40: Six Hours Until Takeoff

40: Six Hours Until Takeoff

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide

Six Hours Until Takeoff

Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday.

~A.A. Milne

With six hours until takeoff for a long international family trip, I had fifty things left to do. On the Sunday morning of departure, I took a deep breath, glared fiercely at my long list of last-minute to-dos, and dressed for church. I drank in the aroma of extra-strong coffee brewing on the clean countertops, energized by the race before me that would lead to a long, quiet flight.

Church stood in the way. One of us had a meeting; one had to teach Sunday school; one had to play an instrument; and one had to be the timekeeper for our carefully choreographed dance. “We can do this,” I cheered to the family on the night before. “It will all be worth it!”

My adrenaline surged at the challenge before us. With my husband gone early, I roused our sleeping son and dashed for the car keys to drop off our teenage daughter. With one last swallow of coffee, even the minefield of suitcases and carry-ons could not hold me back as I leapt around the floor like a chorus girl. I smiled in defiant memory of the relatives who said our plans were unreasonable, far-fetched, and too stressful. Only a masterful multitasking mom of travel like me could manage such a journey. I relished the chance to train my children in the ways of a job-juggling mom on a mission.

Imagining how a racecar driver feels, I buckled my seat belt for the short ride to church. We had given the garage door opener to the house sitter the night before, so after we pulled out of the garage and up our steep driveway a little way, I asked my daughter to jump out and manually press the button. I put the car into park and paused, idling impatiently, as if I was at a starting line. When my daughter jumped back into the passenger’s seat, I shifted gears and pressed the gas to accelerate.

Scraping, cracking, screeching sounds assaulted our ears. The car had slipped back down the hill when I took my foot off the brake, right into the garage door. The double garage door was hanging from the rails in a twisted mangle of wood and steel. A cable snapped like the final clash of a cymbal at the end of a symphony.

“Oh. My. Gosh! Oh. My. Gosh!” I announced, gripping the steering wheel in unplanned panic, trying to remind myself to breathe.

“Mom? Mom? It’s okay, Mom. It’s okay,” my traveler-in-training daughter cautiously offered.

“No! No! It’s not okay. THIS. IS. NOT. OKAY. Find Dad. Call Dad!” I screeched back to her.

The full scope of the calamity washed over me. Six hours until takeoff, and my well-planned list didn’t matter.

As our daughter ran inside to make the call to extricate my husband from a meeting full of quiet church people, my slumbering teenage boy appeared, forced awake by my raucous deed. Taking in the scene through his sleepy eyes, no explanation was needed.

“Oh, Mom. I’m so sorry. It’s going to be okay, Mom,” he ventured.

“No! Some things are okay. THIS is not okay,” I retorted.

Within minutes, my husband arrived to see the dangling door for himself. I knew he was counting the six hours until takeoff, though he said little and waited for the play-by-play description of how I managed to assault the house.

With tears wiped away and suitcases loaded, a friend took our insurance information, our key, and our thanks. In exchange, he gave us a giant blue tarp to cover the gaping hole left by my well-meaning rush. Like my teenage travelers in training, he assured me it would all be okay. And so we left it all behind: the unfinished to-do list, the good intentions, the tears, the mangled mess of a door.

Somewhere over the ocean, the long to-do list loosened its grip on me. My shoulders relaxed, I closed my eyes, and I stopped reminding myself to breathe. By the time we were told to raise our tray tables and buckle our seat belts, I began to chuckle about what the neighbors would say and I crossed worry off my list. I opened my heart for this once-in-a-lifetime chance to make memories with the people who assured me it would all be okay when I was sure it would not.

Instead of training our two young travelers in the ways of a juggling mom on a mission, my young vacationers showed me that victory comes in letting go of lesser things and moving forward with the best things. And when pulling out of the garage, moving forward is always the best thing.

Three weeks later, we returned with full hearts and a load of memories to replace those of my garage door destruction. I threw away the long-forgotten list of things that didn’t matter, and we were grateful to find a new door covering the hole we had left behind and to discover that it was, indeed, all okay.

~Julie Sanders

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