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Counting January 7, 2010

Posted by markgeil in Family, People, Travel.

An emerging purple sunrise lit my rearview mirror as I drove west in silence. We like to leave early for our family road trips, and we usually have a rule that no one is allowed to talk until 7 a.m. When the kids were younger, we hoped that decree would encourage them to go back to sleep. Nowadays road trips are so easy it doesn’t really matter if they sleep or not.

Silence is foreign to me. I’m never in the car without the stereo on, and I usually have some sort of background music on at work. Still, I know the quiet is good for me. It makes me thoughtful and reflective. The calm on that morning drive allowed me to marvel at the sunrise and steal a few glances at the sleepy children behind me. We were on our way home after seven days in North Carolina visiting family during Christmas. The combination of fresh Christmas memories, the road home, the sleepy kids, and the silence led me to a do something that’s as trite as a children’s song but so healthy: I counted my blessings.

On the way home, I counted home as a blessing. We looked forward to going back home, even as we drove toward a house full of Christmas decorations that would need to come down (one of which was my massive pre-lit arch that barely fits through any of our doorways), full of fixtures and appliances that are near that 10-to-15-year breaking point, but full of warmth and familiarity and comfort. We have grown our roots here for more than a decade, so they have gotten pretty deep. We laugh a lot here, and we’ve gotten good at establishing a place where the travails of the world can be met with reassurance and love.

Home is a place of “favorites”. My favorite old sweatshirt is here, along with my favorite music and mattress and recliner. I know where the buttons are on the remote control without looking, and I know just how long to microwave the popcorn without burning it.

I counted the blessing of my kids, dozing in my back seat. Rebekah’s blonde tresses were a tangled mess, and I quietly laughed at how poorly she manages mornings. Maybe it’s that bright hair, or that sweetest of smiles, or that endearing lisp; something about her just makes her a ray of sunshine. Hannah sat beside her, her caring confidant. To see Hannah in any state of repose is a tiny bit alarming, but she did look peaceful and beautiful in her reverie. On this trip, as on so many others, Hannah’s joie de vivre had infected a house full of people. I’m glad she’s not gotten too old to go wild. Sarah Kate was not in my rear-view mirror. She rarely is. She spreads herself over the entire back of the minivan, either sleeping or reading, popping her head up occasionally like a gopher surveying the overworld. Sarah adores family time, so seeing 25 cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents on one trip was heartwarming to her. I could tell, because her eyes are so completely revelatory, and on this day they were vivid.

I counted too my wife, not quite asleep in the seat beside me. I am blessed that she will spend all this time with my family in cramped quarters: in twin beds in my first childhood bedroom, around a dining room table made for six or eight but somehow accommodating a dozen or more, on shopping outings during which the itinerary is not her own but must be coordinated among other women and kids and minivans. That’s not what I counted as a blessing that morning, though. I counted the knowledge, no, more than that – the cerebral and emotional and spiritual connection – that we are genuinely made for one another. Somebody stop me before I write a Keith Urban song.

I counted other things in that silence, some less profound, like the surprising number of miles on the odometer, and how well the van has held up during all those journeys. I wondered what had become of the inflatable yard decorations I had taken down before we left. They were full of water, and I stashed a couple in the basement and one on the back porch. (Yes, we put out three enormous inflatable yard decorations. That’s how we roll.) Then I remembered my Christmas presents and the kids’, and I looked forward to playing with them.

Even today, a week later, I can’t remember all the fun stuff we did over Christmas and the funny lines that made me laugh so hard. Give me a few months and I’ll struggle to remember just how many people we visited with. But this I know, and this I will remember: I am blessed.



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