There are many places to be and there are a number of people to see, but how do you appreciate the journey when all you ever do is leave and arrive? The focus never seemed to be on just enjoying the ride, but more of where and when do I go next? What makes this worst is how can you possibly come to terms with the places you are arriving at if they are not particularly where you want to arrive to? You know once you finally reach your destination that everything is beyond your control. The one thing that the arrival has no comment on is your journey and the way you spend your time arriving. It may be in your best interest to grab a hold of this advantage.
It is four in the morning, as her blue eyes flutter open to the sound of her dad’s scratchy voice. Most six year olds would not dare of waking up before the sun, especially during their summer break, but I can imagine that the majority of six year old girls also do not travel a thousand miles one way to be with their dads and families. She ruffles the horses that dance across her covers as she tosses and turns and finally forces her limp body out of the bed. “Are you ready?” whispers her dad. He does not wait for her reply because the answer is irrelevant. How does one prepare for these types of days? His rough hands grasp his only little girl’s bags. These hands have grown course over the years from welding endlessly and are stained permanently from oil and rust. You can almost feel the Texas blaze and the toll it takes on someone who lives and breathes the largest industry in the state. These same hands bundle up the child and her bags and carry them both to his white 1999 Z71 that is heating up outside. She holds onto his neck as he locks the red front door behind him. Imagining what it must have been like to walk outside that door with her mother and brother is tiring and it seems almost impossible to a child who only knows of leaving and arriving. Staying was and will never be constant in her life she begins to realize.
The truck is loaded down with old suitcases that are stuffed, that may burst open at any moment, with memories from the summer. As they pull out of the dead city street, that otherwise would have been fully alive, she wipes the rapid tears quickly before they can be seen. The window displays her reflection and she prays that her cheeks do not turn red from the sadness sprouting to the surface. Suddenly, ACDC burst through the speakers; her dad has his head stuck out the window as they zoom on their excursion back to Alabama. With every wail of song lyrics, he teaches her how to be a morning person on these long seventeen hour drives. The early morning hours are usually when people who travel choose to sleep, but not this girl. She enjoys these last hours across the South with the most intriguing person she has yet to meet. The clock on the dashboard shows 5 a.m. and her father sings all the way until they hit lunch hour traffic in Dallas. These long drives, when it is just the two of them, seem never ending and sometimes she wishes that they were. She cannot help but wonder if the thirty-four hour drive, there and back, wears on his body and causes his piercing blue eyes to go bad before their time.
The tears that were stinging her rosy baby cheeks before have finally surrendered, but her dad somehow knows that he needs to break the silence before them. He wrestles with making a joke because that is his cure to serious situations, but he cannot decide if this would be the best or worst time for his blunt humor. He chooses the softer path and opts for a clever remark. “We all have to leave. We all have to travel. We all have to arrive. I know that the arriving is not always fun. Sometimes the journey is better than the arrival.” To a six year old, these words do not mean much, but looking back she realizes how right he was. She has never been afraid of leaving because the journey has always made it worth-while. The arrival on the other hand, has been somewhat nerve wrecking.
Those long trips with her dad across country showed to be useful now as she is an avid adventurer. We cannot avoid the fact that some places are going to be dreadful to arrive to and some places are going to be beautiful, but is it the arrival that matters the most? The drives that she took with her father exposed her to places she may never see again and graced her with memories that made up half of her life. Beginning at three in the morning, the lights from the cities would blare through the old Z71 windows. At times she would imagine what it would be like to live in a city that gives off that much electricity at the most primitive times of the day. These are the moments where her dad, if he was not singing, would discuss her future with her and by the end of the trip they would have planned her entire life out. Breakfast was usually a gas station biscuit with more grease than she would ever eat now and the bitterest coffee she has yet to drink, but for some reason on special occasions, when she begins her day before even the birds begin to sing their songs, she will stop and buy the gas station coffee and stare at the glaring city lights.
She has been in three hour traffic jams with chickens in the back during never ending Dallas traffic and she traveled the strangest routes through Memphis. Christmas time they would detour and sight-see the lights that formed the shapes of reindeer and the baby Jesus scene in the barn in the town of Abilene and drive past the deserted zoo that her grandfather helped to build. Over the years, the trips evolved. She began to grow less quiet and more open with her father on these long drives. She began telling of her chance to be on the homecoming court as a freshman and riding her first rodeo as the rain poured down and her horse slid in the mud. People joined them on these long distance journeys. Her dad began a new family and new friends. The places and times and routes that they took changed and eventually she was flying. This cut down travel by fourteen hours. Soaring through the sky became her favorite. Airports are a playground for introverts who love to people watch and the airport service workers are generally happy in their blue and white suits, even if it is four in the morning. Now her dad drops her off at the security and they take a little longer to say goodbye.
Her little brothers, which both come almost to her shoulders now, wrap their arms around her and beg for her not to leave. One sneaks her a picture that displays a brown dinosaur walking by the ocean with the sun beaming on its neck and her other brother just argues that he actually drew the picture. She laughs because these are moments where relationships are tested, but these are also moments where they grow. It is amazing how these journeys have taught her about love and dedication. The arrival seems even more eerie as she waves goodbye one last time before the summer ends. Airport security prompts her to remove her shoes and the man dressed in his charcoal three- piece suit seems impatient as she removes her shoes, jewelry, and computer and places it in the rubber gray bin, but she does not care what his business frame of mind has to say. The only thought on her mind is how she does not want to get on this Southwest plane, but because she does, her only hope is that it will take a wrong turn and not land in Alabama. The destination of that place creates an uneasy feeling and the same tears that stained her cheeks as a six year old reappear even after eighteen years, but after she finally makes it through the body check and her items are returned to her she hears her IPhone ring. She slides her fingertip across the screen and she recognizes the scratchy voice on the other end…
“I want you to go get your favorite coffee from Starbucks and talk to someone interesting on the plane. Do not worry about your arrival. Just have fun and enjoy your plane ride. Enjoy the feathery clouds, the turbulence you may experience, and the different people you will come in contact with. I want you to focus on the journey; sometimes it is better than the arrival.”