11:30 p.m. I can’t sleep and we’re driving to Arkansas tomorrow. Scratch that. I am driving to Arkansas.
12:30 a.m. I’m thinking about my soon-to-be former husband. My stomach churns. I am nauseous. I have to go to sleep.
1:30 a.m. I’m thinking about my future husband. You know, the one who loves me and adores me; who loves Jesus and dotes on my children; who will rub my feet and kiss me goodnight.
2:30 a.m. Sigh. If I’m going to be awake, I might as well be driving.
2:50 a.m. Kids are loaded and the journey begins.
The first 3 hours, silence. I am amazed that other people drive at this time of night. I start to worry. Maybe they’re all drunk, just coming home from the bars. I mean who in their right mind would be driving at 3 o’clock in the morning. Oh wait. Never mind.
Tiger starts to whimper. Loudly. I start praying. Literally praying because hunger and poverty and world peace can wait, but right now I need a quiet dog and sleeping children. And God hears. He always does.
But then, I accidentally bump my keys. The children are awake. First question? How much further?
They eat. I eat again. Calories consumed between 3 and 6 a.m. do not count.
4 hours logged and we make our first stop. “No, you may not have a slushie. It’s 7:00 in the morning.”
Back in the car, Tiger is out of his kennel and in Coulter’s lap. They’re watching a movie on their dual-screen portable DVD player that cost $85. Who said money couldn’t buy happiness? But then Coulter starts FREAKING out! “Mom! He’s puking! He’s, uh, He’s, MOM! He’s doing it again! STOP THE CAR!” I pull off at the next exit and, yep, that’s doggy-puke all right. I open the door and Coulter bolts out. Sympathy vomit? Seriously? I look around. A 12 hour road trip and no paper towels. There is a cooler of diet coke and Gatorade, there are chips and cookies and chocolate and cheese sticks; there is white bread and wheat bread and two boxes of ZONE bars; there are movies and colors and dry erase boards and baby dolls but there is not one.single.paper.towel.
I look at the seat. At Coulter. At the seat belt. And I can only laugh. Once upon time, we had towels that covered the seats. Nice gray ones that matched the interior of my van. But I didn’t like the towels. They made me feel like the family whose couch is covered in plastic. Welcome to my home. Crunch.
So, out with the husband and out with the towels. And now there’s doggy puke on my non-leather seats. And while we don’t smile much together anymore, I can’t help but think this would make him smile. At the very least, an “I told you so” smile.
The movie’s over and the kids are playing. I am lost in my own random thoughts from the night before. Wait, this is the same day. Coulter, another one for random thoughts, breaks in and says:
“Mom? Do you remember when we were fighting for Texas?”
“What?” Is he talking about football?
“You know! When George Washington was the ruler and we were fighting for Texas?”
OK, sure, I mean, maybe. I wanted to elaborate about how my American Government teacher was a football coach and that’s the reason I can’t currently remember who the ruler, I mean president, was, but then I remembered that we probably covered the Texas thing during American History and I actually had a real teacher for that, so moving on…
“Well, man I am SO glad we won. I mean if we had lost, Logan and Micah would live in Mexico!” Logan and Micah are his cousins. They live in Texas. And boy are we glad they don’t live in Mexico.
The time passes. Emma Claire fusses. Her tummy hurts. Her back hurts. Her head hurts. She begins to cry and then, “Mom! She’s puking! She’s, uh, she’s, MOM! She’s doing it again! STOP THE CAR!”
And this is the moment. The moment when grace is all you need and it’s always enough. She’s sobbing. She doesn’t remember ever being sick like this. There are no words. I gently pull her clothes off and take out the car seat. I wrap her up and lay her back down. I kiss her. I cuddle her and these are the moments Mothers were made for. We drive to Walmart and buy a new seat. It’s not pink and it’s not pretty and it came in three parts and the Walmart lady kept saying that my credit card wasn’t working and I calmly looked at her and stood firm and try though she may, I did not back down. And I didn’t really care if my credit card worked or not. As we say in these parts, come hell or high water, I was leavin’ Walmart with a car seat.
And I did and then we made it. Home. I wanted to do a little happy dance right there in the driveway. I’m a single mom; I parent alone (well, except for the massive amounts of help from my parents); I sleep alone (ok, given the two children and dog, I guess that’s not true either), but, whatever, I can drive alone and I can clean up kid puke and doggy puke with beach towels. Alone.
Life is messy. Kids puke and dogs get car sick and marriages fail and you forget the paper towels but His grace is enough and when life gets messy, you clean it up. And what happens when the towel is too gross to clean? When the mess is too big? You toss it (and I’ll leave it to you, my faithful readers to decide on your own if I’m still talking about towels.)
His grace is enough. I don’t need him because I have Him.