Sunday, October 25, 2009

Write of Passage-Day 1

August 2, 2009: Deerfield, MI to Davenport, Iowa (412 miles)

"Let your heart be your map." ~Hannah, 8/2009

Left home just after 1:00 p.m., after attending church in the morning and packing the car over lunch. Kind of weird heading out. Cote and I were excited, but we admitted it didn't feel real to either one of us. Felt more like we were on our way to Toledo for a day of shopping. When we hit the turnpike, however, and pointed the car west (don't we always go east?), reality began to set in. As we plucked our ticket from the big metal box and resumed our speed, our bodies seemed to sigh in unison and slide more comfortably down into the cushions of our seats. Was it my imagination, or had we been holding our breaths until then?

Light-hearted attitudes and conversations continued for awhile, but before long, the miles and minutes began to pass
in silence. We crossed the Indiana border, then the Illinois. Somewhere in that quiet stretch of highway, I had a mini-moment of panic.....What if the entire trip was like this? Long periods of time, with nothing but silence and changing landscapes taking
place between us? As quickly as that fear grabbed me, I let it go, however. I cracked open the window of my mind and let the eastbound breeze take it back to wherever it came from. I knew Cote and myself far better than to waste another minute fearing something like this. We had 12 long days ahead of us, with nothing but open roads to travel and wide open spaces to fill. There was no need to immediately unpack every question and conversation we had tucked into the suitcases of our minds. Rushing things would have felt forced, fake. Later in the evening, I realized what was really happening during those first few hours of our journey.....we were relaxing, releasing, and just being. We were emptying ourselves of all those distracting details that occupy one's minds every minute of the day. We were wiping the slate clean, in preparation of the lessons that would begin to arrive with tomorrow's sunrise. We were consciously allowing our souls to be silent in the wake of what was coming.
Topping our tank off in Toledo, took us as far as the cornfields of Princeton, IL.
(At which point, I was surprised to see we had less than "50 miles till empty" reading on our gas gauge. I had forgotten that as the only "acting" parent on this 5,000-mile trek, I would be the one solely responsible for such details as when to refuel! So, I petitioned Cote to pray for a quick-appearing gas station, and then made a mental note to check the gauge more regularly.)
Seven hours of driving didn't pass without a major mother/daughter discussion, however. The topic? "The Do's and Don'ts of Texting, 101." Cote and I stumbled into this conversation basically because she has a cell phone that works, and I don't. Let me explain...Her cell phone easily holds 5 full bars of reception and a reliable charge that can last for days. Mine must be plugged in for 18 hours so I can make one phone call before the line goes dead. Her cell phone takes messages, pictures, and can calculate how much to tip a waiter for a $13.68 bill. Mine will tell me if I missed a call (but not from whom). Hers, obviously has the ability to text. Mine has the ability to serve as a pretty paperweight for the stack of receipts I keep in the console of my car. It was easy to see who's phone would get the most use throughout the course of our entire trip.....Anyway, talking about the differences in our phones led to a late afternoon discussion on texting. Cote and I talked about our views on what's right, what's wrong, what's acceptable, and what's rude when using this modern form of communication. The slight (?) generation gap between us widened a bit as I expressed the negatives and Cote defended the positives. In the end, she agreed that in the presence of certain people (namely her mother at this point), it was rude to text or check for a text. And I conceded that yes, texting was a viable form of communicating with old friends and reaching out to new ones, and even suggested that her generation of "text-ters" may be expected to skillfully use this method of technology in the business world of tomorrow. But by the time Cote and I crossed over the Mississippi River, we had dipped even deeper into the whole "cell phone/texting" code of etiquette. We talked about how important it is to think about the message you're truly sending if you text while in the presence of someone else. Not the message you are typing with your thumbs and sending with the click of the keypad. But the message you are non-verbally sending to the person who is standing physically in front of you when you do. If you stop the flow of face-to-face friendship, in order to talk to the "invisible" face at the other end of your tiny keyboard , then what are you really saying? You're telling the person you're with, "You're not enough for me. I'm going to put some of my time and attention over here." What's more, you're placing yourself in two locations at once....something that used to be impossible to do....and for good reason. For if you divide yourself between two places, you can't be fully present in the magical moment of either. You'll end up with a chunk of time and attention that has been sliced, and diced, and split apart forever. And in the end, all that you'll have to show for your "dual-communicating" is a handful of texts that could have waited until later, and an opportunity missed entirely to be one-on-one with the one you're with.
Cote and I called it a night when we hit Davenport, Iowa, around 8:00 pm and pulled in to the AmericInn motel. As we walked inside our room, she handed me two letters from loved ones back home that she had kept secret from me in her backpack.
"Sure," she said. "You get two letters and I don't get anything. How do you like that?"
I turned my head and smiled. For I had 14 secret letters of my own, written by 14 incredible women from Cote's life. Months ago I had asked these women to do this.....write words of advice and and inspiration from their own lives for Cote to read and take to heart while on this sacred rite of passage. The letters would be handed out, one by one, over the next 12 days with no mention of when or from whom. I decided to let Cote "suffer"empty-handed a bit longer, while I savored my own unexpected letters and she took her shower. I still held off while she ate Chinese take-out, "face-booked" and sent goodnight text messages to her girlfriends back home. Then, just before she turned out the light, I casually tossed her first sealed envelope onto her bed. Cote let out a whoop of delight, and grabbed the precious gift, hugging it to her chest. Her fingers slid the note out from its holder, this one from Aunt Cathy, and the room fell silent as Cote fell under the spell of words carefully written in pen, just for her......

1 comment:

  1. Sure... the room fell silent as you both dozed off! Oh, well, maybe the next letter will be better:) Aunt C


Powerful Words

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable. ~Kahlil Gibran