KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–“The light’s on at Krispy Kreme.”
I made the observation in a near stupor. My two teens and I were five hours, two drivers and a migraine pill into our 13-hour road trip from Kansas City to Atlanta. Sweet, slick disks hot with grease might erase the bitter taste my mouth; cappuccino might give lift to my swollen eyelids.
“Mom, let’s stop,” said my 19-year-old daughter Belinda in relief. “It’s your turn to drive anyway.”
Knocking his head on the back window as he stretched his 6’6″ frame, my sleeping giant in the back seat agreed.
It was probably the first thing we’d all three agreed on since we left Kansas City earlier in the day.
The trip, a marathon I had planned to “surprise” daddy, who had begun work at a church in Georgia while we finished the school year in Kansas City, somehow turned into a parent’s outing designed to frustrate children. Already it had prompted bitter fighting over who should drive first, whose blanket to use when snuggling up in the back seat, how far down one could lean the passenger seat without crushing something, and what type of music to listen to.
My assumption was that my two able-bodied teens would want to share the wheel and let mom rest up from a busy week at school.
Boy, was I wrong. Instead of looking at a beautiful three-day weekend as a gift, petty differences threatened to spoil the trip.
“If Daddy were here, you two wouldn’t be acting like this,” I had warned them a few times already, grabbing my head to stop the pain intensified by a screeching sound coming from the car’s speakers. My warning only prompted more complaints.
“OK, I give,” I said, choking back tears. “But please just try to be nice to each other and to me — I know we’ll have a great time in Atlanta and Daddy is really looking forward to seeing us this weekend and going house-hunting. Plus Krispy Kreme is not too far down the road.”
For months now we had been stretched thin as a family; Dad in Georgia, 17-year-old Jon and I in Missouri; and Belinda in college in Tennessee. Our lines of communication seemed clogged by expectations we had of each other and by unnamed tension. I easily recognized my short fuse with the kids and the longing for my husband’s calm presence. My prayers recently had been self-focused and aimed at my wants. In that few moments’ time, I understood that my children could easily be lost in the shuffle if I didn’t pay more attention to their needs.
Leaving the doughnut shop, I once again assured them that we were not in a hurry. In addition, I thanked them for driving the long hours and promised them it would be worth it. After our short talk I marveled at their consideration when choosing music stations that would not “bother” mom. I admired them for their stamina and when my head cleared accepted a short stint about 10 hours into the trip and then drove the last leg into Atlanta.
On the return trip home that Monday, we were barely on the road when my daughter admitted the weekend was well worth the wear and tear.
“Mom, I finally realized that I am really lucky because I have parents who actually live what they believe,” she said, squinting into the sun as we drove by the tall buildings in downtown Atlanta.
I asked her to elaborate and we all three shared insights into what we learned driving around McDonough, Ga., looking at houses all day on Saturday and in attending Bible study and church on Sunday.
“All the time we have lived in different places while you guys went to college and seminary and stuff — you always told us that God would take care of us,” she reflected. “It really hit home this weekend when I got to see Daddy at work in the church. God had a plan and is faithful. I just appreciate that.”
From the backseat Jon said he liked the people, the church and the town. He said the houses weren’t too shabby either.
“Well, foxes have holes and birds have nests … ,” I started and they chimed in, “but the son of God has no place to lay his head.”
“Hand me the Krispy Kremes,” I said, indicating the bag I’d just purchased from a Georgia store. They weren’t the “hot light” kind, but they would do. Just like our little family will do — until June when we will be together again.
Hannigan is a national correspondent for Baptist Press and a high school journalism and English teacher in Kansas City, Mo. Her husband John is the minister of education/administration at Bethany Baptist Church, McDonough, Ga., where the family will reside beginning in June.