There and Back Again

There and Back Again June 7, 2011
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The three of us before leaving for Las Vegas

Three years ago, the Ogre and I drove from Colleyville, TX to Las Vegas, NV. We were bright-eyed and freshly scrubbed, full of enthusiasm for the next adventure life would bring us. We knew that we were leaving all our family, all our friends, and a stable job with a nice paycheck in the dust of our little Volvo, and that the new journey we were embarking upon would be a difficult one. But ultimately, we hoped that it would bring us closer to our goal in life: one doctorate, one MFA, one tenure-track job, two sweet little girls, and one modest little house in which to grow our family.

I sat beside my husband on that long trip, shifting often and pressing my hands against the little feet kicking inside my stomach. Sienna sat in the middle seat behind us, cozily tucked into her carseat in between piles of pillows, blankets, and snacks, alternately watching movies on the little DVD player and dozing. The Ogre was nearing the end of his Master’s thesis, so we stopped often for him to type a little and send emails. The trip was long, and not terribly pleasant, but we arrived intact to a small, white apartment with blue trim that blazed under the hot desert sun.

So much would happen in that little apartment, and in the neighboring one we would eventually shift to to accommodate our growing family, that the family that emerged from the desert would be nearly unrecognizable. Nothing went the way we planned it. There is no MFA, no completed dissertation, no job, and no house. But there is a surprise son, three years of teaching experience and hours upon hours of study logged, a blog built out of desperation, friendships forged in the fire of isolation, and an uncharacteristic and completely bizarre decision to make and sell jewelry.

Then there is us. There is the highly active five-year-old, whose energy and determination, so vivid and intense three years ago, is rivaled now only by her deep compassion and unfailing sweetness of spirit. She has become my companion, my right hand, and my delight over the last years of exile.  There is the two-and-a-half-year-old, the toddler who is the same age now as her sister was when we moved to Vegas, and who is the image of her father as much as Sienna is the image of me. She is sensitive and stubborn and a complete mystery to me. Her ways are as inscrutable and her mind as unfathomable as the bearded man from whom she sprung, and yet she is all the more precious for it. And then there is the little man, the surprise gift from God who, from the moment we were aware of him, has propelled us to explore and understand our relationship with God, each other, and our children in a way we never had before.

And the Ogre and me, well, we might as well be a completely different couple. We left Texas newlyweds still, out of the honeymoon part of marriage and into the miserable “we made those vows and have to keep them, but we don’t have to like it” phase. We’ve learned to love each other, to rely on each other, to support each other, but most of all we’ve learned to put ourselves away.

Looking back over the last three years is nearly as exhausting as looking ahead. It was a hard road, and the one to come, with separation imminent, looks just as rocky. But at night when I whisper prayers and trace the sign of the cross on three small foreheads, when I feel my hand encircled by rough, calloused fingers and look into eyes that know the last years just as deeply as I do, that have shed tears along with my tears, I am comforted by the knowledge that I am not the one drawing the map of our lives. There is Someone greater, Someone who has already taken two lost, broken souls and made a new and beautiful creation out of them. If the hardships that are to come bring us anything even remotely as beautiful as what we have now, I welcome them gladly.

(Ahem…maybe not gladly, but you know what I mean.)

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