Saturday, January 5, 2008

Another Beautiful Day in the Land of Plenty

I don 't care who you are, where you're from, or where you've been -- there is absolutely nothing so lovely as an average ordinary day compiled of average ordinary moments that are each in themselves perfectly perfect.

Luckily, for me, today was one of those days. Granted, I was rudely awakened at way too early an hour, but seeing as how said crime was committed by the two cutest kids ever, who just so happened to be snuggled up next to me in bed, I've decided to overlook their transgression.

I needed to get up early, anyway, and seeing as how no alarm clock on earth seems able to solely get me up at any unnecessary hour, it was just as well. Being the Grumpy Bear I am when I wake before the sun, I quickly put the kids to work getting dressed and cleaning their rooms before they could receive their pre-promised donut run.

Less than an hour after they pulled me from my cotton coccon, their rooms were cleaned, they were dressed and in the car, and we were off to get donuts and on the way to visit Menana and Big Daddy.

Having left them the day after Christmas on not the happiest terms, I was eager to repair some of the damage I had done, both for their sakes as well as mine.

The sky was quickly lightening up to the prettiest blue you ever did see, helped along by the most beautiful sunrise, and we were able to enjoy it all as we drove on that most perilous and beloved of roads, Highway 71.

I'm going to take a second here to explain the painful infatuation I have for this beautiful stretch of highway. Having traveled it almost every summer as a child, I feel like the curves, hills, and vistas are ingrained deep in my skin. For ten years now, I've been traveling it if not on a weekly basis, then most certainly on a monthly one, and it is a route I never ever tire of. Ever. No matter what measure of construction, what degree of traffic, or what nightmare weather conditions I may have to abide, I feel reborn every time I take a nose dive into a gulley surrounded by walls of limestone and climb to the pinnacle of one of the many hills dotting the so-named Hill Country, overcome with awe at the sight of browns, greens and blues all mixed together in the most perfect example of God's love. I am grateful for every mile I travel over this road, actively grateful, literally muttering my thanks every 5 miles or so, and it is beyond my meager grasp of the English language to verbalize how much I loathe the seemingly instantaneous surrounding growth that has become unbearable over the past few years. From the bottom of my heart, I have no idea how the local ranchers, generation upon generations of them, deal with the annoyance and hatred they must feel for city slickers like me who were not delivered here at birth, but who keep coming just the same. The new strip malls and million dollar condos that are suddenly everywhere make me physically ill, and although I know my hatred is somewhat true in it's foundations (ie: hatched from disgust over the raping of this glorious land in an effort to either make or flaunt a buck) I have to be honest and admit that I am also a culprit in this massacre, just one who got here quite a bit earlier, and during the innocence of childhood. My mom thinks I'm insane for actively boycotting the new "Hill Country Galleria" , but even when my glamour-seeking shopaholic alter-ego itches to forego my principles, I need only listen to Randy Rogers' They Call It The Hill Country, and my resolve returns two-fold. It's times like these that I feel most guilty for what our Founding Fathers did to the Native Americans. I don't know if I'm right or wrong for feeling this way, I just know I do, and as cheesy as it is, I feel it every time I drive this stretch of highway. But then I come upon another beautiful view and immediately my feelings of guilt and anger are replaced by the most calming, I'm-exactly-where-I-need-to-be feeling of okayness and I once again utter a prayer of thanks as I pass up yet another newbie who has no idea how to handle the curves and hills that I adore.

But I've said too much. Again.

My point, quite simply, is that even though the kids were clawing at each other in the backseat between Jax's shouts of "Fuck Fuck Fuck!", I was able to stay sane and in that much craved Zen-Zone and it is singularly because of that wondrous road. Have I mentioned how much I love it?

Anyway, my tawdry love affair ends as we turn off and wind our way to the lakehouse, where another love affair immediatley commences: the one between me and my folks.

I'm not sure which I enjoy more, seeing my parents as they walk out to greet us, or seeing my kids run to them as all their faces light up from within. It doesn't really matter, either way it makes my heart sing.

We spend at least an hour just sitting on the deck, chatting and laughing and loving, until Big Daddy decides to get on the golf cart, beckoning the rest of us to join him. The kids jump on, and Mom and I follow on foot, up the steepest hill you'll ever climb, over the rocky pavement as it twists and turns, and I allow myself to just listen to her talk as we watch them drive away ahead of us. Listening is not a skill I was born with, so the few times I find myself graced with the ability to do so, I get all happy and excited, to the point that in the middle of her conversation, I find myself completely ignoring her words in favor of mentally patting myself on the back for finally being able to keep my mouth shut long enough for someone else to say their fill. The irony is not wasted on me, and I snap out of it and listen some more and am happy to do so just because I know she needs it.

We catch up to the kids and Dad at the small local airport, where the kids laugh and point, teasing us for taking so long to catch up, and exclaiming their excitement over having touched every airplane in the lot.

Then we're off again, until we come to the campground where the kids jump and sing and play and we watch and laugh and remember embarrassing stories about me as a child, to the point where Ryan is overcome with sympathy for my younger self and hurriedly comes over to give me a hug. And the Jax yells "Shit!", the magic is broken, and we continue on.

The next stop on our Perfect Walk is a plot of land that Shawn and I desperately wish was our own. Hidden away in a nook overlooking a creekbed, it has no lake view, no prestigious "look at my cool house" vantage point, just a lot of trees, brush, river rocks and creek. It is the most perfect plot of land and though I'd never admit this to you in person, I secretly believe God carved it out just for us. Unfortunately, the people who actually own the land do not see things my way, as they have ignored every attempt at contact we have made in an effort to purchase it from them. That's fine. As long as they stay far away, we'll keep tiptoeing back to climb down the cliff, pick our way across the rock bed, and splash our hands and feet in the tiny little waterfall right below where I imagine our bedroom would be.

My sisters and I used to spend the majority of our non-water-skiing time at the lake hiking in spots just like this when we were kids, so you can imagine my enjoyment at seeing Ryan and Jax learn to do the same. Alas, this portion of our walk must also come to an end, and we embark on the last leg of our trip, which is inevitably the moment Mom and I start discussing religion and the nature of life in general, a favorite choice of topics between the two of us, seeing as how we are both so uniquely of one mind when it comes to our faith. I'll spare you the actual meat of the conversation, but for me it was the Perfect End to the Perfect Walk on this Perfect Day.

Having spent almost 2 hours on our trek, it is time for Jax and I to head back to Round Rock, leaving Ryan to spend some quality time overnight with her grandparents. Jax sleeps most of the way home, as I lose myself in some random opera on the radio, and, of course, the scenery that surrounds me.

Although I'm a little pooped when we get home, Jax finds a way to pull the energy from me, and we enjoy lunch and Thomas (in that order) while I spot clean here and there until Shawn arrives to take me with him on his Mobile Loaves and Fishes run.

Ninny shows up to watch Jax, and we head to church where we help make sandwhiches, load the MLF truck with chips, fruit, candy and drinks, and head off to Austin to provide a small amount of assistance to those less fortunate who will accept our help. The entire time, as I pour coffe and cocoa over and over, I can't escape two thoughts: that God has truly blessed me by allowing me to help others, and that I don't want to ever forget any of these homeless faces I see, lest I forget the real reason we're all here -- to help each other. Yes, I'm laying it on thick. No, I don't really care.

We finish much too quickly, having less food than those to feed, and return to the enormous comforts of our own home, and the very comforting knowledge that while we were out Ninny had to change not one but two dirty diapers. Not that I'm happy that she in particular had to mess with THE POOP, but that for once that wretched task wasn't mine for the doing. (Sorry, Nin. Don't be too quick to begrudge me -- I just finished changing the 4th poo of the night.)

Dinner was short and sweet, Jax and I shared a lovely bubble bath, Shawn is ending the tuck-in routine, and I am doing my best to record the day's moments in the most honest way possible, however mundane, cheesy, and irritating it may be.

Forgive me for this completely selfish post, but I just couldn't sleep without recording the best day thus far of 2008. Completely ordinary, completely perfect.

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