She Flies with Her Own Wings

When Scott and I were engaged, we heard stories of how other couples purchased their burial plots within days of buying their wedding rings as a symbol of their everlasting commitment to one another.

Although I intended to keep the whole “till death do us part” of my vows as much as the next bride, selecting where our dead bodies would decompose together for eternity seemed a bit morbid to me at the time. Besides, who has time to make those kinds of decisions when more important ones – like how many place settings we should register for and what font should be used on the invitations – need to be made.

Since our engagement, Scott and I have discussed the whereabouts of our final resting place only a handful of times, usually late at night when one of us can’t sleep or five hours into a long road trip. But here we are, almost six years into our marriage, and still no postmortem plot.

But recently I’ve decided that when it’s time for me to push up the proverbial daisies, Scott can just bury me in our new backyard. Because Lord knows if we ever move again, we’ll be doing it over my dead body.

Nothing could have prepared me for the recent relocation of our family from Billings, Montana to a small, blue-collar town in southern Oregon. Not even the first time we moved when someoneaccidentally drug my wedding vale through the mud, or the second time when someone locked the keys in the cab of the U-haul just a few miles from our final destination, or the third time when we had to live without water and electricity for three days because someone forgot to call the utility company before we arrived. No, these previous transplants pale like a corpse in comparison.

And it’s all because this time, we moved with a child.

Because Scott’s new job demanded that he start immediately, Rainey and I stayed behind in Billings to finalize the finer details of the move. Little did I know that flying solo for a month with a fifteen-month-old while trying to sell the house and pack five years worth of crap would be the easy part. Then again, one of the best realtors in Billings just so happened to be a friend of ours, and Scott’s gracious employer paid for a moving company to do all the dirty work for us.

So it wasn’t until after Rainey and I had already arrived in Oregon that things really started to decay, though I should have smelled it coming when someone was over an hour late picking us up at the airport. At that point, I didn’t want to spend five minutes – let alone eternity – anywhere near Scott.

But I found it virtually impossible to stay mad at the man who Rainey was so incredibly happy to see that she shrieked like a monkey and wobbled like a drunken sailor towards him when he finally rushed through the revolving doors. The bouquet of daisies he brought helped, too.

Because the movers weren’t scheduled to arrive with our furniture and other household goods until we found a more permanent housing situation in town, we were forced to live out of a combination of cardboard boxes, laundry baskets and camping gear in the cramped studio apartment Scott had spent the previous thirty days reacquainting himself with his bachelorhood.

After taking one look (and sniff) at the sink full of dishes and laundry piles on the floor, I began to wonder if maybe our three dogs – who were being fed, groomed, and played with twice a day at the Lone Pine Pet Resort – got the better end of the deal. But I convinced myself that it was enough just to be together again under the same roof.

Later that first night, at around half-past twelve, Rainey jolted us awake with cries of terror that neither we, nor our new neighbors above us for that matter, had ever heard before. The more we tried to comfort her, the louder she screamed, so the three of us sped towards the local emergency room as a last resort. It wasn’t until we reached the hospital in our pajamas that it dawned on us she was probably just feeling homesick and scared about her new surroundings. We turned the car around and returned to our makeshift home where the three of us fell asleep curled up together on the queen-sized air mattress.

Over the course of the next several days, I spent the majority of my time navigating my way around a strange town, trying to find the safest parks and cheapest grocery stores. I managed to get lost only about three or four dozen times.

One afternoon in particular, while pushing Rainey in her stroller on a paved trail around the town’s most popular park, I realized we were no longer on the right path. Rather than turn back and rerun the two and a half miles we had already trekked, I forged ahead for at least another mile, feeling more than confidant that the trail would eventually leap out in front of us and let us continue on our merry way. Before I knew it, though, all traces of a pedestrian walkway disappeared, and somehow we found ourselves smack dab in the busiest section of town on a crowded highway at rush hour.

Overwhelmingly exhausted and frustrated, I cursed the town and its entire infrastructure, pulled the stroller out of harms way, and called Scott at work.

“Hello?” his familiar voice shaved seconds off the nervous breakdown I was moments away from having.

“This town is so stupid. I want to go home.” I said, blushing from the heat and embarrassment of my predicament.

“Where are you?” he asked against the reverberation of cars whizzing past.

“I’m lost because this stupid town doesn’t know how to design its stupid jogging trails. And now I’m on the freeway. Can you come pick us up?”

“But Meg, I have three patients waiting for me. Are you sure you can’t just back track and find your way?”

Without getting into the gory details of my exact response, my answer was a resounding no.

While Rainey and I waited for Scott to come to our rescue, I noticed a big, brown hawk slowly circling directly above us. After faintly remembering some filmstrip I slept through on a fifth-grade field trip to a wildlife preserve about the eating habits and keen eye-sight of large birds of prey, I ripped the apple Rainey was calmly eating out of her hand and hurled it as far away from the stroller as possible out of fear that the predator would swoop down and start pecking on her head. My daughter’s life, I reasoned, was worth preserving, despite the wild animal-like tantrum that resulted.

A few minutes later, Scott pulled up and loaded us girls into the safety of his car.

“I want to go home,” I reiterated as soon as I sat down.

“Where’s home?” he asked, knowing full well what I was going to say.

“Billings,” I whined.

Rainey, of course, handled the whole ordeal, and the entire move in general, much better than me. I was the one behaving more like a baby. But maybe that’s what sleeping on an inflatable bed and surviving without a microwave and hair dryer for over a month can do to a person. Or, maybe moving is easy as long as you’ve got mom by your side. Maybe that’s why I missed mine back in Billings so much.

Whatever the case may be, a few weeks later, we signed the final papers on the house in Montana and sent them off in the mail. Within days we added our signatures to another huge stack, making the cozy house we found in a quiet, kid-friendly neighborhood a few miles outside of town our new home in the Umpqua Valley of Oregon.

Just the other day, on my way home from running errands with Rainey, I spotted a mother and baby hawk flying over the very same freeway we found ourselves stranded on weeks ago. And as I watched the little hawk flapping its wings in a desperate attempt to keep up with its mother, I realized that even though I may feel homesick and scared without any familiar faces and places for a while, instead of flitting around like a child, I should strive to be more like the soaring mama bird and simply lean into the winds of change and glide.

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