During these last six weeks, there were many times I would wake up in the morning and have to remind myself what state we were in and whose house we were at. Or, I would leave the bathroom and need to remind myself who I had just been talking to.
This is why:
27 states driven through
30 families/singles visited
21 homes slept in
6 hotel rooms
About those 9,240 miles
We had no flat tires. We had no breakdowns. Three cheers for our Honda Odyssey! Gil said, "Can you imagine driving this far in Tanzania with no flat tires?" Impossible.
We never got lost. We almost always arrived on time, except when we forgot about time zones. We used a combination of Google Maps and a GPS, and all was well. We named the voice "Betsy." Betsy never let us down. In fact, even though I was a little jealous of Betsy's ability to give directions to my husband in a calm, clear, and concise manner, she is probably the reason that Gil and I are still friends after 9,240 miles.
We listened to books on tape. We sang at the top of our lungs. We gave stickers out to anyone who didn't have to stop to pee. (Is that even legal? Oops. But nobody got dehydrated....except me, who got altitude sickness in Colorado.)
About those three kids
Our kids were amazing. They got into the car when we told them to and got out when we told them to without questioning. They hugged when we told them to hug. They never asked "Are we there yet?" Because they figured out pretty quick that we were never "there." They played with new children and new toys and slept on a new floor almost every single day. They had no schedule, no routine, no consistent bedtime. Yet they kept smiling and playing and Josiah put the seat up in the bathroom almost every time.
It helped that they could not touch each other in the car. It helped that they each had their own Kindle Fire. It helped that we had sticker charts and a prize box.
We had a great time as a family. As every good TCK knows, home is where your family is. Period.
They always smiled; they always hugged us, even if we arrived after midnight, even if they had just moved into their house the day before.
We slept in beautifully decorated guestrooms. We slept on air mattresses. We slept on couch beds in the living room. We slept on futons. A couple times people even gave us their own beds, which is a humbling experience. People always said, Help yourself to anything in the kitchen. We were made special desserts. We were taken out for ice cream. We ate grilled chicken and corn on the cob more times than we could count, which was great because we love grilled chicken and corn on the cob, but it did become a kind of standing family joke because we had it so many times. At least 4 families were into whole foods and gave us raw milk and organic apples. Other families brought southern-style BBQ take-out or microwaveable meals.
All of it, every bit, was amazing. I loved witnessing different family cultures--on raising kids, on cooking food, on house decoration and cleanliness, on bedtimes and routines and different kinds of fun. There were big houses and small houses, rented houses and owned houses, brick houses and wood houses, city houses and rural houses. I have never experienced so many different types of homes and families and types of family culture in such a short amount of time.
Hospitality is not dead in America. Every home was welcoming and warm--every one. It didn't matter whether they had a beautiful guest room or just an air mattress. It didn't matter if they were great cooks or just reheated something. They all were generous; they all gave us their time, their energy, their love.....and it all was wonderful.
For most of my adult life, I have been the host. I love being the host. I had a harder time being the guest--the receiver. To be the recipient of so much generosity and grace was very humbling.
About the people
Do you realize how astounding it is to realize that you have friends all over America?
We have said good-bye in our lives more than I care to remember.
Between being a missionary kid and an adult missionary, my friendships have been transient. I seem to lose them and get new ones every couple of years, and that has often been really, really hard.
But the benefit?
Now I have friends all over the United States.
During these last six weeks, Gil and I often said that we felt like we were debriefing from....our entire lives. We visited friends from pretty much every major season of our lives. We got to reconnect with people and re-live memories that spanned from my childhood onward. It was incredible. Over dinner, around a backyard campfire, in a hot tub under the stars, many times over the din of children jumping, children laughing, we talked. The long, deep, soul-nurturing conversations with history-friends were definitely the highlight of this trip.
Thank you, Friends. We are so blessed by you.