It took no less than ten people to cover the bases at home when I went away last weekend. I was humbled as I named them all in an email message to a friend from afar, recognizing how fortunate I am in my circle of friends here. It’s true we live more isolated lives than our predecessors, but in Fargo, ND, at least, I have experienced the same kind of support that our ancestors on the farm relied on as they picked up the slack for one another.
Any working mother knows the challenges of leaving her family, even if only for a couple days. Such an outing happens only after numerous lists have been made, babysitters have been contacted, extra loads of laundry have been run through, and piles of groceries have been bought. And after all that, still, odds are good that she will call home to check on things the first night in the hotel and hear, as I did, “Guess who’s throwing up?” And all of the plans for that particular child fly out the window and she will sigh, but know she has done everything possible to ensure her child is in good hands and that everything will be fine in her absence. And when she returns everyone is still alive, and she has a renewed perspective and, hopefully, a little more energy to get through the weeks ahead.
The event was enjoyable and energizing, and time spent with family and friends afterwards, also wonderful. But my favorite part of the trip was retreating to my hotel room at day’s end, enjoying the peace, listening to…the quiet. There were no cartoons blaring, no screams of sibling rivalry, no complaints. I absorbed it all, trying to store it up for a time I might need an infusion of serenity. But what I realize, even now, is that the quiet would not have been as appealing, as heavenly, if it hadn’t been preceded by noise and activity and appeals for another drink of water and bedtime stories and a peeled orange or sliced apple. It wouldn’t have been as dreamy if it hadn’t followed weeks of requests for homework help and “Can I just talk to you for a second?” and “Will you help me put on my Batman costume?” (for the tenth time that day). All the glorious chaos that comes before is what makes the peace so, well, peaceful.
I love it when irony enters in. Aside from signing and passing out books, I was asked to take on another important task while at this event: help with the children in attendance. In other words, I ran from my own kids and into a circle of someone else’s. I was there in part to help participants trying to make business contacts finish a sentence without their little ones clamoring for another ice-cream cone, and knowing how important that is to a frazzled parent, I accepted the task willingly. Too often I am on the receiving end of such a gesture. It felt good to give this time.
St. Paul was wonderfully refreshing. What a fine event to showcase our state’s virtues. But I love being back in Fargo where I don’t have to fight chaotic rush-hour traffic, where life is relatively simple, and where I can receive hugs from my little North Dakota residents.
It’s good to be home.