifth or sixth wind, so we got adventurous and decided that, rather than sit in the airport (we'd just sat in Istanbul for 24 hours) we'd take a train and explore Frankfurt a bit. We offloaded at a big, central station, looked around, saw it was starting to rain, and opted to just go back to the airport. But first we were hungry. So we drained the last of our money on pastries. Then we got on the train heading back to the airport. Except it was the wrong train.

After 10 minutes Shannon and I agreed that the scenery was looking pretty un-airport-ish. Using a word or two of German I'd learned in high school, we learned from a nearby local that we, indeed, were not going toward the airport. And this is where our fatigue probably clouded our reason.

Here's what we should've done. We should've got off at the next stop, crossed the tracks, and caught a train going the opposite direction back to the central train station in spite of the fact that we didn't have a ticket back and couldn't afford to buy one. What were the odds that somebody would've asked to see a ticket?

Here's what we did. Not wanting to run into trouble with German law enforcement, we ruled out simply riding a train back to the central train station, because we didn't have tickets. So we offloaded at the next stop and reasoned that we hadn't traveled that far by train, so we'd just more or less walk back to the train station, keeping the tracks in sight. How hard could it be?

Three hours later we were still trudging through the rain, Shannon holding a shivering Savannah and me pulling our two carry-on suitcases. Things looked bleak. We were lost. We were soaked. We were broke. It was May 1, May Day, which is a holiday in much of the world outside of America. Everything was closed. No one was on the streets. Our flight back to the States was due to start boarding in 45 minutes.

We stopped in a bar to ask if were close to the train station. We weren't. But one inebriated woman proved that you don't have to be sober to be charitable -- you can also be so drunk off your rocker that you don't really understand what you're doing. She took pity on our dripping toddler in Shannon's arms, gave us several Euros, and pointed us to a nearby trolley line that led right into the central train station where we'd started. About an hour later, we were one of the last ones to board our flight. Thanks, drunk lady!

Phew. Recounting that anniversary took forever. I'm going to spare you stories about the other ones. Like the one where we went to the Oregon Coast and Shannon was morning sick the whole time. Thanks a lot, Halen.