When we were in San Diego in March, we bought a ticket to a local amusement park and with it, we got a year pass to the park. We live less than 2 hours away, so we figured that we’d make pretty good use of it this year and tucked our passes away for safe keeping. A few days later, Eli fell off the bed and everything changed. The day of his injury we had been planning to swing by the park on our way out of town and after we were released from the first hospital, (but before we were admitted for several days at the second one), we decided to head to the park to see if it would perk our very sad, but (we thought) okay baby up.
We knew that there was a great little Sesame Street area there, so we took Eli to see it. He’s a Sesame Street fanatic (as much as one can be on one show a day at that age), and yet, nothing registered on his face. We took him into the souvenir shop and let him check out the stuffed animals because he’s a boy who loves nothing more than a good stuffed animal and once again, nothing. Just a sad, tired baby.
I was overly excitedly showing him every incarnation of Elmo (Elmo with a snorkel! Elmo with a bathing suit!) and he just looked up at me, so incredibly sad and tired. It had been such an awful morning and I really thought maybe we could turn the day around, but after about an hour with no success, we decided to drive home, where everything went to hell and then to a hospital.
And we hadn’t gone back since then. Partially because we’ve been busy and partially because I had no desire to ever set foot in the city of San Diego, let alone in the park again. So when my husband suggested we go before the summer was over, I hesitated. On the one hand, I knew Eli was old enough that he would get a huge kick out of it- especially the Sesame Street stuff. On the other hand, I knew that it was going to be incredibly emotionally challenging for me.
Ultimately, I set my issues aside and on Saturday, we went back.
Getting there was the first challenge since the hotel where Eli got hurt (and where A LOT of my issues still live, it seems) is less than a mile away and it’s on all the signs to get to the park. But we got there without any issue, parked and walked in. It was like getting slapped in the face with memories, ones I really never wanted to remember. We had a nice lunch and headed to the Sesame Street area. As we predicted, Eli had the best time. He played in the water fountains, watched the Sesame Street show and got to meet Elmo, Cookie Monster and Zoe. And as soon as he saw Cookie Monster, he ran up to him and waved. I melted a little.
After we got him into dry clothes, we went to that souvenir shop. I needed to do it, for me mostly, but a little bit for Eli too. We browsed the stuffed animals for a bit and Eli’s eyes were huge. Usually, if you present him with 2 stuffed animals, he’ll pick one and hug it, but on Saturday he grabbed both, and pulled them into his face, happily snuggling. And so he got 2 (Cookie Monster and Murray. I have pictures, but they’re on my husband’s phone). Frankly, I’d have bought the whole store if he wanted.
And as we walked away from the store, I cried. I’m think they were a mixture of sadness and relief. When we left the park that day in March, I had no idea what lay ahead of us. It was the worst day of my life and holds so much power over me still, even 5 months later. And so seeing Eli with those stuffed animals both served to bring me back to that day, reminding me of how very not okay he was and how horrible the experience was for us, but it also brought me forward to now. To my healthy, happy little boy.
While the emotional fallout from our trip hasn’t been insignificant, I think in some way, I needed to do this. I needed to go back (though I really, really could’ve done without driving past both the hotel and the hospital on the way home), I needed to create new, happy memories in that place that has so many sad ones.
Going back reminded me that there are 2 kinds of healing that have to take place after accidents like these. Eli’s physical healing was relatively quick and as far as we know, complete. The emotional healing is slow. It’s tenuous and arduous. But it’s happening, one day at a time. One memory at a time. One fear at a time. There are still some gaping wounds left to heal, but we’re getting there.