Even in the worst of times, there are windows of happiness. Those moments when, although you feel as if you have been slowly plodding through a dark and narrowing tunnel towards an unknown end, a window opens and the warmth and comfort of sunlight reminds you why you are plodding through the dark tunnel.
I do not normally allow myself to think about those points of light too often. I remember talking to my mom or a friend or someone about this within a few months after I left Mitch. It is one of those conversations that is vague in substance but for some reason the setting is so vivid that the association has never left me, despite returning to the scene innumerable times so as to make it repetitious and mundane in the every day. But the conversation is always lurking in the back of my memory when I return. I was leaving the grocery store - Fred Meyer (which is now Smiths Marketplace or some such) in Salt Lake to be precise - with my vague listening companion and explaining that there were "windows of happiness" in my marriage. I was realizing right there that my first impulse was to bury those bits because it hurt more deeply to think of the positive than the negative because feelings of regret might bubble up. But if I completely forgot everything positive in my marriage, I would question my judgment to the point of wondering how I ever allowed myself to get into that situation. Not sure why I came to this epiphany while at the grocery store but there it is.
With that being said, I sometimes doubt any happy times even existed they are so hard to dredge up to the surface. But some things are hard to forget. Little things mostly. Like the music we shared. Or more accurately, the music he loved. Nirvana will always be linked to him in my memory. He had funny little sayings he would tease me with - like calling me his "little honey natural bee" or quoting Tombstone (one of his favorite movies) by saying "I'm your huckleberry" in a gravely Val Kilmer impersonation. For whatever reason, these two things always made me giggle. He could make me laugh so hard sometimes. The kind of laughter where you forget why you started. I loved kissing him on the side of his nose for some reason. I loved when he was excited about something because he would get really animated and talk with his hands and then he would make faces at me to emphasize what he was explaining or to make sure I was paying attention. He picked out all the tiny pieces of popcorn left at the bottom of the bowl and liked the half-popped kernels. But that is it. That is the extent of what I remember. It is hard for me now to admit how much I loved him then.
Before Mitch was arrested, we had been planning a camping trip with friends to southern Utah for spring break. Sharing outdoor activities was a bonding point for us. While dating we often went camping or climbing or hiking on a whim. We had little responsibility and lived in an incredible outdoor playground. By March, the harsh, cold winter with its excessive snow and bitter temps had us itching to get out of the house and into the sunshine. And despite the tension that had reached a frenzy with Mitch's arrest, we followed through on our planned camping trip to a favorite spot of ours Mitch called LaVerkin Falls with two or three couple friends.
In my memory, the only logical timing for the trip is after Mitch's arrest since I know it was spring break and right before the spring quarter of school was scheduled to begin. However, to be honest, I could be wrong in the timing and the trip may have occurred right before the arrest. Either way, it was a brief return to happiness. A reminder of why I was married.
There isn't a campground at LaVerkin Falls and I'm not sure if camping is actually allowed but when you manage to find this place empty and not occupied by drunk dudes in jeeps, it is a secluded haven. I do not have any real concrete memories of the trip and probably could not accurately name everyone who came but I remember the feeling of being back in synch with my husband. It was restorative, which is why I am sure it was post-arrest. We were in an area where we played when we first fell in love and we weren't far from where he had proposed to me. The weather was significantly warmer than Salt Lake and there is something about the desert air that renews me. Each step on the dry ground where we camped sent little puffs of dust up to flour our pant legs in red. It was too cold to get in the water but the rushing sound of the falls was a welcome soundtrack to our stay. Our dog, Stuart, struggled to follow as we hiked the trails and scrambled up rocks to take in the views. At one point he jumped in the water and desperately tried to climb back up one of the water falls. He shivered and I wrapped him in one of my t-shirts and held all 40+ pounds of him as if he was my baby.
With friends surrounding me and the laughter that accompanies, I felt content. I loved my husband and felt the hard part was behind me. Couples struggle. Marriage is hard. We were through the harsh winter and the newness of spring would get us out of the house and back to what brought us together.