On the Road Again

There are many challenges  to being a minister’s wife. Scheduling is possibly the hardest, with no real weekend throughout the year. I recall being a young newlywed in the midst of wedding “season” when all vacation time and disposable income was absorbed by traversing the country, wearing dyed-to-match shoes and a dress that cost half a paycheck which every bride swore I would wear again (but I never did). I attended most of these weddings solo as my husband had to work bright and early Sunday mornings. My stag attendance meant I was often seated with the bizarro great-uncle from Cleveland whom no one had spoken to in 10 years.

But what a minister does have the option of doing, is saving yearly vacation and using it in one lump sum, usually in the summer months. For the past five years our family has done this, spending the month of August in Maine with my husband as the vicar of a small summer chapel. The word “perk” seems to small to describe this gift; lifesaver is more accurate perhaps. Our days are spent out of the heat and routine of North Carolina. We have a beach, golf and tennis. The girls go to sailing camp and don’t get in a car more than once a week. They can walk to the corner store ALONE and feel really grown up and independent. These baby steps in a safe environment have fostered self-confidence and curiosity, two personality traits I think this generation of parents has forgotten to teach.

So we are on the road again, me and the girls, taking our annual two-week “Mooch-March”  up I-95 North to visit friends and family. We stop in Alexandria, VA and spend time with my parents looking for “The Pencil” (Washington Monument) or running around the track at my high school. We stop in Philadelphia and see cousins and rock-n-roll concerts and the Liberty Bell. We go to Connecticut to visit more cousins and the beach. Each year as we cross the GW bridge, with the New York skyline to our right, I play a fitting song. Last year’s was Billy Joel “New York State of Mind” because, well, it’s one of my all-time favorites. It reminds me of my cousins Perry and Lis and their uber-modern house built like a boat  where we spent most childhood Christmases. This year’s theme song  had to be Jay-Z and Alicia Keyes “Empire State.” As I blast my children’s ears out with the volume and whiz through the right lane to be close to the Hutchison Parkway exit, I feel a surge of power course through me. I love New York. I loved it before I lived there. I wish I had stayed longer once I did. It makes me feel strong and free and badass.

Just last week I had flown to Maine for a wedding. If you want to talk perfect, here it is. A large Virginia family who has summered in Maine for 90 years has a daughter who falls for the summer sailing instructor who turns out to be an incredibly smart and handsome guy from Massachusetts. His Dad is a former Harvard professor and astrophysicist (whatever that is) and his Mom looks great in a bikini at 50+. As the toasts showed, it is hard to imagine such a “J.Crew couple”  also being so nerdy, smart, and kind.  The weather seemed handpicked for the beautiful people…75 and sunny with a sunset of pink, violet and orange encroaching on the evening just as the 300+ people spilled out of the summer chapel that seats 150. Many things were unmistakably New England: the raw bar, the lobster rehearsal dinner, the sea of blue blazers, the overabundance of worn LL Bean bags as luggage, the weather and the somewhat disheveled groomsmen. Others were undeniably southern: the flowers, the band, the accents, and the beautiful bride and attendants, each one more stunning than the last.  My two worlds mingled at the bar: Richmond friends who had known me as a New England transplant, and my Maine friends who thought of me as a southern girl (no one has yet to confuse me for a belle!) It was that night I realized I had become more “southern” than “northern”. I do believe a flower budget can match a food budget for a wedding. I like the festiveness of a southern party with all the color and characters it brings.  My Richmond friend and former boss said: “Thank God, it has taken us long enough to win you over.  And you have never been better”. Maybe I am not either label, north or south. The war is over after all right? Maybe I am just comfortable in my own skin, being me and knowing myself even if others think I am a strange. I feel I am a collage of the places I have lived. Strong, sporty, practical and preppy from the early years. Quirky, festive, and appreciative of graces -both social and personal- from my current life.

Me and Dick Fowlkes on the dance floor

What I realize on this road trip every year is that my net of friends and family is wide and varied. By visiting their homes, each with different personalities, rules and decor, I learn a little more about myself. Some things I am doing well. Others need vast improvement. My cousin does a phenomenal job with listening, patience, boundaries, and creating tools in her children to cope with the world. My brother and his wife accept each other -and us- for who and where we are.  And my dear soul mate Anna has fostered adventure, confidence, creativity, and athleticism in her brood that many adults will never own.

Living in other people’s domains challenges me. I observe and reflect. I wonder about my choices, my parenting style, my priorities. It is hard because I doubt myself. But I think it is a good exercise to pause and redirect if necessary.  Anne Lamott once said we admire others from the outside but judge ourselves from within. The secret is knowing no one is walking around with an instruction manual. Life is a road trip if you will. One without GPS, directions or OnStar. It is filled with beautiful scenery and destinations. There are speed traps and potholes along the way. Sometimes our vehicles  cruise along easily and other times we breakdown. But we are all on the road. May your journey be fun and safe. Godspeed.

4 responses to this post.

  1. Beautifully reflective.


  2. love the last few grafs especially, and when you are talking about flower budgets, i hope you were thinking of that wonderful Southern wedding a couple of years ago:)

    miss you. my days are not the same without my little people in the purple room. i know you can’t wait to get there. i can’t wait for you to return to your new Southern roots.
    ooxx sooze


  3. You will always be my southern belle and the title of this post reminds me that I need to download “On the Road Again.” I already have “You were always on my mind” on my road trip playlist. Also John Denver’s Country Roads, which is essential when C and I are driving thru West VA to Kentucky. xxoo, me


  4. Posted by Julie Brown on July 27, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    Being a preacher’s wife is not always fun, but it is an adventure! Have a wonderful trip. I know you look forward to this every year. Be careful and enjoy every minute! J


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