Unwrapping the gifts of summer on the road

2,134 miles.

That’s how far my summer has taken me.

When people asked me, at the beginning of June, “So what do you have planned for the summer?”

I answered, “Oh, nothing big. Just some weekend trips here and there.”

Which was pretty much true. There were no giant cross-country excursions, no get-on-an-airplane kind of mega vacations. But it actually would have been more accurate if I had said, “I have a trip or an outing of some kind planned every single weekend from now through August. Plus a few mid-week ones too.”

What looked like a several small-scale trips, when lumped all together into the space of six weeks, has led to what feels like the busiest summer I’ve ever had. We’ve criss-crossed the state, and made some wonderful memories, and had a lot of fun, and in between we’ve spent a lot of time in the car, and a lot of time at home doing the unpack/do crazy amounts of laundry/repack routine.

And when I reflect on what the summer has been about so far, strangely enough I don’t come back with “fun!” or “adventures!” or “road trips!” My mind tells me: Gratefulness. Thanksgiving.

After spending hours and hours in the car with my family, I have come to a wonderful realization: I really like these people.

My husband and I will hit the 10-year mark in our marriage later this summer, and if I had to go back and do it over again, I’d still pick him. He loves me, challenges me, entertains me, and makes my life all-round richer. I would be so boring without him.

My kids are healthy, bright, creative, funny, and should all get Olympic gold medals for being good on car trips (knock on wood! knock on wood! We’ve got a couple more trips planned in August, and it would serve me right if they all turned into little demon-children after bragging like this). I really like them too. All four of these folks are fantastic people to go on vacation with. I should know. According to the Google Maps calculations, I’ve spent 1 day, 20 hours in the car with them this summer. And amazingly, I’m not sick of them yet.

This little fact–that we’re a happy family who enjoys one another’s company–I hold out, not to congratulate myself, because there’s nothing I have done to make it so. But rather, I clutch this fortunate fact with trembling, wondering fingers. Because I know it isn’t always like this. Some people’s husbands leave them. Some people’s kids have cancer. Someday I might look back on this sunny summer on the other side of a sadness that I can’t see today.

I bask in the sun that my family shines into my life, even while I try not to worry about the shadows that may someday come. What did I ever do to deserve these little lights of mine?

Nothing. That’s the answer. A gift is a gift because it’s not earned or required or deserved. Just freely given. And so I enjoy my gifts today, and leave the future to itself. And thank the Giver for this summer, for long roads together, for making our way safely home.

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