The Day Before Valentine’s Day

My son shares my distaste of the doctor's office.
My son shares my disapproval  of the healthcare system.

The day was destined to be awful, as any day is that begins at 1:40 in the morning.  My son was having a tonic clonic seizure.  His eyes rolled back into his head and his tiny body jerked spasmodically as I tried not to scream and cry.  The 911 operator on the other end of the line with my husband informs us that we can’t hold him, because it could cause injury, and that the paramedics are on their way.  By the time they arrive, he is asleep in what is referred to as “postictal rest”.  He is okay, breathing and they recommend that we just take him in to the doctor tomorrow.  We try and fail to return to sleep, our bodies tense with adrenaline and fresh nightmare fuel.

When morning finally rolled around, we discuss groggily our plans for the day, and a friend had offered us some free passes to a monster truck show.  Bob has no interest, bordering on negative interest, in going, so he encourages me to just cancel and stay home with the baby.  I explain to him that if I don’t go, I’m just going to stay home and worry about Eli, but that if I can get out, maybe I won’t be so obsessed with how he’s doing.  I invite my friend and her daughter, and we decide to have a night out, since it’s free.  I trust Bob to take Eli to the hospital if he has another episode.

We got passes from my friend, but I needed to pick them up across town.  My fellow Dallas Metroplexians will note that “across town” generally means “pack a lunch and gas up, you’ll be out all day”.  So I tried to leave early, but as I was getting dressed, I noticed that with all of his drama this morning, Eli hadn’t eaten, and the front of my shirt was soaked.  For people who haven’t ever been around a nursing mother, basically your boobs don’t stop working, and if the baby isn’t eating, they get swollen, sore, and start leaking.  I had to use my pump so I didn’t end up looking like a wet cow, and finally got on the road almost an hour after I had planned to.

The Dallas Mixmaster aerial view. Add a few thousand cars and that was my day.
The Dallas Mixmaster aerial view. Add a few thousand cars and that was my day.

The traffic was horrible, and when I say that, I mean “backed up 5 miles on 635” levels of horrible.  After fighting through the sea of cars,  I exit the toll road near my friend’s house, and find that the toll exit ramp has been closed.  They aren’t letting any cars through, but there’s nowhere to turn around. I end up sitting there for 10 minutes, and my gas light comes on.  “No problem” I think, “I have AAA and $18 in my wallet. We’re good.”  Finally I arrive and pick up my friend and her daughter.

We drive to the venue (Arlington Stadium, home of the Cowboys), and begin looking for a place to park.  I realize we are probably going to have to pay for parking, which I figure will eat up some of the $18.  Then we see our first parking sign… “$30 Cash or Credit / No In-Out”.  My stomach sinks as we circle in an ever widening spiral, looking for cheaper parking.  We finally come across some, almost a mile away from the venue, and it’s $25, and empty. I pull in to turn around, convinced we will have to go home.  I swallow my pride and explain our situation: We have 2 excited 4 year olds in the back seat, we got these free tickets, but we can’t afford to park.  We manage to get a parking spot and begin the long walk to the stadium, which has a no bags or purses policy. Angela and I dig through our bags and put everything we absolutely need into our pockets and head out.

Well, everything we needed except the tickets.  Those, I left in the Jeep, which I realized when we were a

Luka's Breakdown begins here...
Luka’s Breakdown begins here…

little over halfway in our trek.  I run back to get the tickets, hot and exasperated, and so close to just calling it quits.  The four of us make our way into the stadium and find our entrance to the pit party, which is a chance to go down to the floor of the stadium and see the monster trucks up close.  For anyone who has never been down to the club part of the stadium, it involves a ramp similar to what you would see in a parking garage, that doubles back on itself 12 times.  It’s a lot of walking, and we finally reach the floor of the stadium, it’s huge and dirty and filled with alarmingly large trucks.  The crowd down at the pit is thick, stifling, and loud.  My daughter Lena adjusts fairly well, but Angela’s daughter Luka is having a harder time. She begins to cry, at first just seeming overwhelmed, but then honestly distressed and it becomes evident that we need to make our way up to our seats.

Our seats are on the 400 level mezzanine, which is oft referred to as the “nosebleed” seats.  When Angela realizes this, she admits to a paralyzing fear of heights and she is concerned that she might be unable to get to our seats.  I do my best to reassure her and we finally manage to get up a series of stairs to our seats, which are indeed high and steep enough to give even my solid constitution a bit of vertigo.

The view from our seats

The show begins in an hour. Angela and I do our best to entertain the girls in the meantime, which is difficult with two very active four year olds.  After the long wait, the show begins with a bang.  Literally, without preamble, there are fireworks that resonate throughout the huge stadium. Impressive, and incredibly loud, they scare the pants off of our children, who immediately cover their ears and cower as the trucks roar into the stadium.  Luka again begins to show signs of distress and Angela and I give each other worried looks as we contemplate how long before we have to abandon the idea and head home.

We manage to stay through the show and make our way down the long mass of people to try to find our parking lot again.  We get some bad advice from a parking attendant and end up walking more than a mile in the opposite direction, before a confused looking police officer asked us where we were headed.  When told that we were looking for Blue Lot 15, he shook his head and said “You’re definitely going the very wrong way, you need to turn around and go to the other side of the stadium”.  Thanks to Angela’s good memory and sense of direction, we finally find the Jeep again, get the girls packed in and ready to go.  Our plan for the rest of the evening was simple… get the girls fed and get them home.  At this point it was around 10pm, and at least 2 hours past their latest possible bedtime, so we decided that Steak and Shake would be a great place to go. Cheap, quick, and with free kids meals on weekends, it would be the most affordable and convenient.

We arrive at Steak and Shake to find that approximately 1,395 people had the same idea.  We are told the wait would be at least 30 minutes, but we agree to wait it out and finally get seated.  Our waitress doesn’t take our order for another 20 minutes, and then when she takes our order, she forgets to enter it into the computer system, and at a little after midnight, we finally get our food.  Exhausted, and ready for bed, we strap the girls into their carseats and head home.

It sounds like the worst day out ever. Every little thing that could have gone wrong seems to have done so.  Except that it didn’t.  There’s another part to this story, and I want to tell it all.

My amazing friend Amanda got us tickets to see Monster Jam, which I have wanted to see since I was

little.  She had multiple tickets and so I contacted my friend Angela to see if her daughter might like to join us, and if maybe she’d like to come.  Angela was thrilled, and told me that she’s wanted to see Monster Jam since she was a little girl and had never had an opportunity.  I made arrangements to pick up her and her daughter, and we decided to make it a mommy and me girls night out.. with monster trucks! Without Amanda’s amazing act of kindness we would never have had this opportunity.

Arlington Stadium panorama from the walk up the stairs to our seats
Arlington Stadium panorama from the walk up the stairs to our seats

Earlier in the day, after Eli’s seizure, I was shaken and worried and I realized that if I allowed myself to stay at home all weekend I would go crazy with worry.  I desperately needed to get out of the house or I would become a complete shut in for days, even weeks.  I asked my husband if he would be willing to stay home and watch Eli, with the understanding that if anything went wrong he was to take our son immediately to the hospital and call me.  Without my husband’s loyalty as a father and understanding as a spouse, I surely would have canceled the entire trip and stayed home.

After looking for parking for a long time, we pulled into the cheapest lot we could find and explained our situation, and a lovely young woman holding her son heard our story and stepped forward and said she’d pay for our parking.  We were overwhelmed with gratitude and I gave her some free movie passes I had in my purse from work in return. If we hadn’t been in the right place at the right time with the right people, we would have had to turn around right then and go home.  This lady with her gesture of kindness and generosity made our entire evening possible.

When I left my tickets in the Jeep, I had to turn around and run back to get them, leaving Angela with my daughter and hers to keep walking to the stadium, so the little ones didn’t have to make the trip twice.  After arriving back at the Jeep winded and frustrated, one of the parking supervisors offered to call over a transport cart to get me back to the girls.  The large golf cart arrived, and sped me back to where Angela and the girls were, and the driver told them to hop on, and that he’d give us a ride the rest of the way to the stadium.  All of us, already exhausted, whooped with glee as our cart sped past the car and foot traffic and dropped us off right at the gate. Without this driver’s amazing act of kindness, our event might have started on a sour note.

Girls with Grave Digger
Girls with Grave Digger

We got to take pictures with the star of the show, Grave Digger, the 30 year legacy Monster Truck of all Monster Trucks, and the girls were very excited.  We made it down to the pit party and got to see the trucks up close.  Angela’s daughter Luka became visibly shaken at the size of the crowd and the trucks, and my daughter Lena told her that they should collect rocks and play.  The two of them ended up in a quiet corner of the pit party playing with a cornhole game until we got the notice we had to leave. We took a few pictures of the girls with the big trucks, and without Lena and Luka’s amazing friendship, we might have decided to go home at that point.

The girls both needed to use the restroom, so on our way out, we saw an open restroom sign which happened to be the Dallas Cowboys’ locker room.  We got to go in and see where the NFL football players keep their stuff and took selfies in the locker room and laughed that our butts were sitting on the same toilets as professional football players’ butts.

In the Cowboy's locker room! NFL Players get naked in here.
In the Cowboy’s locker room! NFL Players get naked in here.

Up in our seats, finally, we noted that our tickets were square in the middle of the stadium, so our view was perfect.  Our seats were so high up we were able to see everything, not one inch of the stadium was out of our view.  The largest jumbotron in the world helped keep our daughters entertained as they interviewed the drivers and helped us pick which truck we wanted to cheer for, and explained the scoring system. Angela noted that if they had used a similar scoring system for the Triwizard tournament in Harry Potter the whole Goblet of Fire would have gone very differently.  She gets so excited about being at the show that she actually tears up a bit after the fireworks following the national anthem.

The show is spectacular, the drivers are amazing and Angela is so anxious to see a truck do a flip that when El Toro Loco comes out and nears the flip ramp, we both tense up and jump out of our seats.  He does the flip, lands it, and drives to the center where he does donuts until he flips over and breaks both gigantic horns off of his truck, and then proceeds to take one and give it to a kid in the audience.  We cheer for our favorite trucks as they make their way through the finals, boo at the judges who make some questionable calls.  Lena goes absolutely crazy when the speakers begin to blare “We Will Rock You” by Queen, which is currently her favorite song in the world. The girls are hungry and exhausted but having a great time.

Lena and Luka in Pit Party 2016
Lena and Luka in the Pit Party 2016

Despite the long walk back to the Jeep, the air is crisp and windy and not quite cold enough to be unpleasant once we have walked for a while.  Angela let’s out a whoop signaling that she has finished her 10,000 steps on her fitbit since we left her house, and we finally make it back to the parking lot.

We made our way to Steak and Shake, where the hostess announced to the long waiting line that there would be at least a 30 minute wait for a table. Immediately, the people in line gave up the wait and said they would go someplace else, leaving only our party and one other, and we were seated for almost 30 minutes before the waitress came by our table.  In the meantime, a couple was sitting opposite us and the lady was glaring at us with a huge scowl on her face.  It took a few minutes to realize that when we had been seated, Lena and Luka wanted to sit together in one half of the booth, leaving Angela and I to sit together.  I was wearing a rainbow shirt and Angela is rocking her freshly dyed pink rockabilly hair.  I leaned over and whispered to Angela “I think she thinks we’re gay.” We proceed to laugh and make faces at her (and each other) while we keep the children entertained as best we could.

The waitress comes out and apologizes profusely that she forgot to put our order in to the system, but that she’ll get us some milkshakes while we wait, on the house. We order a couple of milkshakes and share (much to the dismay of our scowling bigot neighbor).  Our burgers were delicious and when we go to the counter to pay, the manager discounts our meal so we end up paying $6 to feed all four of us. It’s well after midnight when we get home with the kids and carry their sleeping forms to their beds and tuck in ourselves.

Our night was amazing, and wonderful. We had a great time and I’d like to thank all of the people that made our night something spectacular.

Wonderful friends having a wonderful time, despite setbacks.
Wonderful friends having a wonderful time, despite setbacks.

Both of these stories are true.  The same night happened to us all and we had several moments that could have made the evening a nightmare.  I shared the insane dichotomous evening with my favorite people and made a memory with my daughter and her best friend that will last a lifetime.  She won’t remember running late, or almost running out of gas, or searching for parking.  She’ll remember riding on a golf cart, the big bull monster truck, and singing “We will rock you” at the top of her lungs with her best friend.

How we choose to face adversity makes our memories positive or negative ones.  We can’t allow setbacks to overshadow the amazing things that others can do for us, and how circumstances can come together to make something wonderful.  Acknowledge that every event and action put us in a position to meet wonderful people and give us opportunities to show kindness, generosity, and friendship to others. Go out, and through the negatives, make your story a beautiful one with the people you love.