My husband and I have coffee every morning together. This morning was no different. But as we talked of the big move taking place next week, we waxed philosophical about how we got to this moment, how we met, and where would be if we hadn’t met.
“Can you remember the moment this new adventure was set in motion?” Jim asked. I had to think. Was it when MG announced to me that she was leaving my school for a school in Frankfurt? Was it when my best friends announced they had many job offers and might be leaving for HK? I remember a snowy night around this time when I clicked on my new school’s website and found my job listed. I can still recall the conversation I had with Jim about it. “Should I apply? What about our daughter? We are so happy here in Stuttgart, why would we leave?” And then he reminded me of all the things that weren’t working out here. What did I have to lose by applying? The wheels were set in motion. We were moving down a new path together.
“What if I had never asked Chris if he need summer help at the cottages? Would I still be living in that apartment on Plum Street?” I said. It made me think of that movie Sliding Doors. Gwyneth Paltrow is fired at work and leaves the office early. She misses the train, and misses her boyfriend’s mistress. Then the movie goes backwards, she makes the train and meets her boyfriend’s mistress. The movie goes back and forth exploring how life would be different depending on whether or not she caught that train. Sometimes life is about that chance moment that changes everything. Catching that train, taking that big risk, working for a summer far from home and falling in love with my employers’ plumber.
“What if my parents hadn’t summered in Sagamore all those years ago?” Jim tried to take it back further. I wouldn’t have met him on the Cape when he was 40 if he and his family hadn’t chose to go to the Cape when he was 11. He remembers sitting at the kitchen table, looking at brochures and locations, and then they chose the cottage in Sagamore. They ended up buying that cottage at the end of that summer, and later he returned to Sagamore after trade school looking for a job. And so the path for his future life on Cape Cod was set in motion.
“What if your father had never been a prisoner of war and sent to Cherepovets? Would your father have ever met your mother?” I wanted him to take it back even further. His father lived around the corner from Jim’s mother in Hamburg. But it took World War II to bring the couple together. Jim’s father was captured in Romania and sent to a Soviet prison camp. It was in Cherepovets that Helmut met his future wife’s father. They made a pact to help the other’s family if they ever made it out of there. Helmut was lucky, Valdimar was not. So on the day he knocked on that door around the corner from his childhood home, who would answer the door, but his future wife, Lisa. Imagine her horror, staring at a skeleton of a man who said he knew her father. Many families in Germany experienced this kind of moment, weary soldier comes to door and says “I knew your husband/father.” Most of the time these men were lying, and looking for handouts. Helmut continued to return to this apartment. He brought them food, coal, and other needed resources to survive. And eventually the two fell in love.
Life is really like one of those books you had in childhood where you create your own story. You start on the first page, then at the end of the page it says, “Continue to page 17 or page 65.” Each page ends with a choice. The story can be read over and over and never turn out the same. At each turn of the page you have chosen an entirely new path for yourself. Each moment in our life decides the next. Each moment is truly life changing. Some moments are bad, they destroy parts of us and push us in unwanted directions. And some moments are euphoric, they build us up and send us on exciting journeys. Regardless of what the moment is or what choice you decide on, good or bad, momentous or insignificant, your life will change whether you like it or not.