In my mid-twenties, I had no interest in having children. It wouldn’t be unfair to say I had an aversion. I heard a colleague comment once, “They’re noisy and they smell bad.” ‘Exactly right,’ I thought. But then a switch flipped, and by the time we were married, I was raring to go.

We’d bought a house on Cherry Tree Lane in Sandy Springs and moved in shortly after we returned from Paris. Curiously, when I was eleven or so, while we were visiting some family friends, I felt a nickel drop into a slot—Plink!—when I saw a street sign that said Cherry Lane.I’m going to live on Cherry Lane some day,’ I had thought, all those years ago. Indeed, I got very close. (Trivia buffs may recall that Mary Poppins also lived on Cherry Tree Lane.)

The mom of that family we were visiting was the aunt of Greg Olson who played catcher for the Atlanta Braves in the early 1990’s. Rick was at a trade show where Greg was signing baseballs as part of a promotion for one of Rick’s clients—What does Greg Olson do in the off-season? Pitch, of course!—and after standing in line to get his ball signed, Rick mentioned this connection to Greg.

“Your Aunt Nancy used to babysit my wife,” Rick told him.

“Cool, I’ll be in Barron next week for a family reunion!” he said.

Six months after we were married, I wasn’t yet pregnant and it was killing me. So we changed tack and got a puppy. We’d gone to a dog show to check out breeds and decided on an English Springer Spaniel. Kelsey was the most curious puppy of the pack; we should have looked for the most calm. Over the next decade, that dog and I would experience a serious clash of wills. If you put her out, she body-slammed the sunroom windows to get in. If you let her in, she yipped to go out. Truly, when my kids were little, I had deep compassion for my mom’s decision to give away the family pet.

I would later learn the Pathwork Guide’s teaching about how a forcing current works. In a nutshell, whenever we try to force anything in life, this creates a current that doesn’t allow us to receive whatever it is we want. It simply can’t get in. I was living an example of that in trying to get pregnant. Because the minute we got Kelsey and I took my mind off it, we got the blue line.

Charlie was born in February of 1993, which is an ideal time in the school year to have a birthday. Pratt & Beuhl had no maternity leave, so I had to work from home for a month in order to have six paid weeks off. I wrote a script for a video and did a few other assignments, fluffing up my hours enough to make it work. Bob wasn’t pleased, but I didn’t care. I’d been there three longs years and gutted out the last one so I could get pregnant and have health care. Back then, pregnancy was considered a pre-existing condition so you couldn’t change jobs midstream and hope to have coverage. At least that’s what I’d been told.

A month after Charlie was born, I interviewed with Sawyer Riley Compton, a much larger business-to-business ad agency near our house. It would be several long months before the offer came through—they were working to land a contract with Siemens that would require my ability to write about technical topics—and it couldn’t come quick enough.

Breastfeeding was a challenge with both my boys, but harder with Charlie because I didn’t see it coming. For one thing, he had torticollis, which is basically contracted neck muscles on one side; some simple stretching exercises solved the problem. There was also something going on with nipple preference—or more like nipple rejection—that happened with both boys, but which a simple plastic shield resolved. That is, until the cat chewed the thing up. Sigh.

To cap it all off, a month after Charlie was born, the “Storm of the Century,” as it became known, hit metro Atlanta, dropping four inches of snow carried by 50 mph winds. In Wisconsin, that doesn’t merit a mention on the news. In Atlanta, it rates as a rare, honest-to-goodness, blizzard.

Atlanta has lots and lots of pine trees, which have a root ball about the size of my fist. One tips over on a power line nearby in practically every big storm. My hat’s off to Georgia Power who over the course of 25 years, impressed me more times than I can count. But not that time. When our power went out, we tromped through the snow to Paul and Maryanne’s, two houses away on a street that still had power. They weren’t home but Rick knew Maryanne well from their days together in college at the University of Virginia. We slept on their floor and Charlie slept in a laundry basket.

The next day we returned home to seemingly restored service. But something was weird. The washing machine wouldn’t run, or the furnace. It took a while for Rick to ferret out the problem, but a branch—from a pine tree, of course—had fallen on the power line to the house. It didn’t break the whole line though, just the neutral wire. So we had lights, but not heat. Now we needed Georgia Power to come out and fix a problem for just one house, while tens of thousands of people in the state were still without power.

To their credit, they came. First was a guy with the skills to fix it, but without a bucket truck. Then came the bucket truck, but, you guessed it, without a guy who could fix our problem. Thankfully, the third one was the charm. But all those misfires took a few days to get through.

Meanwhile, Rick hadn’t been willing to leave our house again. We had a fireplace in the den that sucked far more heat out of the house than it gave out, but he was convinced that if we moved our mattress to the floor in there and closed the doors, we’d be fine. Keep in mind, Charlie was one month old. Plus, I had to bill eight hours of work a day if I wanted to get paid.

Compare and contrast that barrel of monkeys to what happened two weeks after Jackson came along: Our 55-year old septic system gave up the ghost. Neighbors who smelled the easy-to-identify odor reported us to Fulton County within a day of our noticing it. Did they not see the stork sign from Northside Hospital in our front yard?

Although half our neighborhood was on septic and the other half on sewer, the connection point for us to get to sewer was a long ways away. So we hired a service to dig up the entire front yard and put in a new drain field. My attitude adjusted when the guy outside digging in the stinky, muddy trench saw Jackson and said he too had a newborn at home.

Walker: A Spiritual Memoir by Jill Loree

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