Not long ago, my husband and I decided to bring our small children to northern Minnesota for our first foray into “cabin life”, an oft-exhorted experience that leaves those of us without second, primitive accommodations in upper regions of the state sorely depressed during the very short-lived summer season. According to people with cabins, all of life happens there, highly-prized memories archived in a shared familial scrapbook, including (but never limited to) the tastiest marshmallows and biggest catches, the deepest water and most brilliant sunsets, the funniest game nights and best sandbars.
We decided to find out what we’d been missing for the past decade by booking three nights at a resort that, according to its website, specialized in making vacation memories to last a lifetime. There was, apparently, a very lucrative market for memory-making.
After some harried packing, we headed out on a Sunday morning eagerly anticipating our initiation into some serious fun by punctuating the truck cab with promises of “good times” to our decidedly less enthusiastic children.
Within minutes, whining began from the peanut gallery behind us. Those whispers of dissent eventually escalated into high-decibel screeching for treats, movies and games. Fun noodles became fishing rods that threatened to gouge out our eyeballs. Blankies were used as instruments of torture by suffocation. After an hour, we stopped to administer a spanking. There were two more stops for spankings and one long potty break. (It is also entirely possible that what took so long was not my son’s BM but daddy’s desire to cope by slowly perusing every gas station aisle for “snacks”.) We finally arrived at our destination frazzled and bewildered. Wasn’t this supposed to be fun??
The next morning we rose with the sun, kids bounding onto our pull-out couch, its metal bar and their elbows relentless against our tired bones. We pursued the local Starbucks with the heart of bloodhounds and, Americanos in hand, searched for a way to spend a few early morning hours. A back-country driving range (and grass air strip) called to my husband, so we pulled into the gravel lot. Given my pajamas and disheveled hair, I chose to stay in the truck while a trio of blondies marched first to the small clubhouse, then to the tee box for a dubious but vigorous round of “golf”, my youngest preferring the putter as his driver.
Watching this with a small smile and tight throat, I understood something deep and startling: without the sense of their sound, I was allowed the luxury to see something timeless and precious unfolding in our family, my daughter starting and bounding as ever she does, my son tripping on her shadow and my husband with Hurley hat and clubs and balls bringing up the rear, his whole body clearly alive in this moment with his children and their eagerness to be held captive. Had I been able to hear the certain shrieks and shouts, I would have missed it as I do nearly every day, life blooming right in front of me, right among us.
Several weeks later, after returning home from our really-truly lovely northern adventure, my husband and I fell into a convoluted discussion about some thing or another. We arrived at a complete impasse, mired in confusion and despair. I listened from our bedroom as my highly-cherished partner began strumming his guitar from the front steps below, a go-to release from the sticky and stressful. Minutes later, my son shuffled sleepily from his nap onto my bed and soundlessly buried his head under my chin, lingering for a long while in toddler time. Five minutes? Ten? Then came the faint staccato of Bailey’s accompanying maraca to her daddy’s strings. It was a moment not unlike the golf course, eternal life blooming among us, words unnecessary for the pristine score soaring in our hearts’ harmonies, the only difference being in this moment a desire to draw close for comfort rather than play, yet knowing joy in both.
Perhaps my husband said it best as he whispered to a fragile bundle in his arms during his first ever parental night shift, “I don’t even know you but I’ve loved you for so long”, his words the reflection of an anticipation for deeper life to bloom and, once it did, finding its fruit, a purpose that has been slowly unfolding for generations.
Perhaps this is what people discover “up north” or any place that allows a less-interrupted, purer form of life to proliferate. Deeper life brought closer to the surface, its purpose to knit souls as ancient roots delightfully evident and inspiring a greater knowing of our Creator. Perhaps it is here that our minds can for a moment grasp eternity when together we touch, laugh, dance, dream, weep, pray, wait. Hope borne of promise, the seed of life designed to bloom.
“No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, he lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:12)