We drove here. We've been driving for days, passing through thirteen states: Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico (and then Texas again, but we don't get to count it twice).
There was a lot of beauty. A lot of busy cities, full of hustle and bustle, brimming with life and energy from the people filling them. A lot of empty, spacious land, full possibilities and untamed nature, brimming with life and energy from the plants filling it. (And a lot of dry riverbeds. Coming from a part of the United States with humidity and always plenty of rain, the dry riverbeds were an unusual sight.)
I have now seen a lot of cows. I have seen cows my whole life, but never before that many at a time. I had no idea how large cattle ranches could be.
I was also very impressed by the size of tumbleweed, and that it is a real thing that still happens, not just what rolls through town in Western movies and cartoons. Totally still exists.
I had never witnessed in such magnitude how beautiful sun rays piercing through a cloudy sky could be. Patches of sunlight—like patches of hope penetrating the gray depression.
Trains are still alive and well. Definitely still running and going places. The kids had lots of trains to point out.
There is a comforting, reliable feeling in finding chain restaurants that serve menus on which you already know which dishes you like. But there is a kind of exciting feeling, almost like you're eavesdropping the whole time, about eating in a town with a population smaller than your high school, at a diner with a dining room smaller than my townhouse's living room, where none of the chairs at your table match, but full of good cheer and regulars and delicious food.
I am particularly grateful to all the people who still have their Christmas lights out and turned on. That added a bit of cheer for my children to see out their windows.
That many hours in a car made me a bit reflective. I wondered about lots of random, ridiculous things. (Are hamburgers only made from female cows? Do we eat steers and bulls when their usefulness is done??) I also created my first bucket list. It's in the car, but maybe I'll share it on here sometime.
At one point, I turned to Jeffrey and said, "Doesn't this feel like a real beginning? Like the start of the rest of our lives? Like everything else was just leading up to this, and we didn't even know it, because we didn't know we would end up here? I know we could have said that going to college or getting married or having children were new beginnings (and they were), but I always knew I would go to college and I always hoped I would get married and have children. This is really, really the unknown and it is going to last the next two decades. We could be completely different people if we want."
I have never had to apologize to anyone in Juarez. They don't know my flaws. How I sometimes speak before I think. How sometimes my words are intentionally too biting, too wounding. How I can lose my patience. I have a clean slate to try and be a better Mimi.
I am looking forward to that opportunity.
But I miss my old friends from the different places I've lived and loved: Brazil, Indiana, Utah, Ohio, and Virginia. Those friends already know my flaws and have forgiven me for them and have loved me in spite of them. They're used to my awkward, but sincere, apologies and spend time with me anyway. They know my many "conversation disclaimers" are coming. They already know how I am a very loyal, loving, and nonjudgemental friend. They already know me.
So, maybe I won't change too much.
Just a bit.
Just to get better.
This song is stuck in my head right now. Do you remember it? "Make new friends, but keep the old. Some are silver, and the others gold. The circle is round and never ends; that's how long I want to be your friend."
That is how I am feeling tonight.
I am also thinking of my sister's post from back in May before we knew where our first posting would take us. You can read it here, if you'd like.
Sigh. So many "feels." Wish me luck tomorrow!
And, let me just say in a lighter note, that not all hotels are created equally—even in the same chain.
And, somewhat selfishly, one other reason why I am really glad to be here is because I am incredibly drained from saying goodbye to beloved friends and family. And I know people who I befriend will leave me while I stay in Juarez, but I hope I have at least a little break from saying goodbye. It is very, very hard.
We spent the week of Christmas at my beautiful sister's house.
We just barely missed seeing Hazel's first steps!
Most amazing Christmas present!
My sister made a quilt out of my childhood. It contains shirts from my sports, Church events, and activities, and from the places I've lived: New York, Michigan, Brazil, and Indiana. It is so snuggly and perfect. I've loved wrapping myself up in it during this road trip.
All the cousins, except for Heather and Hazel.
(I'll be posting more pictures on Facebook.)
Waffles like this are one of the reasons why I have begun to love Texas.