Back in December, I was feeling overwhelmed. I was drained between fiances, Christmas, working odd hours, and having my SUV truly embody the fix or repair daily slogan. The day when I nearly lost my mind was when my automatic SUV had done the equivalent of stalling out six times.
I had been pet sitting my parents’ three dogs, and I was on the way to drop them off. The car ride was already aggravatingly stressful enough, with my back seat filled with my mom’s dogs, who hated being in the car. I also had my daughter screaming with them because she was upset for missing her nap. With this noise going on, it felt impossible to listen to my car. I was waiting for my car to lurch and be followed up with the stupid little wrench icon that popped up on my dashboard right before the engine shut off. Thankfully I had been prepared for this. I’ve been driving on the right-hand side of the road and would drift into the grass out of traffic.
To this day, I am forever grateful that my car had never done this while I was in the middle of an intersection or on the highway. I don’t want to think about the accidents that would have resulted from an engine shut off in the middle of i95.
Early that day, I had researched the problem, and over and over again, I saw that the same issue happening with other vehicles of the same make and model as my SUV. All the forums said the same thing. It was a throttle body issue. I sent my husband a few videos on how to change the part, and he said he could replace it if that was indeed the issue. But we didn’t have the correct reader to diagnose the problem, and I wasn’t in the mood to spend even more money on tools. After talking this all out, we figured the only time I had to drive the danger mobile to the shop was after dropping off a pack of stressed-out dogs.
When I walked into the mechanic’s shop, I think the service manager’s eyes were about to pop out of his head. He’s seen me far too many times since September because of an issue with the ball joint on the right side of my car.
“Don’t worry, I’m not here about the ball joint.” I try to sound not stressed out with a babbling, slightly cranky toddler on my hip.
“I’m glad. What can we help you with today?” he asked, pulling up my account. It was probably bad that he did it without asking for my phone number.
“I think my throttle body is fucked.” I told him, along with explaining all the problems my car was having.
He listened to me explain how many times I had to pull over the car on the way here in the very short ten-minute drive. I told him that the engine could gasp for fuel and then slow down until it finally shut off.
“That definitely sounds like the throttle body.” He said, taking my keys. “We’ll give you a call as soon as we find out anything.”
My daughter had been on my hip the whole time, and she wanted to roam about the lobby. My hopes of her falling asleep in the car so I could watch t.v. on my tablet while she slept on me had gone out the window. As soon as the keys were in the service manager’s hands, I walked out of the building and back to the car to collect her stroller.
“Mommy, where we goin’?” She asked as I seat-belted her in.
“We’re going to the park, baby,” I answered, pulling the sun visor over her head.
It was a perfect day for the brief mile walk. The sky was bright blue, with wispy white clouds gliding across the light breeze, barely 80 degrees, and no rain in sight. In the summer, there would have been no way in hell I would walk my child to play at the park in the middle of the day. We would have melted or died from heat exhaustion, slight exaggeration, but close to the truth.
The playground was partially under shady trees and across the street from a lake. Adelyn climbed all over the playground. She ran to the top of the slide and started to sing, “Let it go.” It wasn’t long before she had me climbing the rock wall with her. One of the benefits of being a “fun-sized” adult is that I still fit on the slides and other things that my daughter wants me to join her.
After about an hour of running, climbing, and swinging, Adelyn noticed the lake across the street.
“Mommy!” She shrieked. “That’s a big pool.”
“That’s not a pool. It’s a lake.”
“Not a lake. It’s a pool.” She said, shaking her head. “Mommy, we go to the water?”
It was more of a demand than a question. Adelyn slid down the slide one last time before running over to her stroller and climbing in. I hadn’t heard anything from the shop yet, so I figured why not. We crossed the street, and once we hit the sidewalk, she slid out of her stroller, walked out onto the dock, jetting out of the gazebo.
“Mommy look,” she pointed through the rails. “A turtle.”
She tried to press her head through the wooden rails, but thankfully it didn’t fit. The turtle swam under the gazebo and out of her sight. She darted over to the other side, trying to find it. But he hadn’t come up for air.
“Where turtle go?” She asked.
“He’s swimming,” I told her.
I guess the turtle swimming meant we should go swimming too because she started to run back onto the dock. Luckily I caught her before she jumped off the edge.
“Look,” I said, pointing at a black spot in the water. “There he is.”
“That’s not a turtle, mommy.” she frowned.
The gazebo was no longer fun. She sulked the whole ten feet it took her to get onto the grass. There she decided to chase her blues away and the flock of white ibis sleeping in the sun.
“Go away, birdies,” she yelled, running away in circles.
We left the relatively undisturbed birds and walked along the lake. When I initially started walking, I only planned on heading to the gazebo that was across the lake, but a phone call from my husband changed that. He wouldn’t leave work for another hour, and his job was 45 minutes away. That left me with at least two hours to entertain my daughter, and walking around a lake wasn’t going to do it. I hung up the phone, deciding to throw it all to the wind and walk to the beach. It was a nice day. We had nowhere to go might as well enjoy the day.
As soon as I clipped her into her seat, I felt free.
For the first time in years, I didn’t have a plan. In college, there were countless times I would head to the beach and spend hours laying out on the sand reading or, if there were the rare occasion of waves in Boca, I’d go surfing. Today I decided it was going to be like one of those days.
We walked to CVS and grabbed a few bottles of water and ice cream. While she munched away, we headed to the Loggerhead Marine Life Center. When we got there, the woman at the front desk asked if we had been there before. I smiled and said yes. I kept to myself that I had been going there since I was my daughter’s age and watched the place grow and change.
Adelyn was so excited to see the turtles that she abandoned her ice cream to get as close as she could to the turtles. Some of the turtles weren’t near the viewing area, so she asked me to pick her up.
“Oh no.” she cried when she saw a turtle floating with its butt in the air. “She’s got a big booboo. She needs a bandaid. Mommy gets the bandaid.”
The volunteer employee overheard her cry. “He does have a big booboo,” the man told her. “A boat was going too fast and hit his back. Now his back flippers aren’t working as well as they used to.”
Blaze, the turtle, was back in the care of the marine life cater after being released earlier this year. Sadly, the injury was far worse this time, and they were almost sure that he wouldn’t be re-released.
I put Adelyn back on the ground, and she ran to the smaller tanks. These one held teenage turtles, just regular ones, not mutant ninjas.
Adelyn sighed, hanging on the little chain, stopping her from climbing in. “Mommy, they sooooo cute.”
I’m not sure who said what, but suddenly Adelyn ran in between people as quickly as possible towards the tiny hatchlings. Before I could grab her, she was under the chain and almost stuck her hand in the tank. I was mortified. But instead of yelling and booming voices demanding her to step back away from the tank, another older volunteer gently caught her hand before it hit the water.
“Don’t worry, mommy,” he said to me. “She’s excited. It’s good when kids are excited about the animals.”
We spent a little more time with the turtles before she had enough of watching turtles float around in their watery hospital beds. Adelyn climbed back in her stroller and yawned.
“We go to the ocean?” She asked.
And so we did. We made our way across the street and to the beach. Usually, I would have pulled our shoes off and made our way onto the sand, but she yawned a deep yawn. We watched the waves roll in, and tiny sandpipers run away. The wind blew in our hair, and salt kissed our cheeks.
I strolled along the sidewalk up to the pier. People passed by us carrying fishing poles and pulling coolers. Adelyn and I went through the gate and walked up and down the pier. The ocean was so clear that we looked over the edge and could see the fish that teased the fishermen with their existence.
I glanced at my clock, and we still had an hour before my husband would be anywhere near us. Adelyn babbled, talking to the birds that flew over her head and the people sitting on the benches watching their poles. When we left the pier and headed north, my goal was to reach Carlin Park before being picked up.
The sun beat down on my skin. It was a wonderful warm welcome to the cool breeze that thankfully wouldn’t quit. Today was truly one of those; this is why we live here days. I looked down through the tiny screen and saw that Adelyn had finally fallen asleep. It was later than I would have liked, but it didn’t matter. If she had napped on time, we never would have played at the park.
I would have missed all her stories about everything that she saw at the park. There would have been no giggles or smiles as she watched turtles swim in the lake or scared the ibis from their sleep. We never would have walked to the turtle park and seen the cutest little baby turtles that made her ooooo and aw at their tininess and cried for the turtle who had been hurt.
As she slept, I walked past kite beach, where a few kite-boarders took advantage of the wind. I made my way to the beach entrance that my husband and I had walked down when we were married. I stopped and watched the waves roll in. When we got married, the wind was blowing harder than today. I remember how my dress flowed in the wind doing exactly what I wanted it to do, making me feel like a fairy. I was so happy that day that it didn’t rain and it wasn’t hot. I learned after a lifetime of living here that you could never trust the meteorologist.
I left and walked past stretches of beach where my friends and I spent years surfing while in high school. I thought about how much money I’ve spent fixing my boards and how much dust they’ve collected since college had ended. I looked down at my daughter and got filled with a burst of joy thinking about getting her out on the water with me as soon as I felt comfortable with her swimming ability.
I could see Carlin Park coming around the corner. My legs burned, and my feet were sore. I had not worn the right shoes for this walk. I checked the workout app I started when I left the mechanics’ shop. I was just shy of walking six miles.
While I was looking at my phone, a horn beeped, and I jumped, dropping my phone on the ground, watching my husband’s truck pass by. I laughed, he was right on time, and I should have known he would do something like that. He waited in the parking lot as I came down the small hill and towards the truck. My skin was a rosy pink, and despite knowing we were about to drop a few hundred dollars, I was in a very blissful state of mind. I hadn’t looked at my phone besides taking a few pictures. I let my thoughts drift off into the world of what-ifs and let the sea breeze take away all my problems. I could have spent the day wallowing and stressed out, but I am so glad I just went with the flow and let the current of life take control.