Milky Way Wishes

I’ve been thinking so much about time lately. The way it stretches on when you desperately want the days to pass quickly. How the best moments are there and gone before you can truly see the colors, like catching a glimpse of a butterfly just before it flies away again.

Scott and I traveled to Big Bend this weekend and camped together for the first time. Setting up our yellow tent brought me straight back to my childhood, happy memories of our family of five packing into a tent and sleeping soundly until an unexpected rain shower pelted our temporary shelter while my dad hurried to secure the rain fly.

I thought too about my parents and their camping adventures before three children came along. The photos I’ve seen from that era are so classic. My mom stands tall and tan and pretty in her cutoff shorts. My dad’s got his long, red hair and a big smile because he’s outside with someone he loves and that’s all he’s ever really needed. They look so happy and free and real. I love thinking about what they were like before parenthood. I suppose all children have a natural curiosity to know who their parents were before–almost an impossibility by its very nature. Who were you before I was here? But I’m already here asking the question.

My dad was shy and more interested in bird hunting than talking to girls, but at a back-to-school dance in college, on a night that would change so many lives forever, he had the courage to ask my mom to dance. A small moment that might have been forgotten in the sands of time if not for what came after. Another date, and then another four years of dates, a wedding, five years in California, and three kids in San Antonio.

It gets me thinking about our right now. Watching Scott cook burgers on a charcoal grill, as the sun slowly lit the red mountains on fire, I felt so strongly that he and I are living our good old days. With these little trips to West Texas and San Diego and big moves to Little Rock and Germany, we’re in the thick of the time our kids will ask about.

This weekend, their dad and I set out on a hike knowing a thunderstorm was brewing. We snapped photos of our destination and practically ran uphill back to our campsite, raindrops warning us during the last half-mile that time was running out. We made it to the car breathing hard and laughing as the sky opened up and drenched the mountains.

Later, during a break in the storm, we ate dinner and then sat on the tailgate, eating apple pie with two forks straight out of the tin. As the cool mountain air tousled my hair and we watched the dark gray clouds move fast over the peaks, I felt nostalgia for a moment that was right in front of me.

One day I’ll look back and think about my tired, bare feet swinging from the back of the car. My husband’s blue eyes tracking the clouds overhead, calculating what storms still lay ahead of us. I’ll think about reaching the top of a mountain and wanting to take a picture of Scott to remember the way he stood in awe, gazing at rock formations that predate us by a few million years.

By some miracle, we caught sight of the stars the next night, even as another storm rolled in from the west. For a few precious minutes, I sat in a camp chair beside the man I love and turned my eyes skyward. As the blackness enveloped us, the stars poked through one by one until Scott pointed out the Milky Way–the hazy, bluish part that neither of us had ever spotted.

Curled up and wrapped in a sweater, I felt like a tiny speck beneath the lights of our galaxy. I listened to my husband’s voice in the darkness and–like I’ve done a million times before–I thanked God for that man. I closed my eyes and thought about our children. How I’ll tell them that before they came along, I already loved their dad with everything I am, everything I have.

And through that vast cosmos, I tried to tell those future kids of ours that right then, during the zenith of our good old days, their mom was wishing on every single star for them.

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I can’t be sure. I don’t really bet on timing anymore. Plans are something I’ve learned to write in pencil, not pen.

But I think this might be my last spring here.

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Loss for Words

  It’s hard to catch a clear photo of him when he’s two thousand miles away. But oh my God, when he smiles.   I don’t even know how to write about it.

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