When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a sailor. I wanted to join the navy, like my dad, but mostly because I really liked the hats and I had this adorable sailor-suit romper that I remember wearing on my 8th birthday, when I unwrapped my very first bible from mom and dad. That bible is filled with scribbled notes, especially one giant highlighted one, announcing the fact that “I WILL DISCOVER THE ARK OF THE COVENANT!” - the next of my future ambitions, archaeology, and one that would circle back around later in my life.
The only colleges that I applied to during my senior year (at home) were bible colleges with mission aviation programs. I wanted to fly planes into jungles and drop important things that tribal people needed, like bibles. I met a girl who fought fire and thought it was the baddest ass thing that I could Never Do. But I told God to send me anywhere, the remotest, most destitute place on earth for Him, I was ready.
Growing up, I don’t remember imagining a family, or kids. If any thought of offspring crossed my mind, I could imagine tolerating a small herd or rowdy boys. I remember only one specific thing about a wedding that I wanted: a ride in a sleigh with a red velvet, fur-trimmed cape. Instead I got married in October between two bonfires, surrounded by torches and a church congregation hand-clapping to one of my least favorite church songs EVER.
I never fantasized about the little blonde girls in princess dresses and cowboy hats that would fill my life from the age of 19 until now. I never imagined canning quarts of peaches or cooking casseroles. I never planned out the domestic bliss that was in store for me. I had fantasies of dorm rooms and best friends and road trips with loud music and lots of snacks, not an SUV covered with crushed Goldfish Crackers and a steady diet of Rice and Beans and cheap Macaroni and Cheese.
I had waited anxiously for 17 years to meet the One Man that I would spend my life with, traveling the world, studying intellectuals and philosophers, tromping through ancient ruins and up breathtaking mountainsides. I never could have anticipated what was actually in store. At 17 I was too young to see it coming, and it’s a good thing, cause I might have bailed. And then where would I be? God sent me to Northport. He gave me four little girls and a dud of a marriage. You don’t get much more remote or destitute. But you do get adventure.
When my kids were born, I guess I was too preoccupied with survival to spend time imagining what they’d be when they grew up. Now I know that it would have been a silly waste of time, because these four are nothing I could have seen coming. Wild and brilliant, beautiful and weird, if my life was never anything more than the ledge those four needed to jump off in to the world, it was worth it.
Every turn in my life has been a surprise. Some tragic, some amazing, and all of them necessary. There is no point of my life that has turned out how I pictured it. Sure, I studied some anthropology and even did some archaeology work. I’ve fought the fires. I’ve been on the road trips, but it’s usually my kids riding shotgun in the SUV with the loud music and the crushed Goldfishes. I didn’t land the One Man for my Whole Life (yet). But I’ve done more than my share of tromping and traveling without him, and with plenty of other amazing people.
I never got to be a sailor, but I get to work with a few and I love them AND their hats. I actually did drop bibles in a jungle, just not from a plane, and it taught me more about what I was in need of than the people who lived there. I’ve canned peaches and studied philosophers and met heroes and poured beers and drank whiskeys with greater human beings than I ever thought I’d get to meet.
The Surprise of My Life IS my life, with all of its twists and turns, with four little women who are four times the woman I could have dreamed. Every day is another surprise, and just when I start thinking I might know what’s coming next, life comes up with a better idea, and I’m ok with it. Wonder what’s next?