This weekend, my mom and I drove up to Sioux City, Iowa to visit her family (including my ninety-two-year-old grandmother, several aunts and uncles, and my dear cousins from Minnesota who drove all the way down for the visit!). In this comfortable, familiar setting we talked about many of the things we always do (our Christian faith and food, among other things), shared many of the stories we often do (and some new ones, like doughnut-dumpster-diving), and laughed until our bellies ached (though that might have had something to do with our rich dinners). We even heard Uncle Dan preach and Aunt Kandy play the piano, and of course dear Mimi (my grandmother) kept walking into the living room with her box of Triominos asking, “Would anybody like to play?” with that peculiar smile she gets when she knows none of us will say no.
Surrounded by the comfort and familiarity of my family, Mimi’s house, Uncle Tim’s garden produce, and my mom’s cooking, I found myself lulled into the relaxing rhythm of a family gathering. But in church this morning, I was struck most unpleasantly by the thought that I wouldn’t hear Uncle Dan preach for at least another year. Then, everything became a “last” in my mind, as I realized it was likely I would not visit Sioux City again for another year, nor would I see my cousins, and so on.
Perhaps that is why, driving home with my CDs of Jon Foreman’s “The Wonderlands” and Switchfoot’s “Where the Light Shines Through” playing in my car (does that count as old school yet?), I savored every moment of prairie flickering past my windows. As Mom snapped pictures for me, we shared all the reasons why each of us loves the prairie: the varying colors of the fields, the flax, the rolling hills, the rivers and streams, the clouds that feel so touchably close, the way the greens and golds remind us of patchwork quilts . . .
On that oh-so-familiar stretch from Omaha to Lincoln, I turned up Switchfoot and watched the sun sink into the western sky. No matter how good a trip has been, I love the feeling I get when I head out on the prairie to find my way home. Today, for the first time, I realized how much I am going to miss this.