The Laws of Subtraction

I am waking up in a room in the western desert with my three children sleeping and breathing close by. I recognize this as a sacred moment. It's 5 AM and the sun has not risen yet, and this feels strange to me as I have become used to the early Vermont mornings.  

Yesterday morning my dad drove us all to the airport in Albany and along the way he told us about our family history. He has become newly hitched to trying to figure out more about us. This happened to me many years ago, but our family is oddly small and pretty much everyone from the previous generations is dead, so I only made it back a short distance. 

It turns out we have quite a bit of German and Scottish blood in us, which was an interesting surprise given that all along I've been attached to the whole Irish storyline. With a name like O'Brien it's hard not to.  But now I know that Dad's mom's parents came from Germany and I'm thinking that that explains a lot about my temperament. 

The first funny thing yesterday happened when Coco was going through the security checkpoint and the guard asked her to remove all electronics from her backpack. 

 "I'm not traveling with any electronics," she replied. 

I missed the moment because I was standing inside the tube thing in the jumping jack position, pleased that I had worn a shirt without any holes in it, but apparently the guard person was...amazed.  Speechless, I think. 

An 11-year-old with no electronics is now a cultural phenomenon.

The funny moments in our day of travel were few and far between, though. The airports we went through were filled with oppressive weariness. I noticed that the families from other countries seemed to be the only ones enjoying themselves and each other.

There really is no fighting the exhausting nature of air travel today, you can only give in and eat the crappy food and read a lot and hope the person sitting next to you has a good story.  

Usually they do. There are a lot of good stories out there.  

The thing is that people were kind to us, all along the way. I find that if you take the extra few seconds and really look at the person making the sandwich, the person scanning your ticket, the person giving you the keys to your rental car, if you take a moment to acknowledge that you are grateful for their help, something very sweet transpires. A moment of humanity in an otherwise mundane transaction.  

So we came here as four and we will return as two and I didn't bring much in the way of electronics either. Just this small and dying phone and my tiny Fuji camera. If I can't make myself fully present now, when the laws of subtraction are splitting our family of four into two coasts, then I suck at being a mom. 

I'm trying really hard to not suck at being a mom. 

Sam will stay here in Nevada and next week Nate will stay in Montana and Coco and I will head back to Vermont and try to figure out how we do this thing without Sam and Nate close by. 

Right now, though, they are really close by. All three of my kids are in this room with me and I can hear them sleeping and breathing. Their breath the breath of all the German and Irish and Scottish breathers who came before them, each of whom, no doubt set out at some point on an adventure of their own. Left the comfort and security of home to go somewhere unfamiliar to try something new. Or dreamed of it, at least.  

When my tired dreamers wake up in a little while we'll head out into the desert to see what this place is all about, what the people here do, what the light looks like, what the air feels like. Together. We'll do all these things together, just talking and eating and laughing and sleeping and breathing together. Amen.