Recovery is about acknowledging, coming to believe, learning to trust, remembering, thinking through, seeking perspective, taking time to review, becoming willing to let go, gathering courage to do hard things, growing in our ability to live by revelation, serving our fellows–and all this for a lifetime. Did you notice all the “ings” on the end of those verbs? Verbs that end in “ing” are progressive verbs. They require action, but they also require time. The following piece is dedicated to those of us who are in a hurry, whose minds are going from before dawn until well after dusk, whose main objective is to get “done,” to be “fixed,” or to permanently “fix” others. It’s dedicated those of us who focus more on the product than the process. It is dedicated to me and to any of my fellow travelers who need to learn the value of taking “The Long Way Home.”
The Long Way Home
“Honey, Mom and I are taking the scenic route home tomorrow, so don’t expect me until just before the meeting tomorrow night, I’ll be there.”
My husband’s doubt rang through the silence. “What do you mean you’re taking the scenic route?”
“Well, Mom wants me to take her home by way of Panguich.”
“You know you can take her to Panguich and then turn around and head right back to the freeway. I’ll send you a google map.”
“Oh…Uh…Thanks. I’ll see ya when I see ya.”
Mom and I had just spent a week tending four grandchildren for my daughter and her husband who, after ten years of marriage had taken a well-earned, “just the two of us” vacation. Having done our utmost to qualify for our titles—“grand” mother and “great-grand” mother and with the parents back on duty, it was time for us to make our way home. We had enjoyed a very full week of fun times–splash parks, a day at Zion National Park, picnics, late night Disney movies, a grandma read-aloud of the book Sonny Elephant, etc. On the other hand we had also dealt with issues like sibling camaraderie—or not, diapers—lots of them, the piercing and unrelenting squeal of a toddler, bedtimes—or not, and last but not least, the universal desire of the children to eat only mac and cheese, pizza, or nothing! Grand as it was, these “Grand Mothers” were in need of some R&R themselves. We decided to get it by taking a “different” way home, and along the way, with the help of the Lord, I learned some sweet lessons about liv-ing in recovery:
Follow the brown signs, take a break and pull off the road, and read the plaque:
We started our “unwind” by winding our way off the freeway and away from most of the green directional signs. We chose instead to follow the brown recreational ones. Brown signs don’t take you home faster, but if you go brown instead of green you feel a whole lot better when you finally reach your destination. Note to self: Life is not just about getting from here to there, Nannette. Practice taking “the long way home,” and keep your eyes open for life’s little brown signs. Enjoy a little more recreation on the way to your destination!
This was not a “Did you see that? Too bad you missed it!” trip home. As we tootled down the road we didn’t feel at all tethered to our automobile. Several times we responded to the brown signs–the invitations to pull the car off the road, stop the car, get completely out of the car, stretch our legs, and take a good look—at something. There must actually be people who make a living by traveling, stopping, taking a “good look” and then having signs made to put out on the highway that invite others to stop and have a good look too. What a great job! Note to self: Slow down a little, Nan. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt you at all to stop a little more often and stand still or sit still, be still. When you take “the long way home” you may not see more, but what you do see you’ll see better!
Now if you respond to the invitation and get off the beaten path at a “view point” and don’t know exactly what you’ve been invited to view or why someone thought this was a cool thing to gaze upon—don’t despair—find the “plaque.” If you not only pull over, get out, stretch, and look, but you actually stand there with the breeze blowing through your hair and read the plaque, and truly locate the thing you were invited to behold…well, then you know you are taking the long way home. Mom and I gazed at Cedar Breaks and Panguich Lake and several other things I don’t remember, but I do remember that everything was ablaze with the golden leaves of mid fall, and I won’t soon forget the feeling of standing there together in the sunshine and taking the time to just look at something magnificent—something God made and man has appreciated enough to name and describe. Note to self: Nannette, you may not run into a lot of plaques today, but the lovely people in your life are anxious to share the beautiful things that can be seen from their vantage points. People long for a chance to share the view from where they stand. When you take “the long way home” you stop and really look and listen. You allow fellow travelers to point out the landscape of their lives, and when you do, you are better for it!
Allow yourself to get a little excited–practice anticipation, and don’t be afraid to remember:
As we drove past the fairgrounds and into Panguich, my pulse sped up a little, and an unfamiliar feeling of childish anticipation washed over me. For a minute I was ten years old, pigtailed, packed with my family of nine into a powder blue Ford Falcon station wagon, coming out of the California/Nevada desert with no air conditioning and no seatbelts, heading for higher ground–and we were getting real close to Grandma’s house! In my mind I knew that nothing would be the same. Grandma and Grandpa had moved on to another world. “The motel” had changed hands ten times. There would be no “Triple A” rating sign and no green vacancy invitation flashing in the big picture window of the motel lobby. Even so, my heart did a little flip flop as we pulled into the parking lot of the old motel. I liked the feeling of anticipation and now that I’m all grown up I hardly ever feel it. That’s too bad, don’t you think? Note to self: Maybe you should practice a little healthy anticipation every day. Get a little excited about something, anything. Anticipation is simply looking forward a bit, with hope and enthusiasm. Give it a whirl. It’s not a feeling you’re required to outgrow.
Sometimes people avoid pausing at a place from the past—bad memories–or too much good gone by. I was surprised by the way I felt as we wandered about. It was as if I was meandering through a three dimensional picture frame. We opened the glass door and walked into the motel lobby. I quickly glanced around—it wasn’t that I didn’t notice that the place was a bit run down and smelled of spices you wouldn’t have found in my grandma’s kitchen. I saw the current community ads scotch taped randomly here and there and the collection of odd decorations on display—but for some reason these things didn’t take center stage.
For me the room was warm with memories. I could see Grandma sitting at her treasured organ entertaining appreciative guests who were relaxing after a chilly day of the deer hunt; I could feel my fingers move through the basket of polished rocks sitting on the coffee table; I could see the Squash Blossom jewelry, bolo ties, and beaded belts in the glass case–the trinkets I remember studying at least once a day as I waited for summer’s end. I could see Grandma taking her little key, opening the sliding door at the back of the case, and waiting while seven children made their final choice, a nearly impossible thing to do. Little fingers pointing, “That one; I want that one, Grandma!” Is there anything in life more wonderful than a FREE souvenir to take with you as you climb into the station wagon and head back home?
We walked around to the back of the property. The old canal we had played in and been warned about a million times was still as dry as a bone. My memory took me across the ditch to the meadow behind and the hazy recollection of Lady and Paint, the only horses in the world I could ever brag about to my sophisticated friends when I got home to Los Angeles each year.
Next I focused on the cozy brick home standing next to the motel lobby. We didn’t knock on the door and ask to take a peek inside. It was just as well. I didn’t need to look with my eyes. My heart was doing a very good job. Surely if I went inside I would see Grandma standing in the kitchen making Mickey Mouse pancakes or sitting at the mangle iron pressing pillowcases. I’d see a little brown-eyed girl with blond braids taking hot drinking glasses out of the dishwasher and sliding them into paper covers for motel guests.
I stared at the window to the front bedroom of the house, remembering that on the other side of the humble curtain there was a room so small it only fit me. Such a cozy place it was, a place where long ago this oldest sister of seven spent some night alone with her thoughts and dreams. I don’t know if little girls ever grow up and grow out of their daydreams. Mine was that somehow, someday, my Los Angeles self would be transformed and I could be a small town country girl complete with hat, boots, horse and of course a cowboy for a best friend.
My eyes spotted the door to a tiny nondescript room at the end of a long row of guest rooms across the parking lot. Probably full of cleaning supplies for that end of the motel—but if I dared turn the handle on the door and peek in–there would be Grandma, washing all the bedding and towels for new guests, and then running each item individually through a fascinating machine designed to wring the water out of dripping wet laundry.
There was no sign of the pool where my uncle had taught all us kids to swim, where we played Marco Polo and baked in the summer sun for hours—before the invention of skin cancer and sunscreen. But no asphalt parking lot can erase the feel of slipping my body, exhausted with too much fun and smelling of Bactine, into new summer jammies and then into clean sheets that had dried in the summer breeze. Or instead of Bactine, it’s the smell of Calamine lotion that takes me back to the year we all came down with the chicken pox and were isolated in one of the motel cottages for several days of itchy misery.
I turned to take a final look before heading for the car and there she was! I had almost missed it, one of the best images of all! There was Grandma taking a small key out of her apron pocket. We all knew what that meant. Sometime between jammie time and bedtime we were invited to meet at the big red pop machine that stood next to the motel lobby door. Like little vultures we waited as she opened the magical kingdom to such delicacies as Root Beer, Orange Crush, Cream Soda and more. Every night of our vacation, just before bed, she let us each pick out our very own frosty glass container of soda pop. You know the next best thing to experiencing this moment was remembering it.
I remembered the summer when money was tight, and we came to this town to play and work. Before heading out we drove to the old Social Hall. This was where my mother, with no experience doing such a thing, had courageously taught dancing lessons to a whole village of little girls. We peeked in the window, and there on the antique stage, were my sister and I doing the Dolly Dance, tap shoes and all. While we danced away the hours my daddy, chemistry teacher turned summer lumberjack, pulled pieces of wood off the green chain conveyer belt at the local sawmill—blistered ears, hair growing blonder, fair skin made bronze, he baked in the August heat, working to make ends meet.
Finally we got Mama some chicken fried steak at “The Café”—the same one my Grandma had moonlighted at to bring in a little mad money—same red vinyl booths—a lot worse for the wear—and maybe the same Melmac dishes. Note to self: Don’t be afraid to remember. The present view can be pretty tattered, but if the good memories are intact, an awful lot can be overlooked! Sweet memories can come alive in living breathing color. Remembering can be sweet medicine.
Take the long way all the way home:
You might think the best of the trip had been had. This was the moment my husband thought we ought to head right back to the freeway and scurry on home, but not us. This sweet journey was not over yet. We decided to take the highway that slowed to 25 mph every few miles as it meandered through all the small town between here and there. We drove on endlessly and talked and laughed till we cried—the kind of talking and laughing you only experience on a quiet road that seems to be getting you nowhere.
We stopped at the Big Rock Candy Mountain. I remembered going there when I was a little girl and seeing coyotes in a cage. I remember all nine of us snuggled up in the little power blue Ford Falcon station wagon headed down the road chewing on rock candy. No coyotes in politically incorrect cages any more, but we did buy some rock candy to take home to the “grands.”
There were several places we might have turned earlier and been home sooner. Frankly we either skipped them on purpose or missed them altogether because we were having such a great time talking, remembering and laughing ‘til we thought we’d…well you know. It just was not about getting somewhere, not one minute of it.
Reality finally struck as the sun began to get low and the signs said things like “To Denver” and “To Fish Lake.” My sister called to see how we were coming along. I told her I thought we might be lost and headed for Colorado. “You two are crazy!” That’s one thing about cell phones…want an opinion about the road you’re on and you can access one from anywhere. We hung up and I looked off to the right, and running along the freeway was the cutest little meandering path called Gooseberry Road. I secretly hoped that Gooseberry might be our only alternative. It wasn’t. Someday I want to go back and see where it takes me.
We found a turn around, and I finally headed for the freeway and on home. We pulled into the neighborhood and I helped my mom into the house with her little red overnight bag. I gave her a great big hug, looked her in the eyes and we both burst into laughter “some more!” We had taken a once in a lifetime ride home. Sneaking into the adult session of stake conference, well after the opening song had been sung, I cozied up to my husband. He gave me a smile that said, “I told you you’d regret not heading back to the fast lane as soon as possible.” All he knew was that I had managed to turn a 3 hour 45 minute drive into a 6 hour experience, but I knew better.
I had learned that whether we are speaking of our home on Earth or our Home in Heaven the long way can be the very best way home. The long way is about being with someone on the trail; it’s about the relationship and the experiences along the way. It’s not all about the destination. It’s about sharing the path with your mother, your father, your spouse, your child, your “grands,” your neighbor, or a perfect stranger, and always with the Lord. It’s about taking time to get excited, and laugh, and cry, and relax, and learn, and look, and remember–together.
Final note to self: So Nannette, give yourself permission to slow down. Don’t be in such a big hurry to GET somewhere. When you take the long way Home, the slow way Home, you finally give yourself time to recognize that you ARE somewhere. Then you can feel at home all along the long way!
By Nannette Wiggins
Posted February 15, 2014
Copyright 2011 by Nannette W. All right reserved. Making or sending copies is permitted if the page is not changed in any way and the material is not used for profit. This notice must be included on each copy made or sent.