On Wednesdays, I write letters.
Dear Tiny Road Trippers,
Preschool closed down last week. It’s you and me and some vacation days and I want to take you away—from all the rat race of hide-and-go-seek in the evening backyards and Laundry Day and Morning Chores. Let’s go up to western Minnesota, you and me. I think the drive is only 7 hours, but it’s really 8. With all our stopping and getting mixed up, the entire trip is 9. And for the first three hours, when one of you has to pee so desperately, twice, I think about turning around, think I don’t really have to do this. We could spend a happy few days at home, emptying the dishwasher and doing laundry and summer math facts and driving to the lake. But when we’re home, it’s so hard to break each of us from what pulls us most powerfully. My email account. Your smart phones. Your singular love for the 3-year-old neighbor boy.
|Auntie Nay and Tiny piggy-backing|
So here we are in a small town of 1,900, and when we drove in I felt myself relax. Felt we could just hunker down with the Boy's* family, now our adopted family, and walk the barely trafficked streets, run on the empty high school track, wave at neighbors, play at the playground, swim, beach. Of course, two of you can’t get through the day without a Minecraft marathon (curses on Minecraft!), but that’s okay; it gives me time with Tiny who, after a good nap, has turned so charming and sweet again and in love with her cousins and their dogs and her auntie.
|Tiny, Cash, and Ruby|
Life seems so simple here, if expensive. Auntie Nay says the groceries cost way more than what they cost us back home. There’s a Walmart and a Hy-Vee about an hour away, and that’s it. People here are farmers or teachers or doctors and some of them are out of work, and it’s calm and quiet except for when the St. John church bells ring at 5 p.m. for Saturday evening mass.
And now, I’m sitting on the bed at dusk next to Tiny as she whispers the words to "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" and fingers the movements in the warm, sticky air above her head until she pauses and leans over, still whispering, “Mom, my arm is tired. My arm is tired.”
“Okay. Well. Let it sleep.” I whisper back, and she receives this without comment and moves her fingers to tickling her belly.
|Dinner by sunlight.|
In some ways, all our arms have gotten tired from holding up the routine. So then, we should let them sleep these few days before we face school registration and work and the Daily Grind.
Also, I just love you more and better when we pause all that other stuff so we can just be. Let’s always remember to do that. You’re getting so old and, I fear, drawing away each in your own little ways. This is normal, but sometimes we get so far apart that when I look at you this week I see both desire and uncertainty in one of your little faces; you’re wanting to get close like you were when you held my hand voluntarily everywhere we walked, but you don’t know how to get there without doing that.
After our visit, we stop in Minneapolis to see more cousins and that giant mall "of America." While driving through one of the many tiny country towns, I exclaim, “Look, here’s a town that’s ten seconds long! If you blink, you might miss it.” And you older ones unwrap the earbuds from around your ears and stare. “Whooa.”
|Oldest, Middle, and cousins|
There was a time when I had so much time that I walked hours daily to fill it. Around and across neighborhoods in all seasons of the year, I noticed things like rusty cars, children whining on the sidewalk, a dog sniffing near a ravine in the park. With all my modern-day efficiency strategies, all the smarts of smartphones, I’ve thought I’ve done myself a favor by filling up the time. I've been Getting More Stuff Done, so much that I’ve forgotten to be and notice as much as I've wanted to. And I haven’t helped you practice those things as much either.
“Mama,” Tiny says from her carseat as we exit the town. “I blinked but I didn’t miss it!”
I think, then, that there is still hope for us, despite all the blinking we do--for connecting, for paying attention, for being. And we can start now with this road and with this trip--with the shanty towns, the speckled cows, the chilled blue water of the community pool, and the street lined with toads that jump frantically out of our path. Let's do our best not to miss too much.