By Sammi Johnson

Memorial Day weekend has come and gone. Yet, once again, spring turned to summer with zero warning, and I was caught unprepared.

This happens every year.

The three-day weekend is a timestamp of notable life moments and, as I was on the glorious drive back from Many Glacier to Kalispell, I recounted the past seven, or so, and can safely say, “What a difference a year makes — or years, for that matter.”

Seven years ago, I found out we were pregnant with our oldest child, Savannah. I was alone because this time of year means my husband is often working long days in Glacier National Park. Prepping, painting and hustling to get ready for the busy summer season ahead, he was working on the east side with the Glacier Park Boat Co.

I gasped to him over the phone, breathlessly telling him that the test(s) said yes. I took three to be sure and whispered into the phone that we were pregnant. He had no cell service, so he took the call with his employees and peers in the background. The news spread quickly.

That same weekend marked the first time I completed a 20-mile training run in preparation for the Missoula Marathon. I was in good shape —at least for me. Little did I know I was in marathon shape and growing a baby inside of me. I tried my best to do both, but the child prevailed.

I had trained and trained, down to the minute and mile, only to succumb to debilitating exhaustion and morning sickness. I’ve never been close to running a full marathon again. I no longer have the urge like I once did. Seven years ago, the notion to run 26.2 miles at one time was my obsession. It was a huge deal, and then suddenly it wasn’t.

Now we have two kids and a camper for Memorial Day weekends, and now we all spend the weekend together in Glacier. Tyrel hauls the camper, and we camp on the east side of the park at either Many Glacier or Two Medicine with several of our dearest friends, to be near him, but also to revel in the wonder of spring in Glacier National Park: snow-capped peaks, wildlife galore, children running wild, hikes completed, lively conversations, camp cocktails and laughs.

It’s such a lovely time — rain, shine or snow. We’ve had it all. This year, we returned sunburned and ready for summer.

We sit around the campfire, telling each other what’s planned each and every weekend of the summer. We try not to let the anxiety creep in as we count, on one hand, the amount of unplanned or “free” weekends still available. We know that it’s Memorial Day weekend, but Halloween will be here before we know it.

I couldn’t be further from marathon shape this Memorial Day. I was proud to simply walk the few miles to Red Rock Falls. The weekend marked six weeks post-ACL surgery. It was slow and steady with sturdy friends to carry my babies when their legs fell “asleep.” Whereas last Memorial Day, I happily trotted up to several backcountry lakes, all off trail, this year I studied every pebble and rock on the trail as to not hinder the healing process.

From marathon shape and pregnancies to new babies, new friends melding with old, ACL recoveries, campers, rain, sun, and wind, this memorable weekend is one that marks many milestones, for which I’m grateful.

I’m thankful that I can recount where’re I’ve spent this holiday the past few years, along with the timeline of varying events, year to year. How each year we’re in a different place, looking at different faces with just a few more wrinkled laugh lines than the last, where we’ve gone and how far we’ve come — all of these notable timestamps marked by this long weekend, which is a rite of passage into the bustle of summer and one of my favorite times of year.

None of us win this race. We might as well be grateful for every day, every long weekend, holiday, event, milestone, hurdle and celebration.

What a difference a year makes.

Sammi is a mother, wife, business owner and marketing director at the Flathead Beacon in Kalispell. Contact her at sammi@flatheadbeacon.com.