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Today is the birthday of our co-founder and my husband, Curtis. While there are many moments I could share about us and our relationship, this morning I thought of these photos, taken on the first birthday of his that we celebrated together.
I planned a trip to the North Fork Long Island vineyards, while attending a conference at my now alma mater, Goddard College. Between conference sessions and assisting the two keynote speakers, I sat in the computer lab researching where we should stay, what vineyards to visit. I'd rented a car to drive up to Vermont; I kept the car to drive back to NYC and get us out to Long Island.
On his birthday night, we went to dinner with his roommates and friends at Heidelberg, a Bavarian restaurant in the Upper East Side that has remained one of our favorites. I drove us all back to their apartment in Washington Heights that night. The next morning, Curtis and I went down to the street where I parked and lo - the car was gone. I panicked. Initially, I thought I forgot what the car looked like (it was a rental, after all). Then I thought it was stolen. Then I called 311, NYC's info hotline. The third option on the voice menu was "if you think your car has been towed, please press 3."
We found out that yes, indeed it had been towed - the sign telling us the parking rules was hidden behind a tree, halfway down the block, but this is standard when parking in NYC (one of the many reasons we discourage people from driving their car into the city). We were told to go down to the central office, west of Chelsea on 11th Avenue (approximately an hour away, between trains and walking). After waiting in the bureaucratic line filled with angry people, we paid our fine. Then were told that the car was actually located in a tow lot all the way back uptown, close to where we'd initially parked.
By the time we got on the road to Greenport, Long Island - all the way at the end of the North Fork, a good 2 hours (without traffic) away - we were stuck in the afternoon rush hour I'd been trying to avoid. Eventually we got out there, our bed and breakfast was beautiful, and the owner had left us a bottle of wine to celebrate Curtis's birthday. The next morning we took in some of the wineries before we had to head back and return the rental car.
This is not a pretty, or magical story. The two photos I've posted don't reflect the overwhelming frustration I felt that day, when I was trying to give a special birthday moment to the man I loved. But that day, I grew to love him even more because of that frustration. Through it all, he knew what I was trying to do. He didn't get angry or upset once. He held my hand, helped me slow down, and appreciate the time we were spending together even if it wasn't what I'd imagined. Years later, now married, our dynamic is similar - I'm the one who gets more stressed when things don't turn out exactly how I plan, he's the one more inclined to go with the flow. But he continues to help me get to the good part, the present moment. The pictures may reflect the positive moments, but the imperfections are what make the story behind them more significant.