With each of us traveling approximately 700 miles, we agreed to meet in the middle. This would not be a trip for leisure, but an intervention. My brother and I have come together to provide direction for our family a number of times over the years, and this trip would be about that.
Back home, it took some time to make arrangements. I’d drive, not fly. I canceled the few personal appointments I had on the calendar and figured out where I’d stay in Missouri. My husband could get our daughter to school and would try to get home from work early to meet her from the bus. When he couldn’t, my in-laws would step in to help. I’d be leaving on a Tuesday and wasn’t sure when I’d return.
The 10-hour drive gave me plenty of time to pray and think. Road-tripping is good for that.
It’s not easy having family spread out across the country, and I already felt the familiar sense of wishing I could be in multiple places at once.
As it turned out, the trip took about a week. Although I’d hoped it wouldn’t happen this way, I was going to miss Halloween, in particular my daughter’s party at school. She was in fourth grade and had yet to attend a school party or a field trip alone. Whether it was me, her dad, or her grandparents, she’d always had someone there to support her, celebrate her.
She had already decided on a costume. She and her bestie were going to be Pink Ladies from the movie Grease. A fan of all things musical, my daughter had been singing from the Grease soundtrack for years. We’d already purchased the costume and it hung in her closet. It did need some alterations, but my mother-in-law assured me she would do that.
While I was out of town, I talked to my family on the phone every night. My daughter told me she’d prayed about the family situation. But after a few nights, when I told her someone else would be taking her trick-or-treating, she grew weary of being brave. She confided in me she had doubts about getting the Halloween costume ready without me.
In particular, she wondered who was going to put her hair in a ponytail.
Through tears, she reminded me her ponytails were awful, full of bumps and lumps. Dad did not know how to do a ponytail. Already burdened with what we were dealing with in Missouri, a hefty dose of mommy guilt washed over me. What kind of a mother isn’t there to put her daughter’s hair in a ponytail?
As much as I wanted to, I could not be in both places at once.
Now crying myself, I ended the phone call with an “I love you.” Before going to bed, I sent off one more message, to my daughter’s teacher. “I’m not in town and my girl needs a ponytail with her costume. Can you please put her hair in a ponytail?” It was only a few words, but that ask meant everything to me. She wrote back that it would be her honor and privilege to do so.
The day of the school party, I received a number of texts with photos from our friends. The girls pulled off the Pink Ladies look perfectly—pink silk jackets, a scarf around their necks, black leggings, and blonde ponytails swaying back and forth as they walked in the elementary school parade. Trick or treating that evening went smoothly as well. Each update I received felt like a balm for my soul.
When I look back at photos from this particular Halloween, her smile reaches her eyes.
I can clearly see it. Things were a little off at home, and Mom was absent, but loved ones stepped in to help, which is exactly why Mom was gone too. Things were off in Missouri, and I had to step in and help.
Once things were settled, I made the long trip home. Although I couldn’t wait to get home and hear all the details about Halloween, I wondered if things would remain okay with the situation I left behind. With every passing mile, I was reminded how many times over the years I have wished I could be in more than one place at a time. It’s the cost of living far away from family and calling many places home.