En route to Utah from California we drop Dave off at the Vegas airport. (The poor guy has to work, darn it.) After I kiss him goodbye I slip over to the driver's side, and Max hops up beside me in the passenger's seat. The girls stretch out in the back.
I'm not used to this vantage point: in the driver's seat. No, I'm the one turning around trying to cajole children to be nice to each other or to take off their headphones so they can hear me begging them to help Lu with something or other while she's screaming her head off right next to them and they haven't noticed. I'm usually the one holding Dave's hand and having deep, quiet conversations as we zip along...or getting mad at him for some dumb thing and turning in a huff to put my nose in a book I'm reading.
But this evening I am the driver.
And I'm surprised I like that spot so much.
I delegate Max to be in charge of our traditional "Mike & Ike" game (we ask questions according to their age and if they answer them correctly they get a couple Mike & Ike candies, i.e. who is Mom's mom? for Lucy or maybe some political questions for Max, tough multiplication for Grace, etc.).
I hand Max a ring of "Family Questions" Dave and I bought at a Cracker Barrel in North Carolina last month. He asks the one about what family dinner was like for us growing up.
No one can remember any family dinners specifically. So I launch into how our family dinners went when I was growing up:
My dad would sit in the commotion of nine children squabbling over who was sitting where and put his elbows on the table, his hands slightly angled out, middle finger and thumbs forming circles in the meditation position. Then he would close his eyes and let out a deep "ooooommmmmmmmmmmm" sound until we all quieted down. (It drove me crazy then, but it's oh so endearing to think back on now.)
I tell my spellbound children about how after all the annoying "oooooooommmmmmm"ing, we'd have family prayer followed by everyone whisking the old scratchy lazy-susan around to get themselves served, and then we'd settle into our "dinnertime activities." The ones I remember most are "speeches" and the "similar game." We'd have to give impromptu one-minute speeches about random topics or discuss in great depth what was "similar" about random things like a telephone and a pixie stick.
We sit in the dark of the car whizzing along the freeway and give our own speeches after that. I give them a very dramatic example just like my Dad used to do for us.
My heart melts when they each take turns being on-the-spot and using "speech voices" telling about their favorite parts of California, and then what they are most excited and nervous about with school starting so soon. Elle records a few of them on my iPhone and that makes me glad.
Because I want to remember how full my heart is at that moment.
We move on to the "similar game" and talk about the similarities between Bear Lake and California, and then on to what's the same about turtles and telephones, and lights and gasoline.
The air is thick in the dark car. Everyone is laughing and happy. I tell them that feeling is the Holy Ghost and that God sure loves them.
And so do I.
After that Max turns into the DJ. He adjusts the base to shake our car while playing the songs the girls beg for in turn. We zoom through the gorgeous canyon I love even though I can't see it it's so dark, I remember every detail from last time I drove it, my breath taken away with it's beauty. I describe it to the kids. They don't really care, but some day they will.
We arrive at the hotel but not before I back into a boulder.
It adds to the other dent in the bumper from when I backed into Dave's parents' car a few months ago.
I am not the world's number one driver.
I have to make an extra trip to the car and when I come back the kids are in "oooooommmmmmmmm" meditation positions on the bed and then break out into giggles. We kneel and say prayers and they drift off to sleep (after I reprimand their sniffled giggles and lingering jumping on the bed a few times).
I say a silent prayer of thankfulness that they are mine.
And that we got here safely.
And that Dave is home safe.
And that he loves me even though I dented the car again.
I know our long drive tomorrow may not be as pleasant.
I'm sure the hitting and mean-talk will rear up again at some point, and I'll have to drive and try to create peace at the same time.
But how grateful I am for my new vantage point in the driver's seat tonight, and the velvet beauty of moments like that that make the chaos worth it.