Have you ever had something happen so suddenly, so frightening that you felt this sense of panic? Like if you were to see a toddler wander into the path of an oncoming train. The train is barreling down, no possibility of stopping. You can barely breathe. That jolting panic that happens when you are driving and for just one second glance down when suddenly traffic has stopped and the reality of colliding with the car ahead sends adrenaline rushing through you. Or you may feel that when you get close to a cliff or have to speak in front of people, or see a snake coiled in your path. When that actually happens, usually it changes quickly. You grab the child, swerve to miss the car in front of you, back away from the danger. Once through that fear, you calm yourself. The adrenaline dissipates, you return to normal. Phew, that was awful. Don’t you hate that feeling? It feels good to have it drain out of you, your heart slows again, you breathe deep. Can you imagine staying at that place of fear? Just how exhausting it would be? Desperately wanting, waiting for the feeling to stop, to lift. That feeling, that’s what I had for the better part of two years. Every. Waking. Moment.
It’s only fair to give a little background. I’m not good at this. I’ll give a fly over of my life. A few weeks after my dad graduated from college, I was born. Fourth of July. I can only imagine my parents and older brother were thrilled. I grew up thinking (because that’s what my grandpa always told me) that the fireworks were for me. I believed it.
We moved a lot. By the time I settled in what I considered my hometown at 9 years old, I had lived in 8 cities, including five states. No my dad wasn’t a wanted man. It was just varying circumstances. I came to fourth grade, my third elementary school, having been uprooted a few times. I say this just to say, I wasn’t a kid that didn’t know a little bit about flexibility. We stayed put for the next several years, through junior high and my freshman year in High School. Then at that crucial time in my adolescence life we drove from the West Coast across the entire country to the East Coast. We had a Chrysler New Yorker and a 21 foot trailer. I was no stranger to road trips but this one took the cake. Along with my brother and sister, I was trapped in the back seat for 3,000 miles. My grandparents took this voyage with us, as they did on most trips. They had their own rig and the best reprieve was transferring to the front seat of their 68 Chevy truck. I would position myself between the two of them and pop onto their CB radio. (for those of you unfamiliar with CB radio, it stands for Citizen’s Band radio. It was like a walkie talkie used between drivers.) This of course was way before cell phones. It was like magic. You had to use the proper lingo. “KBY5598, over, when is the next pit stop?” and then someone from my parents’ car would respond, using their call number. It was official and absolutely the best. And pretty much my main source of entertainment. That and finding the alphabet along the way in license plates and billboards. I was intentional in calling them out, letter by letter. I can still remember my grandfather saying to my grandmother, “Does she ever stop talking?”. Apparently not.
We drove clear across America. From the Rocky Mountains to the wheat fields of Kansas. Dad would ask me to pull out the Rand McNally atlas and turn to the page that connected us with the highways and byways of that particular state we were traversing. He’d say, how far until we get to Kansas City? And I would count up all the connecting points (between each city on the map was a number that showed the distance, so once you figured out where you were currently you could add the numbers to get the grand total of how many miles you had to go) and give dad the grand total. Talk about retro. These were simple days. It’s not that I don’t appreciate my GPS, but this was different. You got the lay of the land as the entire state was laid out across your lap. I loved maps. Before these long trips we would gather the neatly folded AAA maps of each state we planned to traverse. It really was a game. We made mistakes but it was team work. We’d look at the gas tank and estimate if we could make it to the next gas station. What wasn’t necessarily on the map was a steep incline where our car might get 4 miles to the gallon and leave us praying we wouldn’t sputter to an unwanted stop in the middle of, literally, no where.
Dad had us headed on this adventure because he had some training with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for 12 months. We lived in a quaint Washington DC suburb called Potomac Village. Traveled all over. Historical sites that would exhaust the vigorous tourist. From Williamsburg to Gettysburg, every Smithsonian and national monument. It was impressive. This may sound like quite a treat for an adult, but as an insecure teen, I don’t think I approached it with a sense of zesty jolliness. It was ONLY a year, which seemed like forever.
That year marked some exciting changes and growth for me. First, I was the girl from California which was unique and brought a new found attention. I had my first boy like me. He was adorable and popular. And like all my neighbors, jewish. This brought many challenging questions, for both me and him. At the same time, I developed the greatest christian community. Through a campus group called Young Life, I began to mature in my christian faith. I was involved in a bible study, a community and went to youth camps in New Jersey and Upper State New York. Although I had a relationship with Jesus, I never knew exactly how to nurture that or had any kind of peer group that shared in this journey with me. This time had a lifelong impact on me. Leaving was another deep heartache. In those 12 short months I had made more friends than I had back home. When we returned to our house we had kept, a new high school had been opened. Another change, and my third high school. Many of the same people I knew before would be there, but there was a different emphasis in my life. Coming back I knew where I wanted to invest my time. I found my community of young people aiming to follow Jesus. High School ended with my first official boyfriend and a confidence that was growing.
Not only was college never a question, WHICH college wasn’t either. I followed my dad and my older brother to California Polytechnic State University, better known as “Cal Poly” for most of us. Having been born in this Central Coast area and grandparents who lived in the nearby town, it was our home away from home. I loved a lot about college. And it wasn’t the academics. I didn’t quite get that college actually had anything to do with classes and being educated for a higher purpose. I was admitted to the college with a science major but found that it got in my way of the rest of life. For me, it was all about relationships. I loved people. And I never had so many friends in my life. One of them is my now husband. We went on several double dates. Not with each other. He dated a girl from my sorority and I dated a guy from his fraternity. He was more of a friend of a friend, than he was anyone I would have kept in touch with. But after graduation we ended up working right next to each other in a very obscure area of my hometown. Out of obligation more than anything else, we met for lunch. We were still dating others. Until a break up happened, for both of us, and we comforted each other. With absolutely no thought or desire for anything else.
Obviously it didn’t work out that way. We got married. Who knew? To our great surprise, two weeks after we got married we were pregnant. It wasn’t a beautiful moment. In fact if I recall properly, we were in an ugly argument and part of the conversation went like this, “… and by the way, I’m late…” No hugs, or joy or happy tears. But we ended up really, really loving our firstborn. And each other. And a second one came. And a third. And a fourth. There’s a rumor that one of us wanted three kids and one of us wanted four and so we just compromised with seven. But that’s a whole other story. In the end, that’s what happened. They kept coming. Seven kids. Seven. Well and then an eighth. Oh my, so much to discuss.
The stories and antics of a house full of little people and homeschooling them all could take us off track for a very long time. Someday I need to go there too. But today is about my travelling days. You’ll have to read the “about me” entry above to fully understand why they are called my “travelling days” and why I use the British spelling. But this is my place to start. Because nothing has been the same. That’s what this dialogue will do. Mostly for me. I have to get some of my thoughts out of my head. And if they help anyone, or add insights or encouragement or just give you something to think about, then let’s begin. And we just might get into all that other stuff too.