St. Patrick’s Day at Sweet Water Creek

Checking Facebook this morning, I saw several status about St.Patrick’s day. I even liked some of them. As soon as I closed the window, I forgot it was St. Patrick’s Day.

Before I had kids, I never spent March 17th doing wild and crazy things. First, in high school, how wild and crazy can you really get? Just make sure you have some green on to avoid being pinched all day and you’re good! In college, spring midterms were always around this time. Since I went to college on a large academic scholarship, it was in my best interest to pass my midterms. Amazing, right?

I don’t regret not having any insane Paddy’s day stories. I’m content. Despite that, it really came as a shock to me at around 3:00pm this afternoon when I saw a family dressed in shamrock covered shirts. That was when it really dawned on me; it was a holiday! It was St. Patrick’s Day! And, to my dismay, I wasn’t wearing anything green. I spoke that thought out loud and my husband thoughtfully pinched me. He’s a keeper. 🙂

Instead of trying to plan something cute for St.Patrick’s day, I ended up ignoring it completely. Thanks to the gorgeous weather, my family and I made plans to check out Sweet Water Creek State Park. We packed a picnic lunch (okay, I packed the lunch), managed to get everyone dressed, and headed out the door.

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I’m handling the stairs, Ma. Don’t worry ’bout me.

   The first leg of the trip took longer than usual. Smushy boy has discovered he can back down the stairs. He rounds the corner and instantly drops to his knees and crawls backwards the remaining 3 feet or so to the stairs. We haven’t been able to convince him this isn’t necessary yet. This whole stairs thing is still a work in progress.

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Fallen Tree; photo by Diva

We arrived, drove around the parking lot 3 times before finding a spot, and began our trek into the wilderness. Hubby was carrying the pack with the camera, so we have no pictures from the first leg of the trip. But, this is basically what we saw. After about a mile, we began to hear water. This caused Diva to run downhill. That resulted in a spectacular fall that created a scrapped knee. She survived. Being told she could touch the water had amazing healing properties.

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This factory was build in 1849. It was destroyed during the Civil War because it processed cotton for the Confederacy.

Georgia is rich in history, especially Civil War history. Since elementary school, I’ve always loved learning about the past, the people who lived then, and how events that took place hundreds of years ago affect us today. Standing next to this factory and looking at brick and mortar that is 164 years old is humbling. Reading about the men, women, and children who worked and live near here makes the ruins become more personal.

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This used to be a reservoir of sorts. The water would flow beneath the arch.
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Scorched brick.

With two young children, there’s not a lot of time to stare and daydream about old factory ruins. Especially when a gorgeous creek runs next to said ruins!  We walked along the creek, climbed on rocks, and touched the freezing water. I try to teach Diva little things when we go on walks like this. The rocks had spots of algae, so I made sure to point it out to her and explain that it was very slippery. I warned her we had to climb slowly and carefully over the rocks and try to avoid the algae so we don’t slip and fall down in the water. Ironically, after explaining all this to her, Hubby slipped on some algae and almost fell into the creek. I mentally thanked him for proving my point. 😉

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Enjoying the mini waterfall.
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Touching the water; her favorite part by far.
Getting her to look at the camera was not easy!
Getting her to look at the camera was not easy!
I love the sound of the creek.
I love the sound of the creek.
Trying to explain that we wanted to touch the water with our hands, not our feet.
Trying to explain that we wanted to touch the water with our hands, not our feet.
Girl got to carry the camera on the way back.
Girl got to carry the camera on the way back.
She's still learning how to take pictures of people and walk at the same time. :)
She’s still learning how to take pictures of people and walk at the same time. 🙂

We grabbed our lunch and settled by the Visitor’s Center. The kids scarfed down their lunch and then ran off excess energy. I really don’t know how they even had any excess energy! After Hubby and I finished eating, which takes longer when you have to dart after your toddler who decides climbing up on top of the wall is thrilling, all of us trekked inside and looked at artifacts, stuffed animals, and the gift shop.

Diva asked a question and I found myself trying to explain the Civil War to an almost 5 year old. I ended up keeping it short and sweet: “Two different groups were fighting. The Union came and burned down the factory because it was helping the other side, the Confederacy.”

Even explaining that brought a wave of sorrow. She is still innocently protected. She doesn’t know about slavery, war, or how people can hate with blind rage. She doesn’t know about WWI, WWII, or other historical atrocities. As much as I wish I could stuff her in a bubble and keep her safe, I know I can’t. I can’t pull a Mother Gothel and lock her in a tower even though I’m sure her Daddy will attempt to when she gets old enough to start dating.

Until then, I’m going to enjoy her. I’m going to enjoy Smushy. We’ll keep going to parks and talk about moss, leaves, and animals. I’ll point out frog eggs and they will eagerly try to find the frog that must be nearby.  We will laugh and throw rocks into creeks. For that, I am forever grateful.

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Finalized.

This morning, a judge signed our final adoption decree. Diva is officially adopted. According to the law, her Daddy is the man who has taught her to play soccer, who sings songs and plays the guitar until she falls asleep, and who just spent nearly $2,000 so her last name would be the same as his.

At our IHOP victory breakfast.

I’ve stared at our certified copy several times since it was handed to be this morning by our attorney. I kept running my finger over the raised seal. “Is this real?” I kept asking myself silently, touching the indentations and red Superior Court seals over and over again.

To be honest, this morning was a bit anticlimactic when I think about the hell that I went through in order to get to this point. It’s a hell that close friends witnessed, my family witnessed, and, to my deepest regret, Diva witnessed. If you have ever been in a horrible relationship, then you know that the stress reaches out and affects those around you. The person who is cruel to you is usually cruel to those around you. They rarely save all their poison for you. Close friends and family quickly learn to read between the lines and the cracks on the surface begin to deepen to show the pain beneath.

I worry about what I will tell my daughter one day when she asks “Why did my biological father sign away his rights? Why did he give me away?” The truth isn’t easy. It will be easy for a while. Right now, and for many more years, the simplest truth works: he knew he wasn’t being a good Daddy and that he needed to work on being a better person. I’m worried about when she gets older and wants to know more. What is appropriate to tell a teenager? A young adult? A daughter who is in her thirties and wants the cold, hard, don’t-you-dare-sugar-coat-it-for-me truth?

How do I tell her that she has an older half-brother? One who also was given up for adoption at a few hours old? How do I explain that there was abuse? Horrible emotional abuse and physical abuse that started the week I found out I was pregnant? Do I tell her that those wispy, vague memories of a stepmother and stepsister are indeed real? That their marriage dissolved when her bio father decided to put her stepmother in a choke hold? Or that he then refused to cooperate in therapy, knowing it was the only way he could see her again? Should I mention that when he started hurting her, that I put a stop to it? That when she cried for hours waiting for him to show up, I decided that I was through? The moment his broken promises and lies started effecting her, my patience and willingness to allow a relationship dissolved?

Or how about all the times he declared that he didn’t think she was his? How many times was that thrown in my face? More than I can count. How many times did I wish that he wasn’t the father? Pretty much every single day of Diva’s life. I’ve hated him with such a passion for so long. A passion that I have made sure Diva was never aware of. I have bitten my tongue until it has bled to keep from badmouthing him in front of her. Oh, it hurt.

When she was old enough to understand what was being said around her, it was hard not to be passive-aggressive. It was hard to make up excuses for his arrogant, selfish ass. Why wasn’t he here yet? Well, he must not be off work yet. Why didn’t he answer the phone? He must have been super busy doing XYZ. Or, after getting off the phone, what did he say? If I answered honestly, I would have said something along the lines of “He thinks I’m a terrible mother who is obviously sleeping around because I didn’t answer his 82 psycho dialed calls. He called me every name he could think of and then told me that he wasn’t going to buy you diapers because he didn’t think you were his daughter. He also demanded that I tell him everywhere I am or else he is going to take you and never give you back. OH, and his parents want you to come spend the night so they can take you shopping while he is out partying.” But, instead, I usually answered with a tame “He loves and misses you! He can’t wait to see your cute little nose!”

It’s been several years since I’ve had to deal with his brand of emotional abuse and controlling ways. But there are still scars. I’ve since read Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft. It is an amazing book that really opened my eyes to just how bad things really were. This fuels more conflicting feelings and thoughts regarding what to tell my daughter. I want her to recognize emotional abuse. I want her to know it is never okay for her to be treated like that. I want her to know that it happens often, to many women of various races, educational backgrounds, ages, religions, cultures. There is no discriminating feature to emotional abuse. It is an equal opportunity horror.

I need her to know that she gave me the strength to end the cycle and to stand on my own. I need her to know that she was my reason for finding the last bit of courage in my soul and embracing the astounding freedom that ending a controlling relationship brings. I need her to know that she gave me the reason to save myself.

 

Until then, I am going to cherish her innocence. I am going to laugh as I tell everyone about how Smushy decided to lean over and bite Diva on the nose, seconds before we were to appear before the judge. We had two wailing children, one because she was bitten and the other because he had been told we don’t bite, an amused lawyer, and a deputy who couldn’t help but laugh. The court clerks rushed to get Diva some ice for her nose and the judge ushered us into her chambers. I croaked and sounded like a foghorn as I was sworn in (thank you, laryngitis!). Hubby’s hair was a mess thanks to Smushy’s styling efforts while being up on Daddy’s shoulders. The judge was too nervous to shake my hand or be near me for pictures because she thought I might be contagious. Our one picture is slightly blurry, but it’s okay. The rest of the story will be beautifully in focus.