1400 miles. Every year.
We load up the truck, taking care to bring only the bare essentials. We plan the route even though we already know it by heart. We plan whether we will drive without stopping, or if this year we will stop and spend the night somewhere. We plan surprises and pack them in little paper sacks.
We plan music and movies and audiobooks.
We plan and we anticipate, and wait for that moment when we will pull down the long driveway to one of our favorite places in the world.
My folks’ place in Colorado. The place is filled with memories for me and now I watch my kids marching around breathing this air and walking this ground that is so much a part of who I am.
This year I hung my eldest’s hammock under an ancient apple tree and caught a few minutes of reading time. Mostly the hammock was used by the younger kids to swing and giggle. When we were all here, which was for at least three of the days, there were about twenty of us clamoring around the house and the yard.
There were lots of giggles. And volleyball matches. And conversations over coffee and meals.
This house has always had two of the best porches. One porch overlooks a pasture and long view to mountains and amazing sunsets. This is the place to sit for long conversations into the evening, for watching deer or the ducks on the pond.
The front porch is the place to sit to watch all the activity. The kids riding bikes and kicking soccer balls, chasing dogs and each other. Snacks are brought and again, long conversations begin.
And I am finding that this is where we learn more of who we are. We find out our differences, and we find that our love is constant in the midst of those differences. We find out our shared stories, and the parts of the stories we had forgotten.
We remind ourselves of our shared history and we carry the current burdens together a little more lightly in the midst of the joy of fellowship.
We take the time to find out who we are once again.
This year I pushed for a picture I have wanted for a few years: a picture of the Little Miss out in the field by the house with all the men on my side of the family. Her three big brothers, her six male cousins, her four uncles, her Dad and her Grandfather. I am so glad I pushed and they were so patient as we tried to fit it in with everyone’s plans. I love the final picture:
This is my girl, and this place is part of who she is. It is a mirror of how this place was the foundation for who I am. I stomped these same grounds with strong men standing behind me. I played in the mud here and didn’t want to stop to take a bath at the end of the day either.
I didn’t want to leave.
She doesn’t either.
Nor do my boys. Every year. They want to stay. This place is part of who they are, and we never quite sure what the next year will hold. The one who put her mark on all of this place is here and yet not here. She has laughed some this trip and has been present with us, but she has been greatly missed.
And yet, her mark is everywhere. Not just in the decorations, but in the strength of the family. In the fact that every year we continue to come back. We continue to want to be together. We continue to load up the truck and drive 1400 miles (one way) to be together.
We have to take the time, to pause and to know our history. To know more than the cursory glance. When we have the chance, to stomp the ground our parents have walked and to sit on the porch with all our cousins and talk…really talk… and share stories and hear our history, we have to take those moments. They are so much more than just stories.
So thankful for this past week, yet again, and for this magical place. Thankful for pictures and for moments. For stories and for history. And for quotes which sum it all up so much better than I can….
“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” – Frederick Buechner