It’s amazing how unassuming life-changing moments can be. This morning I was scooting my toddler along, just like every morning, trying to get him fed, cleaned and changed with minimal damage. I managed to get him fed and with the help of my stepmom we was cleaned and changed. He managed to dump my favorite earrings down the drain and poop twice before 10. A familiar routine.
Except for the not-s0-subtle reminders that today is not like every other day. A friend stops by to say goodbye and our boys play like always but when mine refuses to hug goodbye I feel a twist in my stomach. I know he needs to give this hug because we’re not 100% sure when the next one will be available. Cleaning-up after breakfast was an event to be envied by Monica herself. The kitchen is sparkling. The earrings were rescued in a panic because they’re my favorite and I don’t know when I’ll be back to get them.
Then, there’s the part where my stepmom, aka “NayNay” drives us to the airport. Gripping on to a one-way ticket. At some point, my throat gets tight. My eyes fill with tears. I blink them away. I take deep breaths. She hears me and sniffs. I look over and she’s holding the tears back too. “It’s far,” she chokes out. “Whatever happened to ‘It’s only a plane flight away’?!” I ask, trying to laugh. “I lied!,” she blurts out with tears and laughter. Then our attention is turned to our GPS and we tuck away the tears for now.
She pulls in to park so that she can help me check-in our billowing amount of luggage, stuffed with space-bags and every little thing that I might wish I had. I explain to Luca that we’re going on a plane now to see Daddy and Papa and Gigi and Leroy too! He’s so excited! Then pauses, “NayNay plane too?” Those tears take the opportunity for escape. “No honey, NayNay can’t come too this time.” “NayNay plane too!!” His brow furrows. “I’m sorry, Honey, I wish NayNay could come too.” He’s processing…“NayNay stay.” “Yes, Love, NayNay has to stay.” Hold it together. I have to stay focused. Sure enough, through the tears we forget a bag and rush back to the car to get it.
When you’re going through a major life change it seems like you should be designated some sort of special badge informing the rest of the world that you must be handled with care. Luckily, despite my lack of signage everyone was so friendly and helpful as I tackled security with a monkey on my back. At our gate, Luca bounced up and down, thrilled to see the planes and singing “Daddy! Daddy! Gigi Papa!!” My heart rests. Familiar faces and the only Texan home I’ve ever known will embrace us.
The gift shop is filled with California paraphernalia and I find myself wanting to purchase the entire lot. Surf Board chocolate bars. State-shaped refrigerator magnets. Sand filled key chains. I love California. I love the beach, surf-inspired culture. I start to feel nostalgic and then I laugh at myself. It’s all fake. I mean I know people really do surf and that Endless Summer culture exists somewhere there but it wasn’t mine. I just liked knowing it was there, available to me for the taking. Reality is, I loved going to the beach but we only made it there about once or twice a month at most. The water was too cold for me to surf. I need to remember this as we venture to our gate.
I check the stroller. “Is Austin your final destination?” My heart skips a beat. “Yes.” She tags it up and we walk away. The arrows leading to the plane… Are there always that many? Read: Austin. Over and over again. I follow them. We get on the plane and I find myself among other people. I relax. Isn’t that weird? People live everywhere. People that look like they could live where you live. They are everywhere. I will say that there quite a few hippies on this plane though. A strange sort of comfort as I munch on my roasted plantain chips. People are everywhere.
Now, I sip my ginger ale while Luca dozes. He innocently sleeps and I can’t help but feel I’ve been gifted an angel. I remember his tears when he couldn’t bring NayNay. Then I remember his contagious enthusiasm at the gate. Bursting with excitement for what was to come. Now he sleeps without a care in the whole world. He trusts. This is what child-like faith looks like. Grief followed by hope. No, more than hope. It’s a certain knowing that what’s to come is good.
Earphones in. Taylor Swift on. The screen on the seat in front displays our airplane has its nose in Texas. I breathe. Now I will rest too. I’ll read a novel with a happy ending and trust. This is a big change but I will be ok. God gave me a word for this year and that word is: Joy. When it was given, it felt like a twisted joke. I was sad and aching. My heart will always have a space that aches to be close to those whom I love in California. It will always long to see the sparkling waters that grace Laguna Beach. But that’s ok. God has new things for me in Texas and my heart will grow to make space for those things too.