Just now, I was driving home. Weaving my way through familiar, but snow-chilled roads, darkened because of the late hour. The air outside is heavy on this January night, as if it had been holding its breath until Christmas, and had exhaled almost all of its light two weeks ago. It is quiet. The kind of quiet that makes usually unnoticed sounds loudly reverberate, until even car tires going smoothly over pavement seem to disrupt nature.
I was alone in my minivan, which is relatively rare. It feels like wearing a dress five sizes too big, out in public. This is just me, right now, but I am so much more, I want to say. I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend. I fill each of these seats, almost daily, with people that mean the very most to me. But just now, as I was driving, they were home, snuggled safely in the beds that I make. Wrapped up, like joyful burritos, in the warmth of clean blankets. Their freshly washed hair, splaying over pillows that I have purchased from one of millions of trips to Target or Costco.
I am more than I look like, right now, alone. Even if I don’t look it. Even if I forget it.
My stomach growled its protest as I continued driving past a still-open Mexican restaurant. What is it about tamales that make them always sound so good? I wondered, but kept driving.
The temperature seemed to descend quickly, black ice formed patterns on well-travelled roads. Just after the swelling gray, otherworldly cathedral, a sprawling, taupe hospital rose in front of me. Hundreds of lives hung in the balance inside. Isn’t this place sacred, too? This ever revolving door to eternity, where first and last breaths are taken, where prayers are answered, and hopes are forsaken. Isn’t this space filled with life and death? This building where waxed floors gleam, and blood spills too freely, where boring means that another heart will awaken, and forever will have to wait, just a while longer.
I have been there, have spent so many nights, looking out of those impersonal rooms, through the waist to ceiling windows. Sometimes looking up, begging, other times looking down, thanking. All five of my babies have used their voice for the first time in the sanctuary of those hallowed walls. Bright lights, metal, and sterile cotton have born witness to there being a reason that my own heart keeps beating. I have sung and swayed, lost in this something that is so much bigger than my ability, this nurturing of humans that will one day call me Mommy. My rough hands, always too large, have been baptized by the wonder of faces so new to this earth, and have softened, impossibly, into instruments both gentle and sure, as if this was not their first time touching glory.
I have been changed, more inside those walls, than inside of any church.
Still, tonight, I feel lucky to keep driving by.
The skyline twinkles, a million man-made stars, fighting off darkness, 100 watts at a time. I pause at a light, that is only directing me, then make my way swiftly through the lonely intersection. Within moments, I find myself at our house. It is a place I too often want to escape, or take for granted. But now I find, it is everything I need, and where I want to be. The view may be lacking, but I’m grateful for what I can clearly see. Tonight, this old home that seems like it doesn’t have a prayer, feels like heaven to me.