and Maybe It’s Not Such a Bad Thing
One day when I was 15, I went to work with my dad to install cabinets at a client’s house. We drove 30 minutes to the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in South Carolina where the little cottage sat back off the road, surrounded by trees. As a teenage writer infatuated with the stereotyped writing life, I fell in love with the porch, the wood floors, the solitude.
The house owner was not there but had left a key beneath the mat. Her cats were still there, however, and not long after walking inside, I fell into a sneezing, itching fit. I pulled two pink Benadryl tablets from my bag and swallowed them with several gulps of Mountain Dew.
I remember little more of that day except that I’m almost certain I died a few times in my sleep. Several hours later, Dad roused me from the couch, and I staggered to the truck. (Note: caffeine and antihistamines make a terrifying cocktail.)
The drug-induced coma might have contributed to my amnesia regarding how we got to the house and what we did while we were there, but I’ve always remembered how much I loved the little cottage. So a few years ago, when I was still living in Florida, I texted to ask Dad if he remembered how to get there.
His meager texting skills—a one-finger pecking style—were inhibited further by the broken n on his keyboard. Deciphering his texts was like playing Wheel of Fortune or reading license plates with the vowels missing. He texted that he remembered working on the house, but couldn’t recall the woman’s name or where he got the job. I decoded his next message: “I’m sure we can find it together when you come home for the summer.”
For the next few months, he didn’t stop mentioning it until he climbed into my car one evening during my summer vacation home, and we set off searching for the little house in the woods.
“Maybe if we find it, you can buy it and live back there and write,” he said.
It was, I knew, just one more plot in his inexhaustible quest to bring me home from where I lived 500 miles away. I hadn’t been the model of a communicative daughter for a while, distant, waiting weeks at a time to call home. Even that evening, speeding around the back roads canopied with trees, I wasn’t sure what to say.
I took the turns blindly, unsure of where I was. We drove down streets we didn’t remember, pulled into strangers’ driveways, turned down what looked like an old logging road, and almost got my little Toyota Corolla stuck in muddy ruts.
A house doesn’t just disappear. Yet it had vanished like a dream at dawn. At this point we were wandering all over the backroads of Pickens County and nothing looked familiar. Finally we gave up and headed for home.
The sun was beginning to slink behind the mountains and hills as we came out to the rural highway that had brought us here. But I was turned around and confused. “Which way?” I asked Dad.
“Oh boy. Where are we?” He glanced around. “Oh, turn left. See there’s Table Rock.” He pointed to the mountain ahead with a huge bald spot on its side. “But I don’t know how we got here! I thought we were on the other side of the road.”
We laughed at the thought of being so lost that we didn’t even know which side of the road we were on, transported somehow across time and space.
When we passed a roadside cabin restaurant, he said, “Okay. Aunt Sue’s is right there. You know where we are now, right?” And I did.
Now on a familiar path toward home, we didn’t say anything for a while. Finally he broke the silence. “This may sound silly, but I have felt closer to you lately—maybe more than ever. I feel like I matter to you, and I’ve enjoyed you being home.”
And the truth was that I had too. Dad and I set out to find a connection from our past but wound up making a new one while we were wandering around. We hadn’t found the house, but the destination hardly mattered anymore.
The memories of that trip through the backroads reminds me of the lyrics to the old hymn Come Thou Fount. The final verse says, “Let Thy goodness like a fetter bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.”
Lately I’ve been wandering again, trying to figure out where to move next, which apartment or house to rent or buy, where to find my next job. What am I on this earth to do? How long will I be in Kentucky?
This is just another of many times when I haven’t known where I was going in life, when I was wandering, trying to find my way back to stability or looking for the path forward. I have often thrown up my hands and asked, “Which way?”
But in my wandering, I’ve learned a lot about trusting my Heavenly Father. Maybe the old song didn’t have it completely right. Maybe it’s not the worst thing to wander a bit when you wander with your Father, following his direction, remembering that perhaps the journey is just as important as the destination.