The summer I turned 40, I had been divorced for two years. Single motherhood was delightful but taxing and money had been insanely tight since the divorce. Without my mother, I wouldn’t have made it. But that summer, I wanted to do something for me. Something to help me release the past and move on. I guess my mother understood, because she let me plan my own birthday present – a trip to the Grand Canyon. She bought me the tickets, but I had to do the rest on my own. I bought a journal for the trip and here is that first day’s entry:
Last night was a fiasco, well, not really because I did make it after all.
My second plane was delayed and so I arrived in Phoenix at midnight instead of dinner time. With my online receipt in hand, I rode the shuttle to the Rental Care Center only to find that the Enterprise counter was dark. Closed.
Of the other car agencies, most had no cars in their lots. I did find one that was open and had cars, but at FOUR TIMES the rate I can afford. And they were midsize. I worried about my gas budget.
I went to the counter and handed over the credit card I shared with my mom, but which I hadn’t used in months.
“I can’t use this,” the man behind the counter said. “It expired 04/06.”
I wanted to cry. I was tired. I was broke and didn’t want to have to call my mother at midnight Arizona time to fix things for me.. again. I felt frustrated and stupid. I did quick math in my head and decided there was just enough on my debit card to cover, but the extra $200 would cut into my “budget”.
I gave it to him and the jerk eyed it and turned it over and said, “You’re lucky we take these. Most rental places don’t take debit.”
I went to the lot and the woman pointed me to a group of cars parked in a row. “Take any one in line with the black one,” she said.
I walked up the line of cars feeling silly that I didn’t just take the first one. And there in line with the others was… a Ford Mustang. The signature car of my ex-husband. For a split second I thought about taking it, but I opted for the Altima. Although choosing the Mustang would have felt like a rebellion now, I would end up thinking of my ex-husband all day.
Nope, don’t wanna do that.
The two-hour drive to Jerome was in darkness. The scenery waiting, like a gift to open in the daylight the next morning. There was a lot of lightning that started far in the distance but ended up being very near my destination.
When I stepped out of the car, I was dumbstruck by the beautiful…
I grew up in a house sandwiched between the NJ Turnpike 3 miles one direction and the Garden State Parkway 5 miles another. I used to be able to lie in bed at night and stretch my hearing, past the crickets that my grandmother hated for keeping her up at night, to catch the sound of trucks on the highways. I had never lived far from civilization anywhere I’ve gone.
And so, I still vividly remember that moment when I got out of that car. It was 2 in the morning, I was exhausted and not a little guilty over the money I had spent. It was darker than in the suburbs and I was literally awestruck by the realization that I’d never heard real silence before. I loved the feel of it. It was almost spooky. I was afraid to close the car door because even shutting it politely was far too loud. The lack of sound was thick and pure and I wanted to drink it. The stars above were brilliant and so numerous I could barely pick out my familiar constellations. I’d never seen so many before.
And in that moment, all my money cares and worries about leaving the kids behind were totally forgotten. There are other stories but suffice it to say this trip turned into the best birthday gift I ever got.
Have you ever stretched yourself to do something you just knew you needed even if it seemed like it couldn’t possibly be smart? Share your story with me.