Tanya picked me up at the airport in Philly, when I flew in from London, heavy-hearted from a visit with my Mum in her last stages of Alzheimer's. The swings and roundabouts of my emotional roller-coaster buffet me and I’ve realized it’s sometimes hard to keep an even keel. I was so excited to see my daughter and her two boys, as well as the added bonus of having Christian come up for Christmas, that it felt disloyal to put away my leaden feelings. I hope my children can forgive me if I sometimes snapped, if I sometimes wasn't quite myself this Christmas.
The DragonWagon had been squeezed into the Papi’s Mazda and had made the trip up to Philly with Papi and Christian, in case the DragonMaster changed his mind about where the journey might take him next.
There may not have been flurries of snow in Philadelphia this year, but there were plenty of photo-flurries, laughter-gales, and game-storms at Tanya’s house, as the magic of Christmas touched us all. As with so many precious moments, it was over all too quickly and suddenly it was time to pack up and leave.
Christian had decided to return to Ocala, to the same place he’d finished up at, so the already stuffed car somehow morphed to make room for one more passenger and a slew of Christmas presents. The drive was tortuous down I-95 with traffic backups for miles and miles outside major cities and hubs, and 12 hours after leaving Philly we gratefully pulled into the Kerns’ beautiful lake-house in South Carolina, where Suzie and Scott spoiled us with all sorts of culinary delights, stories, and gorgeous beds to sleep in.
Another 12 hours driving south, finally brought us to Ocala, where after a quick supper of wings and celery (all other places closed that late on a Sunday night) we drove the DragonMaster to the designated spot. My heart stopped. We were in the gloomy half-light of a deserted parking lot behind a Winn Dixie.
As we pulled in, Christian pointed to the thick woods behind, “In there, Mum, that’s where I was. That’s where I’ll sleep tonight too.” I swallowed hard. Wow. This is what he really does. I hadn’t realized how truly disconnected I’d been, romanticizing this trip in my head and through his blogs. Now I was in the middle of it, albeit momentarily, and I couldn't stop my heart from lurching. Stoppit already! Get a grip.
I’ve learned that when you love someone unconditionally, you have to let them go. You have to willingly open up both hands with your palms upwards and allow them to fly away. You can’t make anyone stay and love you. Shoot. That doesn’t make it any easier. Watching all his bits and pieces come out of the car was a sobering moment. Here was Christian’s whole life, a little jumbled pile of bags and parcels on the floor of the parking lot.
I looked at each bit as he packed, selected, repacked, sorted and organized…this is how he was living...I should have offered to wash his clothes. I had been so proud of my Christmas presents to him, but looking at them now in the dismal, cold, night-light, I realize they might only ward off a little of the powerful elements: a thick orange and black rubber jacket to help with rain and cold; I should have sewn on some high-visilbility strips and got trousers to go with it; a jumbo Ziploc bag to keep at least one set of clothes dry; will it really work? a set of little bungee-cords to secure stuff with. Darn I should have, I should have … I’m second guessing myself at every turn.
We’re intruding. I feel it. Papi and I had nothing to contribute to his packing and I sensed that Christian was trying to hurry so we could get away.
“We should leave,” I muttered, shivering in the damp chill.
“No, let’s wait until he’s finished.” Papi said, circling the DragonWagon.
Christian nodded, “I’d feel better knowing that you guys are on your way, you still have another 3-hour drive to get home.”
Papi wasn't convinced. I didn’t want to leave either, but it was the right thing to do.
We all hugged and smiled, Papi making a feeble joke which we tried to laugh at, but which was quickly forgotten and then we were in the car and driving off.
I cry, but not much because Papi's reminding me that Christian’s doing what he wants to do. Not much because he doesn’t do tears and needs to fix them right away. So I pull my tears inside and put them in that place where I keep my tears for Tany and her boys in Philly; with my tears for Mum in England; with the tears for living so far from my beloved siblings.
Life is good. I breathe deeply and consciously release my love and allow everything and everyone to be just where they choose to be. I say a prayer that I will have the peace to accept that I am headed exactly where I need to be and it comes. That peace that passes all understanding returns, and balance is restored.
Thus the DragonWagon walks on and the adventure continues. Today, 24-hours after dropping Christian off, as I finish watching 7 Years in Tibet, I can’t help feeling that that whole movie was written for me, right now. So I dedicate this to you tonight, wherever you are, whenever you read this, with love.
May all travelers find happiness wherever they go,
Without any effort, may they accomplish whatever they set out to do;
And having safely returned to the shore,
May they be joyfully reunited with their relatives.
Dalai Lama, 7 Years in Tibet