At first I was unsure of what the trip would bring. Only the week prior did I have a low grade fever. And I was concerned about driving across the country alone with my seven year old. Would I still be suffering from the struggle back home? Would I miss my partner and my animals? Would I be able to combat the fear of uncertainty of new places and appreciate the traveling?
Almost immediately upon our departure I felt myself lighten up. I felt comfortable in the car and just short of thrilled to be on the road. I forgot about that feeling. One of movement, undertaking, directed effort. I used to travel all the time and loved it. Even the scary moments, of which there were few, held value then and now a story to tell.
I also remembered, during that first hour of driving, what a fantastic traveler my son is. When it is just he and I, he is well behaved and mature, not feeling the need to compete with anyone for attention. He sat in the back for a few hours, playing with Lego men, finding Waldo, and once in a while chatting with me. Eventually, he requested a movie, and I was happy to oblige. We were well on our way to adventure.
The trip was broken into two parts. And without recapping every detail, it is enough to say that part one, in Madison, WI was a six-day stint of mountains and canyons. While there were a few difficult times, they are not worth telling here. There were also some wonderfully high moments, as forty-five of my relations gathered to celebrate our Great Aunt’s 100th birthday. There were kids and adults of all ages. Somehow, miraculously, we all got along.
At one point during the gathering, there was a time when the kids were otherwise occupied and everyone was encouraged to stand up and say a few words about their world, and what they have been up to since we have seen each other last. I was astounded at the variety of our group. Among others, we’ve got a costume designer teaching kids to sew, a self employed house cleaner, a retail worker, an air force pilot, a long distance truck driver, a doctor, a nurse, a lawyer doing murder trials, a stay-at-home mom, and a naturalist saving a river. It was so impressive to me, all the things my family is doing, and the breadth and depth of what our family has diverged into.
The time the hotel right on Madison’s capitol square passed quickly. And I was sorry to say goodbye to my delicious hotel bed, and room, and of course my family.
Then, my son and I made our way back to the east, to our family’s summer cottage in Michigan. This country setting was quite a contrast to the city life in Madison, and we enjoyed a calm and peaceful few days. We walked the land, ate chips and salsa with my mom and my aunt, and readjusted to a quieter, less rushed life. I remembered what that place feels like and how I thrive on it. The cottage is a place that revitalizes my connection to myself.
Finally, after almost two weeks of being away, my son and I began the drive home. Going back is always less fun that going away. But as I sped along the Ohio turnpike and the long stretches of quiet road in NY, I reflected on what the trip had done for me. It seemed to have re-calibrated my brain. Like resetting a clock, I felt like I got a chance to rework my perception of life back home. I got to see my life through the lens of distance. I got some perspective. I found balance.
So we drove and we drove. And as we topped the hill that looks out over the valley of Ithaca, I felt what I always feel upon arrival home. Happiness.