Monday, June 17, 2013

Kate Miller 28: Intermission

Would Kate and her family even make it to Canada? 

28. Intermission / Mother’s Day (May 2013)
            Mister took Exit 1 off the highway into Kittery, Maine, and even as the car slowed, the smell got worse. He had to take a few turns just to find a place to pull over, and when he did, Providence gave him a church parking lot. Only moments passed before people started wandering out of the building, and several came over to see if they could help with the car. One man was a mechanic and he opened the back of his van, behind which the Miller-Wills crew had conveniently parked. He poked around and made discouraging noises. The bad news: some kind of fluid—maybe oil—had sprayed all over the engine block. Going five miles (not to mention Canada) was out of the question before the car could be looked at. The men made some calls, but it was Sunday, and Mother’s Day to boot. Even shops that might normally be open were closed. The good news: there was a hotel down the street, probably within walking distance.
at the hotel, unloading the car
            The crew piled back in the car and minutes later pulled up to the hotel. “Are we there?” one of the young fry called. “Is this Canada?”
            “No, baby.” Kelsey comforted her daughter, “We’re not going to make it to Canada today. We’re in Maine.” She whispered so as to make it more exciting. She turned to Kate, “You know,” she said, “I keep getting this feeling that this trip just wasn’t meant to be. There was the passport thing, and then that pain in my throat, and now this. I even took the van to the Honda dealership to get checked out before the trip…whatever this is, they should have caught it then!” She glared cross-country at the Honda dealership.
            Kate tried to put things in a different light. “You know we were thinking about not leaving until tomorrow anyway. It’s an extra expense, but I’m excited about sleeping in a bed all night. Maybe this is just God’s way of saying that two back to back all-night car trips were a bad idea! Don’t worry, this trip was meant to be. In the meantime, we’re in Maine.” They both grinned at Kate’s purposeful inflection. If it could be exciting for the kids, why not for the adults too?
last-minute Thai dinner
            They unloaded and set up shop in their rooms, and for the next hour, everyone napped. In the evening, they took an exploratory walk. Kittery was a small town, with a hopping Dairy Queen, and lots of beautiful birch trees that made Kate think of home. When they walked by a Thai restaurant, Mister suggested that Kate and Kelsey stop in for a quiet bite while they kept walking with the girls. It was an abrupt change of plans, and both mothers felt a little strange about separating from the rest of the group, but they were hungry. Kate’s stomach began to grumble. Once they got settled and ordered their food (with heart shaped rice!), it was a very pleasant dinner. They talked about pregnancy and motherhood and the dramatic changes that could (and would) come soon. They took leftovers back to the hotel for everyone else to sample, and the evening wore on peacefully.
games and fun time
            By the time Kate got up in the morning, James had already taken the van to a shop to be worked on, and all the others were in the kitchen eating breakfast. Kate watched the girls eating their cereal and oranges and wondered at how oddly familiar it felt. Years ago, Kate, Kelsey, and the girls had spent a couple weeks together at a similar hotel in Ohio when Kate’s grandfather had passed away. Though it had been a sad and trying time, Kate was glad of the experience, and could trace the effect of real affection for, and friendship with her sister-in-law back to that time. Now, as then, the girls seemed content—of course, it wasn’t “Pin-Severed Island” or Green Gables to explore, but there were games to play, tables to run around, and a doting uncle that played Frisbee.

playing Frisbee
The news about the car was both good and bad—it wasn’t a gasket, which would have been costly and time intensive to repair. It was the transmission fluid, which was extremely filthy and probably hadn’t been flushed when the last owner ought to have changed it. (Kelsey gave the unsatisfactory car dealership and extra-fierce long-distance glare.) Nevertheless, the car would be fixed and ready to go later in the day, giving the girls a chance to nap while everything got packed up. Kate breathed a sigh of relief in spite of her previous confident outlook. 
The trip was still on!

Here are some more links to earlier posts:
6. A Day To Remember  (This is two days before Christmas, wondering around New York City...)
7. Christmas Eve (What better time to break the big news?)
8. The Best Medicine (A great day with an old's hard to beat.)
9. Skiing (This post has lots of good pictures from our exciting ski trip--part of my Christmas present!)
10. Back Home (Home is good...especially when you have a newly repaired car and food to eat!)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Kate Miller 27: Road Trip Part 1

Two 12-hour car trips back to back? Just like with having a baby, Kate neither felt "ready" nor "unready". And just like with having a baby, the unexpected was bound to happen...

27. Road Trip, Part 1 (May 2013)
            Kate did sleep, for a few hours, and awoke a few minutes before Mister came back to knock on the door. She still felt stuffy and angular all over her face, but she was refreshed for the present. “Where is everyone else?” she asked as he stepped in bearing a small plate of goodies.
            “Did you not get my message? Everyone else is at the reception. I called to see if you wanted to come join us.”
            Kate shook her head. Her phone had never rung. It was probably just as well, though. She had already said goodbye to everyone at the apartment, and she knew the reception would be a madhouse. So Kate and Mister gathered their few things from the Miller’s hotel room and made a quiet departure from Hillsdale in the pouring rain.
            The drive was about twelve hours, but it was fast and there was little traffic, even in the construction areas. Add a half hour for quick stops, and a half hour for when both Kate and Mister were too tired to drive and had to nap at a rest stop, and the couple arrived at the Wills’ Watertown residence between six and seven in the morning.
            Kate’s brother, James Wills, was awake and greeted them at the door with hugs and whispers. Two little girls, Kate and Rose, trotted in his wake. Kate, the 5-year-old, gave them discreet hugs and a whispered welcome then added, “Do you want to play a game?” Kate gave a weary laugh and declined, “Maybe later.”
Rose, the precocious 3-year-old also spoke in whispers, not from a respect for the bone-tired travelers, nor from the earliness of the morning, but from the excitement and importance of what she had to say. Her eyes flashed and her face had the look of one revealing a deep, dark secret, “We’re going to Canada today!” Kate grinned and whispered back, “We are too!”
"James Jr.": "What? Socks? Never heard of them."
            And so was the plan. But later. For the present, Kate and Mister stumbled to the back room and collapsed on the spare bed, which Kate pronounced the most comfortable bed she had ever touched…and then instantly fell asleep. A few more hours of repose, and the couple was up again for a late breakfast, the hurried sorting of things, and the packing of the van. The Wills had a 7-passenger van, and the crew would take up every seat!
            “James, jugga-bugga-BOO!” little Kate sang as she danced around her brother. “Are you ready to go to Canada?!” James Jr. was to have his first birthday during their stay up north, and was sitting ready in his car seat, contentedly pulling off his socks and waving them around as he watched everyone go back and forth.
Never were two little girls more excited about going to Canada. They helped pack and transport things, and then got in the open car and played for a full hour before the grown-ups were ready to leave.
ready to go to "Pin Severed Island!" 
             Rose crawled into the driver’s seat and yelled to the world, “We’re going to see Anne in Pin Severed Island!”
            “Rose,” corrected her sister, “It’s Prince Severed Island. Prince Severed Island.”
            Kelsey Wills set some snack bags in the car and laughed at both her daughters, “It’s actually Prince Edward Island, girls.”
            Kate wasn’t really sure how it happened, but eventually everyone and everything was in the car and, after a travel prayer, they were on their way! She and Mister were taking the first driving shift and were sitting up front, with the Wills crew crammed in back. Everything seemed fine and pleasant so far. Beethoven’s 9th was playing, James and Kelsey were chatting, the girls were reading. They had been driving about an hour and a half. Kate looked at the map and exclaimed, “This is the bridge into Maine! I’ve never been to Maine before.”
            Mister grinned back at her, but his grin quickly faded. “Do you smell that?” he asked.

Miss some of the earlier Kate Miller episodes and want to find out what happened 6 months ago? Here are some links to the first 5 posts: 
1: A Day in the Life
2. The Longest Line
3. Ice Cream and Elephants
4. A Norwegian Paradise
5. Nassau, Bahamas

Monday, June 10, 2013

Kate Miller 26: Allergies

 This wasn't your normal, cutesy little sneeze and sniffle bout of allergies...this was a monster.

26. Allergies (May 2013)
            Ugh! Kate wrote fiercely in her journal. She underlined the word with swift, punchy strokes. Then she just sat there and stared at the word and the blank page. Once again, she was awake in the wee hours of the morning. This was the perfect time to catch up in her journal, and she could not think of a single thing to write! There was something like an elephant sitting on her nose, and how could one possibly think clearly like that? She rocked slowly to one side and then to the other trying to peer around the elephant and into her disorderly brain where she knew she would see her thoughts lying in untidy piles all over the floor. Nope. Completely blocked.
            The elephant’s name was Pollen, and Kate had been fighting him for the first few days of their stay outside of Hillsdale. But pregnancy made her doubly susceptible to her allergies, and when they took hold, it was with a vengeance. She moved vaguely to the kitchen for her third cup of hot tea. Back at the couch, she looked at the clock: 5:00AM, it said. It was almost morning, and not a wink of sleep! Kate closed her eyes and sank into middle despair. (The size of the elephant was too ludicrous for her to sink to the very depths.) Of all times to not sleep, why did it have to be this one? It was now Graduation Day, and that evening they would drive all through the night to get to Boston the next morning. Not good…not good…not good, she thought. There! That was a clear thought! She picked up her pen to write it down, and then realized that, clear or not, it was not a thought worth immortalizing with pen and paper.
            Around 6 o’clock, Kate went back to bed for an hour and slept a little. When she awoke again, she sneezed three times and used three tissues. She knew she shouldn’t, but she rubbed her eyes—they were so itchy! Her cheeks were itchy…then her ears…then her chin. She growled and shook her head and dashed to the bathroom to wash her face. The cool water softened the itchiness and brought relief. She lifted her face—it felt puffy and swollen and completely atrocious, but it looked mostly normal…except for the red streaks on her chin where she had scratched too vigorously. And this was how the new day was beginning! She would have to buck up and get a grip. Kate couldn’t exactly feel brave and strong, but she did manage to square her shoulders and give herself a wry smile.
            The rest of the morning was filled with packing and loading the car, and a hurried goodbye to her beloved college family, though the sadness was tempered by the promise of a visit after the baby was born. Their schedule was full: first, she and Mister would split up for coffee and breakfast dates, then meet back at Jake’s apartment with the rest of the Miller clan; then lunch and visiting, preparation for graduation, the ceremony, a quick bite to eat, and on the road to Boston! Kate felt like she was four years old again, standing at the top of the forty-foot high dive. But as they pulled out of the drive, she said only, “Here we go!”
the apartment: eating lunch from the deli
            Kate had a delicious visit with her old professor, and when she and Mister got to Jake’s apartment, lunch turned out to be sandwiches from Kate’s favorite deli across the street. Kate sank into a chair (one of the few furnishings) and munched her pastrami sandwich, grateful to not be sitting in a restaurant crowded with graduates and their families. She surreptitiously blew her nose into a napkin and wondered how she would make it through the day.
            “You look tired.” Mister said, giving her a hug when she stood up. “Once we’re done eating, we’ll all go to my parents’ hotel and you’ll take a nap while the rest of us are at graduation.” Kate, felt a weak protest arise: weren’t they here for the graduation? But there was finality in his voice, and she had no strength or energy to dispute.
            “That would be great,” she nodded.
            Once she was settled in the room, it was time for the others to leave to get seats. Kate sneezed, blew her nose, and turned on her side. Her next and last conscious thought was, I hope…I hope…I so desperately hope that I can sleep…

see the elephant? No? He's right THERE...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Kate Miller 25: Visiting the Alma Mater

Road tripping at 5 months pregnant might not be most people's idea of fun, but Kate had never been "most people." 

25. Visiting the Alma Mater
            It was a gray and dismal Tuesday morning. But, Mister had turned in his last paper for the year, so his semester was finished. And in a few hours, Kate and he would embark on the first of two lengthy summer trips. The car was packed, the water bottles filled, the gas tank full, the CDs and books stashed in conveniently reachable places. Kate loved road trips. Getting out of the city, seeing the countryside, having all that time to think or talk or listen to music. There was something so refreshing and reminiscent about it. And this would be an especially reminiscent trip because their first destination was Hillsdale College, where Mister and Kate had met and inexcusably taken three (plus) years to fall in love.
college days: studying with friends
It was strange to walk around campus, having it look so much the same, and yet feel so different. Finals were over, and the campus was high with giddy students recently freed from the bondage of homework, classes, and grades. Kate and Mister didn’t know any students at the college now, except for Jack, who was graduating that weekend, and Bettina, who was finishing her freshman year. And occasionally, they ran into some brothers or sisters of their own classmates, and it was pleasant to see them, but there was no doubt that Kate and Mister did not “own” campus as they once had. Kate and Mister were only guests now, even if familiar ones.
Kate ran into her old freshman dorm and down the hall. Bettina’s door was right next to her old room. She peeked inside and gave Bettina a big hug amid the chaos of end-of-semester organization and packing. The rooms had been completely redone, and were, without a doubt, much nicer than when Kate had arrived eight years ago. But she resisted the urge to comment on Bettina’s good luck. This is her college experience now, not mine. And it’s going to be different in more ways than just her dorm setup, Kate reminded herself.
college days: "Kate" and "Mister" swing dancing in Howard
Kate walked to Howard, the beautiful music building, and wandered all over. It was mostly deserted now, except for a few students practicing for the last recitals and concerts of the season. How well Kate remembered practicing for her own senior recital! Hours upon hours in these very rooms, hours of conversation on those couches. She took a deep breath. Everything smelled exactly the same, just as it should. Upstairs, she remembered her years of performing, attending concerts and classes, swing dancing, and goofing off with friends. There were serious talks, wild escapades, midnight practice sessions after hours, and the surprisingly pleasant memories of getting up very early and setting up in a corner to read and memorize Scripture.
As it was for most of their college experience, Mister and Kate followed their own reminiscences, meeting up periodically through the morning and afternoon, but at the end of the day, walking hand in hand. Though most professors weren’t in their offices, either by odd coincidence or divine providence, Kate was able to see and visit with all the professors that had been on her list. Kate and Mister ran into a favorite English professor and his wife outside the concert hall just before the orchestra finished. Neither couple had attended the concert, but both were there. How delightful it was to surprise them with her very obvious baby bump, to talk about normal life, to talk as friends. When they left, Kate slipped her hand through Mister’s strong arm and lifted her face to the evening breeze. It was fragrant and sharp, carrying old dreams and poignant remembrances. She smiled and said, “I like our life now.”
the flowering trees on graduation day
The morning of graduation day, Kate met one of her old music professors for coffee. She was a dear, quirky lady, who grew up on a Cherokee reservation and worked hard to make something of herself. When she saw Kate, she clapped her small round hands with delight and reached out to pat Kate’s tummy, but then paused, “Oh! May I?” she said, seriously. Kate consented with a laugh.
“I brought something for you—well, for the baby,” she corrected herself.
Kate pulled a hand knitted dark green sweater out of a bag. “Beautiful!” she exclaimed.
“I made this a few weeks ago, and I didn’t know who it was for. I just knew it was for someone. And then when I saw you the other night, I knew. It had to be for you!”
Kate reached over and squeezed her hand in thanks. “It’s wonderful. I love it.”
“Well! Tell me about everything…” Kate’s professor demanded jovially.
Kate talked about pregnancy, and teaching piano, and writing music, and writing stories, and about friends and changes. “It really is wonderful to be back,” she mused, “But I don’t miss it, you know. Not like I might have (or did) a couple years ago. I loved my time here and my friends and the fun we had and the work we did. But what I have now…” Kate thought of Mister and their home and their baby boy coming in the fall, “…what I have now is so much better.” 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Kate Miller 24: Remembering Boston / A Journal Entry

I did not, in fact, write these very words in my journal, but this is the compilation of the thoughts that I was thinking at the time, and they were all geared toward what I would want to tell my boy...and maybe what I will tell him someday, when something terrible happens. 

24. Remembering Boston / A Journal Entry (April, 2013)

Dear Son,

I have prayed that you would be an obedient boy, that you would love God, serve Him, and delight in our family. I have prayed for wisdom for myself, to be the best mother you could have…and yet, I know that sometimes I will make mistakes. But even as I make mistakes and (hopefully) apologize for them, I hope that you will understand and believe that I always want to do right by you, and point you to trust in the One who never makes mistakes and who gives you better gifts than I can.
This world is full of sin and evil, and there are many things that will hurt you. My desire is to protect you from these things, but I know that I cannot, since the root of these evils is in your own heart. But if you give your heart to our Lord and Maker, he will remake it so that it will not only be rid of those evil things, but it will be strong enough to survive being knocked around by this evil world until it finds rest in glory. And the new heart will not only survive but find joy in the midst of the evil. As your mother, I want to help you seek for that new heart, and to seek for the joy that can be found, even in the cruelest of circumstances. This is the only protection I can find for you in this world. I can’t force you to take it, but if you do, it will be enough.
I have been thinking about this now because something horrible and cruel and evil happened recently. Two days ago, your cousin Kate turned five. Five years holds a lot of good things. But there are bad things too, and on the same day that she started her sixth year, bad men put some bombs in the city where your cousins live (for now). They did this to purposely hurt people that they don’t know. They wanted all of America to be afraid of them, and their power, and their bombs. They thought that there is power in being able to hurt people. And in some ways, they were right and got their wish. Many people were hurt, and many people were afraid.
And now, a couple days later, these bad men have been hiding in the same neighborhood where your cousins are living. Do you think that they are afraid of the bad men? Yes, I think so. I have been afraid too, for a little bit. But your father and I and your aunts and uncles, we all use our new hearts to find joy and hope. The bad men cannot MAKE us afraid. We do not have to be afraid because even if we get hurt, we know that our hearts are new and that is what God cares about. He made our new hearts for himself, and He will take care of them. That is why we do not have to be afraid—because God takes perfect care of what belongs to Him.
I am sad for the mother of these bad men. She cannot believe that they would be so bad. And I know that I would probably be the same. In my head I know that you will be bad sometimes. But more than anything, I want you to learn to love goodness, and love  people and love life in a way that these bad men never learned. There is a little power in being able to hurt people, but there is much power in kindness. Having compassion takes strength. It is easy to see what will hurt others, but only those who have extraordinary vision are able to see how to help others. I will add to my prayers for you that you will be strong and kind and that God will give you a new heart with this amazing sight that looks for ways to help others.

With all my love,
            Your Mother