Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rediscovering Utah

Say the word 'Utah' and it brings up different images to different people. Some will think of the world famous powdery snow that makes Utah a top skiing destination. Red rock arches will come to mind for others. Some will think of the miles and miles of salt flats that are used to race some of the fastest cars in the world. And, of course, there will always be the lingering stereo types of families with multiple wives because of the concentrated presence of the Mormon church. But when I think of Utah, I think of people.

We were living in Washington D.C. back in 2003, when we found out hubby's job would be taking us to that Western state. The internet was not old enough to give us many visuals but we found a few books in the local library and decided that if this new state were half as beautiful as it seemed to be, we were game for the cross country relocation.

When we arrived, on a sunny day in August of 2003, Park City was one of the first towns we experienced. It's just as stunning as it had been represented to us in Hollywood movies. Then we made our way down to Salt Lake City, rounding that curve in the highway as it meanders down the mountain and weaves into the valley, we were once again left breathless at our good fortune, to be moving to such a visually stunning location.

Within weeks we were settled into a comfortable house just west of Salt Lake City, in a town called Stansbury. Mountains surrounded the valley we lived in, and the immense great Salt Lake bordered our views to the north. As we enjoyed the beauty all around us we had no idea that it wasn't physical attributes that would make us fall in love with Utah completely. It would be the people we met and had relationships with that would seal the deal.

For three years we called Utah home. We grew to know and love a wide circle of new friends, who quickly turned into the kind of people who are lifetime friends. When it was time to move on, this time to New York, it was a gut wrenching goodbye.

Now we're living in the West once again. This time we made it only as far as Colorado. We've finally settled in enough that we had the time to head over to our old stomping grounds, and catch up with our old Utah friends. It's been seven years since we'd been there. Seven years since we'd sat around fire pits late into the night, sharing laughs and heart felt life stories. We were ready to hug those familiar friends and catch up on all that has happened in the years we've been gone.

It all went by way too quickly, as truly special trips always do. I took a million pictures and we laughed a million laughs. I don't think I stopped smiling all weekend.

It was surreal to see their kids. I know my kids have grown, but it's easy to forget that theirs have too. I've been the one buying all those groceries, as our 17 year old grew to be six and a half feet tall. He was a fourth grader when we left Utah. Those friends remember him as being a skinny little boy who loved to ride a scooter down the street. He's now a high schooler, taller than most of his teachers, with a set of car keys in his pocket. It's strange for them to see this 'new' kid, as he ducks his head to get through their front door frame.

But it's just as strange for me to see their baby girl, who is now at the end of her elementary school years. She was still gestating in her mama's belly when I first 'met' her. Since her mama lived right across the street from me, and became one of my favorite people on the planet, I knew this baby girl from the day she was born. My school aged kids spent our hanging out times hauling her around on their hips. Even my boys passed her around, like she was our mascot baby. She took her first steps on the sidewalk between our houses, toddling from the hands of my middle school daughter, to her mama's waiting arms. This baby girl wasn't supposed to grow up so fast. But there she was, that same bright smile, but this time on an older kid's body.

But, as it always is with those magical lifetime friends, the second the front door opened, we were back to being just 'us'. We were the same couples we'd been on the day we pulled out of our driveway, headed off to New York. They were the same hilarious, fun, true blue friends we'd left behind. It was as if seven years had not even passed. If you didn't let yourself look at the tall kids who surrounded us, it would be easy to believe it had only been a few weeks since we'd last seen each other.

Before nightfall the fire pit had been made. The kids had easily mingled into a pack again and entertained themselves without any adult guidance for the rest of the night. It was like stepping into a time machine, looking across the crackling fire at those familiar faces I'd missed so much. The conversation flowed easily, as we once again bonded over parenting stories, this time not so much revolving around potty training and elementary school science fairs, but more focused on worries about the dating lives of high schoolers and the woes of empty nests.

The next day we reluctantly left that driveway once again, this time promising to be back in much less than seven years. We headed back to our old street, looked at our old house, and each shared our most vivid memories. Since my youngest was a preschooler when we moved away from Utah, we re-introduced him to places that he'd spent his days. The skate park where he rode his little red bike we called 'the clown bike'. The lake house where he'd hunted for Easter eggs. The church building where he'd been surrounded by people who loved  and encouraged him. The endless sidewalks he'd traveled with big brothers, on scooters and bikes.

We ended up at another house, this one still occupied by another family we grew to love deeply. Their kids are the ages of our older children, so they are parenting young adults now too. The kids we remember were still navigating high school hallways. Through the magic of facebook I've kept in touch with some of these new adult/kids and it was great to hug them in person, see those smiles I remembered so well. We spent the afternoon catching up with them. When it was time to leave, our kids were begging us to stay 'just a little longer'. It's easy to see why this family meant so much to us. They fit us in such a nice way.

We will go back. Now that we're more settled in our new home state of Colorado, and we were reminded that it's only a 8 hour drive to get to our old stomping grounds, we will go back. I'm thrilled that my children will have the chance to rekindle special friendships. For adults it's easier to step back into quality relationships from the past. Sometimes it's not so easy for kids, who left the old place as not fully developed people. But it's nice to see they still fit with our old friends. And they will stop being referred to as 'those people we used to know in Utah' and now, once again, be referred to as 'our friends, the Motts.'

Life is short and life is long. Seven years can change a lot. Children become totally different people in seven years. But seven years is not too long. It's not long enough to let us forget how nice it is to be surrounded by good people. It's long enough to make us realize just how much a good friendship is worth. And just how deep a friendship can run. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Consistent Contentment

It was a bright, blue sky day, as it usually is in my new home state of Colorado. We were driving down I-25, headed to Colorado Springs. For two weeks we'd hosted a teenager from Brazil and most of what we'd shown him 'of America' had involved driving the winding mountain roads around our house. We figured it was time to show him some other parts of Colorado, including the majestic red rocks at the Garden of the Gods. As a bonus, my 9 year old nephew had just arrived to visit from San Francisco. Climbing on rocks was the perfect plan for a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Traffic was consistent but not thick. Hubby was at the wheel, lost in his own thoughts. The valley was spread out around us, with mountain ranges and large hills surrounding it. We'd actually made it out of the driveway on time and all six inhabitants of our Suburban were content.

In fact, not only were the four kids I was hauling south content, my two kids who were not in the truck were also content. This is a fact that is not to be taken lightly. When you are the mother to four children, there is rarely a time that all four are in a good place at the same time. Especially when the teen and young adult years hit. It's almost as if they take turns having their life hiccups and once one is solved, the next pops up right on time.

But on this day, this oh so rare magical day, all of my kids were in a good place.

My oldest was off exploring in Houston. Her plans to move to the state where she would never have to clear snow off her car were almost complete. Serious health problems had forced my legal adult girl to move back home. It was not a comfortable plan, but a necessary one. We'd spent the past months getting the right medicines and seeing the right doctors, so she could finally fly from the nest for good. The thought of living in a year- round warm state kept her plugging through a job in our hometown that she didn't like and saving every penny she earned. This weekend she had flown down to see old friends and do some scouting for her soon to be new life.

Her brother, the oldest of her three male siblings, was off on his own adventures too. Just that morning I'd seen new pictures of him on Facebook, surrounded by the guys in his Army unit, all grinning in that way that says 'watch out world, here we come'. There were hard days of training but the fact that training involved throwing grenades and driving tanks kept it all in perspective for him. His calls home were mostly upbeat and positive. He was carving his place in the world and the options laid out in front of him were endless.

My middle boy, now a tall 17 year old who dwarfs his father and me (and we're pretty tall people ourselves) was in the seat right behind me, plugged into his music. I treasure the moments I share with him, when he's not at work or out with friends, and still adore his company as much as I did when he was six years old and still fit in my lap.

My littlest guy was tucked into the third row, in the very back of the Suburban, a smile spread across his face because his best friend had finally arrived for a visit. His cousin, Soul, may live 600 miles away but the second they see each other, they fall into an easy sync. Sam and Soul, the cousin twins. The day would be twice as fun for my Sam, just because one of his favorite people on the planet was enjoying it with him.

I had headphones on too. I was listening to the soothing voice of Tim McGraw, who reminded me in song after song, of how lucky I am  How life is short. How every good thing in my life, no matter how small, is a gift. His music flooded into my ears as I took in the gorgeous scenery outside my window and felt a peace in my soul that all my chickies were in a good place on this day.

It brought me back to a conversation I'd had with Sam just a few days earlier. We'd driven to the airport together, just the two of us. He was so excited to see his cousin that he wanted to be the first one Soul saw when he stepped off the plane. The hour long drive gave us a good chance to have an uninterrupted talk.

The topic of money came up. Our visitor from Brazil comes from a family who has a much bigger bank account than ours. He would never flaunt it, but it's just a reality of life. The big ticket items that Sam puts on a Christmas list were being purchased by our friend because the price in our country was much lower than the ones he could find at home. This provided the perfect segue into a discussion about economics, inflation and the consistency of pricing in a capitalist society. 

And then it led into a bit of dreaming and wishing on part of my son. I agreed with him that it would be nice to have a fat bank account. It would be nice to buy fun things all year round, and have the best of the electronics that he pores over every time we shop at Target. And this conversation led to the most important chat we had that day.

I reminded him that as much as he fantasized about owning expensive toys, and the life that our Brazilian friend leads, half the kids in the world fantasized about his life. Half the kids in the world are jealous of him, and wonder what it's like to not only have consistent food on his table, but to have a wide variety and many treats mixed in. Half the kids in the world own less than a drawer full of clothes they can call their own. Half the kids in the world wonder what it's like to go to bed comfortable, warm, safe and loved by two healthy parents in a stable relationship. 

He's one blessed boy.

And this is what I felt, on that drive to Colorado Springs. Blessed. Our life has not been easy. We've had more than our share of medical issues and our bank account has never been at a place you'd call 'fat'. But we're surrounded by people who love us. Our cup overflows with family that adore our kids, have their own stable lives, and are great examples to our children about what fun, hard working grown ups look like.

We were on the highway in a reliable vehicle that fit all six of the tall people we'd crammed inside. We were able to fill up that vehicle with gas so that we could have a fun day exploring more of our beautiful world. There would be hikes and laughs and jokes told and priceless memories made that day. All four of my kids, and both of our visitors, were happy and content.

I could not ask for more.


This was the post that swirled around my head for two days until I could find the time to write it all out. And in that brief 48 hour spell, I lost my sense of peace and contentment. By Monday, two of my four children were struggling once again.

My middle boy was tired and grumpy as I drove him to his job that morning. Working forty hours a week is fun for the bank account but not so fun for the social life. It's far enough into the summer that the novelty of having his first job has worn off and now it's hard to set that alarm every night and face another day.

And an even bigger issue, my daughter, the one who was ready to launch into the great big world (finally) had the biggest seizure yet. It's been almost a full year since her last seizure. We thought we had figured out the exact right dose of medication. But I guess not. On her last day of visiting in Houston her body gave in to a break through seizure.

Now we're back to seeing specialists, running tests, figuring out what this means to her plans to move, and helping her just recover from a pretty violent attack on her body. Today she feels like she's been hit head on by a Mack truck. My girl is not at peace so her mama cannot find peace either.

Which I guess is why that moment I captured while driving to Colorado Springs is so much more poignant. The task of raising teens and young adults is a tough one. So many things can go wrong, things that affect every day of their futures. With health issues thrown in the mix, things just get more complicated and heart wrenching. For that hour and a half, even for most of that day, when I was surrounded by these people I love, and everyone was happy, I'm glad I took the time to treasure it. 

Because it all can change in the blink of an eye.