We cross all kinds of lines in our lives. Lines of respect, lines of conduct, lines of age, lines in the sand … lines that seem to mark a distinct separation between this and that. While I may have hidden deep in my mama’s skirt as a young child, I am not shy about crossing lines.
I tend to see them as a challenge to be met and bolster all my reserves and plunge forward.
This is not always a good thing, I might forewarn you. It can have some amazing advantages but those hidden brick walls on the other side knock a pretty good punch.
If you don’t mind the punches, go ahead. Cross the line. I dare you.
When I was 22 years old, I had just graduated from college and had $1000 to my name. I bought a plane ticket to London, England, packed my bags, and moved more than 4,500 miles away from home without a job and with only $500 cash I got for a graduation gift from my parents. I had nowhere to live and knew nothing about living overseas.
I crossed a line.
My mother said it was the bravest thing she had ever seen anyone do. At the time I just thought that’s what I wanted to do, I no obligations to anyone else, so why not do it? Had I thought about it for too long or planned for all of the ifs and wants and maybes … I never would have walked out the door.
It was a line not unlike most of the ones we face in life. Those lines of coming of age, marriage, parenthood, death of loved ones, are all challenges we plunge through without having any idea of what’s on the other side.
Oh, I know, we think we know, before we are there, before we’ve crossed the line and taken a step or two. We think we know what’s coming. We’ve prepared, you see. We’ve planned. We’ve mapped out our approach. We’ve calculated the landing.
Just like I planned our last vacation to Yellowstone National Park.
Hahahahahahahahaha …… snort ….. hahahahahahahah …. lololol
Sorry, let me wipe the tears from my eyes.
I planned that trip for months. Four days in Rocky Mountain National Park, five days in Yellowstone/Grand Tetons, two days in Mt. Rushmore with a stop at Devil’s Tower along the way, and a loop back home. It was perfect. The first night we were to meet with friends for a campfire steak dinner. Then we would spend two days hiking and driving in the park. After that we would drive to Yellowstone where we would camp out in the beautiful wilderness and cook over a campfire while taking in the sights by day. A quick drive to Mt. Rushmore would give us a nice relaxing end to make our way home on.
And that’s as far as that perfect vacation got. Oh we went to Yellowstone alright and did everything we planned on … but the list of things we didn’t plan on and the list of alterations we had to make was endless. First our car broke down and we had to move all of our stuff from a Ford Expedition to my mom’s borrowed Chevy Lumina. We didn’t get to leave on time so we didn’t get to have the steak dinner campfire with friends.
Then we were so rushed getting to do the things we wanted, we didn’t leave time to adjust to the altitude and I got altitude sickness and thought I was going to die. Because my husband didn’t want to leave me alone at the camp with the kids while he went to town for what I needed, he sent our son … who then got lost and drove half way across the state before realizing he missed his turn and had no cell phone reception to call for help …
The idyllic campsite in Yellowstone turned out to be a wedge between a rented camper and group of drunk middle aged hunters in a campground with 600 other campers … and grizzly bears … and rain. Four days of constant rain, I might add. And drunk middle aged men who peed on our tent. And grizzly bears. And rain.
Have you ever tried to cook dinner on a campfire in the rain?
And then there was the electrical outage that lasted for two days in the park which meant no showers, no washing clothes, no hot meals in a restaurant, and no working gas pumps. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Yellowstone but it’s in the middle of nowhere. NOWHERE. Did you hear me?
Having no gas pumps and no showers was pretty much equivalent to nuclear disaster.
The bus full of Japanese tourists with Noro virus really helped, too. Noro virus makes you puke your guts up. Fun. Especially with no showers and no washing machines. And rain. Did I mention the rain?
And getting sulpher fumes in my contacts was just icing on the cake. I couldn’t even open my eyes. I was walking around trying to look at all those amazing natural wonders of the world and my eyes were swollen shut and weeping.
Then it snowed. In late June. While we were puking. With drunk guys peeing on our tent. And grizzly bears digging through the campground. And our stuff crammed into a car half the size of normal. And me standing over a campfire with an umbrella trying to cook a meal everyone was going to puke up anyway. On our perfect vacation.
Of course it wasn’t all that way. We had a pretty great day when we went to Jackson Hole and rode the tram to the top of the mountain and ate chocolate and bacon waffles with hot chocolate and then strolled through the shops in the square.
And the last day in Yellowstone was beautiful and sunny and we had a great morning driving through all the stuff we hadn’t done yet and touring the lodge and eating a magnificent lunch with mango sorbet.
Then we went to Mt. Rushmore.
Apparently it always rains and is always foggy at Mt. Rushmore. All those postcards that show bright sunny days were snapped in the hour of clear weather I assume. But not only did it rain, it hailed. Baseball sized hail.
Did I mention we were tent camping?
The point is …
I planned for months so we could have the perfect vacation, the memories I wanted my children to have, the experiences we wanted to share. But life had it’s own plans.
And that’s what most of the lines we cross in life are like.
We cross the line from being a child to being an adult, from being a college student to being married, from being married to having children, from being the child to caring for our aged parents and in what seems like a heartbeat our lives have changed. That one moment in time that we can never recover slips through our fingers and our hearts and our minds – a memory now, a cherished moment, a tug at the heart.
My son and my nephew are both turning 21 soon. My parents are aging before my eyes. Some days I feel squeezed in between them, like the cream in the middle of a oreo. I want to pave the way for the boys to make their lives smoother, easier than I had it. I don’t want my parents to suffer.
I see the lines we’re all crossing, all at the same time, all on our own paths. My instinct is reach across and pull the boys through and then rush forward and pull my parents back.
But if I’ve learned anything in life at this point, it’s to take each line as they come, each day as the miracle it was meant to be. The good and the bad, the ups and the downs, all work together somehow in the end to make life what it is.