At first, it seemed to be the trip of broken things. In the first couple days, my new IPod Touch (that I had spent a bazillion dollars loading up with road trip playlists, movies for the kids, a book for me, and podcasts for the whole family) broke. Just broke. Silently, it refused to turn back on, no matter how charged, ever again. Next came my purse, which flew off my arm as I was walking into the hotel. The strap and it’s holder having decided to part ways in its own inanimate divorce proceeding, which left it unfixable. One of my favorite earrings went in with me to a rest stop bathroom, and was never heard from again. Dangerous places, those rest areas.
After that, it was kind of like a comedy of errors, or like the set up in a kitschy 80’s movie, but without the following makeover montage. Our air conditioner in our minivan broke. This happened on the day that we made it out of 70-80 degree weather, and into Texas, which reached 99 degrees while we were there. Our right front tire decided that Texas was also a good place to die, and gave up the ghost. Mother Nature had determined that I would handle this whole trip better with her monthly reminder of my former fertility, and came over a week early for her visit. With. No. Warning.
Ahem. By this time, one of my daughters had gotten hurt and I was started to feel every mile of the distance between us and home. 1300 miles is just so much farther than it looks like on a map.
But then, something happened. Everywhere we went, things were whole, or more whole than we had expected. Not that I knew what to expect. My husband hadn’t been back to Texas in almost 30 years, and as I am 34, I had never been there with him. When he left, things were less than ideal. But, as it is not my story, it is not my place to speak of brokenness that I have never experienced. Though, I have certainly had some of the pieces dropped in my lap, just because that’s how it goes when you love someone. Which is not that it has been a one way street. Part of my wedding dowry was a father shaped hole that I didn’t know how to fill. But, more on that at a later date.
In Texas, we gained so much more than we had dared to hope for. A brother, a really good brother, who is kind and generous, hard-working, patient, and knows how to love. A sister in law that is beautiful inside and out, diligent, funny, understanding, and has a quiet strength that seems rare in someone that young. A cousin for my children, who is sweet, fun, smart, and already missed.
We found a deeper relationship with my father in law, his wife, and her son and daughter in law. All of whom were lovely people and welcomed our large family with open arms. And, in whose yard my daughters were able to fulfill a lifelong goal of playing barefoot inside of a large fountain. My children relished the time and attention they were shown by this never before known set of grandparents.
My Mother-In-Law turned out to be the opposite of what I had feared. She was small and frail, but only physically. She has the kind of spirit that cannot fit inside the bounds of a human body. Even from a hospital bed, she is larger than life. She has eyes that tell so much more than words are capable of, and she is funny. She was welcoming and full of compliments for me. Most importantly, she loves my husband. Loves him, in a way that I hadn’t known that she did, but which I will never forget.
We found my husband’s best friend from his childhood. Spent hours watching as our children became instant friends and played together in the same yard that held so many memories for the two of them. We talked and talked, couple to couple, sharing lives and stories. Letting our words create a sort of patchwork quilt over the past, warming the holes that had been there, and filling them with something. Before we left, I was given their secret to great ribs, which I have never made or known how to make. Or eaten, but that’s beside the point.
It seemed that everywhere we went, the miraculous was not only possible, but occurred in front of our very eyes. Maybe it wasn’t the biggest of miracles, but it felt that way. Like healing earthquakes. Our foundations rocking, shifting, and coming together as a more whole and strong structure, one that can actually endure.
It was exactly what we needed. Only we hadn’t even known we needed it. Somewhere between here and there, and back again, we found a part of us that had been missing. Family and friends, but also each other again. We found the US that we are supposed to be. The us that in darker times, I had wondered if it was possible to be. Suddenly, the world was right, and beautiful, and singing with possibility. If I had hilly meadow to throw my arms out to and twirl, while singing on-key, for a change, I would have. I still might. I just hope google maps isn’t around to capture it, if I do.