3084 Miles of Road
“We’ve just driven the entire length of Interstate 84,” Sara said, “and we’re only in Utah.” She was in the driver’s seat at that moment, and we were 500+ miles east of Portland, Oregon – the hometown we’d left at sunrise, encased in a rectangular cube of mostly yellow – a rental truck filled up with Sara’s 28-year lifetime of belongings.
For a mom and daughter, this is one of those big big deals. She’s taken a big job, far away. And, she’s right on time in a lifetime all her own.
This is a blog on highways, motherhood, and the unspeakable good fortune of human relationship. It can only be too short – the subjects impossible ever to exhaust.
Highways – We traveled 3084 miles of road. From Portland to Highland Park, NJ. We passed out of the Columbia Gorge, over the Wasatch mountain range and through Madison County in Iowa – where, we learned, John Wayne was born. We drove by the Military Vehicles Museum just west of Kearney, Nebraska and rolled through a few water gaps in Pennsylvania.
From time-to-time stretches of asphalt were dedicated to U.S. Presidents. Eisenhower, of course, since he started the whole Interstate highway system back in the 50’s. “Like snakes across the land,” a Paiute Elder said to me once. For us, the highways were 13-15 hour-a-day stage across which we moved, quick as we could, Morse-coding our way from one plateau in my young-adult daughter’s life to the next.
Motherhood – Wow. Yesterday, my own mother sent a text message. It was morning in New Jersey, only two days after our arrival, and I was just out the door to walk with Sara to her first day of work. All the boxes were unpacked and most of the wall-art was hung. We were astonished at distance, at luck, at what seemed such unobstructed efficiency. My mom wrote, “I know the joy of a mother. I’m so glad you are there.”
I found her words in my thoughts several times before I finally felt them for what they were – the best possible conveyance of yet another human experience impossible to describe. The way motherhood can never be understood by those mothered, or any who have not been mothers – the way it continues an abundant and demanding teacher from the birth of each baby forward. The way motherhood’s lessons may never be learned before their time. My mother’s four girls are all now 50+ and the curriculum of motherhood continues to hone her daily in ways I cannot yet understand.
Human Connection – Then across the miles were people, as varied as the land through which we drove. The woman who kindly fetched salt for my hardboiled egg in a Super 8 in Ogden, UT early on day two, her character as textured and unassuming as the etched and majestic redrock stretched beneath the Wyoming sky. The Bonners – a family in Omaha, their backyard reaching to the horizon with fields of high corn. A family rich in cats, a dog, league baseball, league volley ball, dance, quiet smiles and sturdy love. And in Ohio, the extended family of my daughter’s father – three siblings, a niece and her husband who gathered to welcome us from across communities strewn around Columbus. Family members as diverse as the country in age and race and politics – in how the world looks from where each one stands.
While the land held us up, the people offered attention, rest, generosity. They lent comfort. All of them forged by journeys of their own.
Then there was the cat, Addie. Yes, a cat. Twelve years old, weak in the hips and back legs. A miracle. A total familiar for my daughter and, for us, a talisman for day after day of mile after mile. Addie the constant for Sara that threads together one place (Pacific), with another (Atlantic) in the mysterious weaving together of her one wild and precious life.
We are all three safe. I am on a plane back to the Pacific Northwest. Sara is in her office-with-a-door-and-window (first of her career), and she is working hard. Because she is brilliant. And as big as the job she’s taken on.