Friday, October 30, 2015

treasure map

Traveling with toddlers is unpredictable even on short rides. Traveling 362 miles with a toddler, then turning around and driving back home the next day is a challenge.

Over the past three decades, with and without toddlers, these roads, this journey, has become too familiar.

Traveling hundreds of miles for short stays is part of our blended Iowa-Wisconsin family -- Albert Lea MN once seemed the perfect half-way point. Career opportunities did not take us there.

So as autumn moves into northern Wisconsin, we find ourselves traveling south for the funeral of the family matriarch, my mother-in-law, my husband's mother, our children's paternal grandmother. The little boy in the carseat is one of her eleven great-grandchildren. His father and his aunt occupy the front seats of the rented van; my hubby "Grumpa" is stretched out as best he can in a second row seat; i am riding co-pilot in the back row, next to the sturdy carseat that holds our most precious cargo.

"Why?" is his favorite question. "The Blu House" his favorite destination.

He treats us to nearly an hour of heart-wrenching appeals to go to The Blu House, punctuated with tears of disappointment and that favorite question, "Why?"  Our breakfast at McDonald's seems to change it up, perhaps because we invited him to choose the restaurant?  We spend the next six hours sampling the toys, games and books daddy and mommy packed for the trip, and making sure there are lots of running-playing-moving games as we visit rest areas and gas stations along the way.

For the toddler, the hotel pool offers respite, the promise of more adventure. The rosary, wake, visitation, funeral, luncheon and burial become places to meet new playmates, young life affirming hope in the dust of death.

The matriarch is remembered for homemade mac-n-cheese and sweet rolls, thoughts drift to noisy family gatherings around her kitchen table, the Thanksgiving ice storm that compelled us to stay an extra day, the weddings and funerals and baptisms that invited us to travel this way.

And then, our time here is over. We are back in the van. Reversing directions. Heading home.

The roadside running-playing-moving holds no allure. The toys, games and books packed for the trip have grown tired and stale. In an effort to avoid the "Are we there yet?" cliché i dig into my own bag of tricks and tear a blank page from my journal.

Together my grandson and i draw a secret pirate treasure map spanning three states, decorated by pictures of us as pirates with simple drawings of pirate landmarks; i soon discover that the map has turned the tables for i am the one redirecting the boredom, asking "Are we there yet?" and inviting sweet toddler fingers to find our location and inform me "Not yet!"

Over 724 miles and many-too-many hours on the road my grandson held onto hope.

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14 GNT

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