On Wednesday, the boys and I packed ourselves like sardines into the car and set out to drive 591 miles in a single day. I wondered about the smoke and haze of the previous week’s fires outside of Redding, California, and whether the coloring books and binoculars and shared iPad would be enough for a six-year old and almost four-year old to make it ten and a half hours in the car.
But then, miracle of miracles, we made it.
We pulled into the driveway of our new home in Oakland, California, happy to see Dada, happy to not be confined any longer to a 38.5 square foot metal box.
And at that point, I just had to laugh: I might be a professional storyteller, but I still wouldn’t – or couldn’t – have made up the plot twists over the last couple of years.
The intimate details aren’t for public consumption, but I will say this:
Twenty months ago, we left Oakland, California for a job opportunity in Seattle, Washington. Although my husband regularly traveled back here for work, it took me nearly a year and a half to come back back for a visit. I hadn’t been ready – actually, legitimately ready – to return, mostly because my heart still ached for this place.
Besides, Seattle was starting to grow on me. We were finding our people, rekindling old friendships and birthing new ones, too. Ever the optimist, I truly believed we could make the Pacific Northwest work, that our tangled roots would grow deep down into the fertile soil.
But then, the curviest of curveballs from the far reaches of left field, a new chapter neither one of us saw coming: we were moving back to Oakland, California, back to the place that held our hearts, to the people who spoke our language.
And that brings us to the present, to the place where laughter remains my only response.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I enjoy my fair share of tears. In the past year, I have shed tears of lament and tears of frustration; I have heaved tears of sadness and tears of anger.
Sometimes I’ve wondered if there are enough buckets to hold my grief.
But for today, and at least for Wednesday’s drive south, that isn’t the case. Instead, it’s like joy rumbles around deep inside my belly, breath by breath, well up from the inside of my body.I spot an In-N-Out Burger set to open in Grants Pass, Oregon: a second In-N-Out, north of the California border? You can’t make this stuff up. A chuckle emits from my throat.
A little while later, I honk my horn at the “Welcome to California!” sign, just south of Ashland. “WOOHOO!” I yell aloud, and the boys stare numbly in reply. They can’t read yet, let alone understand the significance of the blue and yellow sign on the side of the freeway, but still I laugh. It’s like I can’t help myself.
And I shake my head when “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” starts playing for the twelfth time that day. Be it the car’s stereo system, my smartphone or a combination of both, when I plug my phone into the car charger, the same three songs filter through the front speakers. Is God trying to send me a message through two Pentatonix Christmas songs and “Be Here Now” by Ray LaMontangue?
I’m here, I’m present, I’m in the moment – I swear!
Dear God, I promise you I see this new life, this gift of the Holy One every inch around me. Now, can we pretty please listen to a new song on this drive?
I suppose that’s when I’m reminded that life comes to us on its own terms. The three songs begin again, and I succumb to the moment, clearing my throat so I can sing along to Christmas songs in the middle of summer. When one song ends and the next (same) song begins, I do the only thing I can do. I shake my head. I laugh. I surrender to the moment.
What else can I do? How else am I to respond anyway?
And maybe that’s the whole point. Father Richard Rohr writes the following in Just This:
For the most part, we learn both awe and surrender by letting life come at us on its own terms, by not resisting the wonderful underlying Mystery that is everywhere and all the time, as we take our place in the endless parade of all creation.
Be it laughter or tears, we enter into the moment the only way we now how: by surrendering to that which we cannot control. We move hundreds of miles south. We belt out Christmas carols in the heat of the August sun. We laugh when unforeseen changes come our way, because sometimes this is where the greatest amount of awe is found.
And here we discover the wonderful underlying Mystery.
What say you? Is laughter sometimes your only response? How have you seen the wonderful underlying Mystery?
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