Monday, February 25, 2008

Wife Rule #22: Travel Time is Talk Time

My in-laws have always lived either three or four hours away, so we frequently go on long car rides. When we were first engaged during the summer break from our university studies, the long rides between our homes were tolerable because the Wonder Babe of the Universe was waiting for me at the other end. I spent many hours on those rides thinking of her, with images in my head of her shining face, surrounded by shining bouquets of white flowers, bathed in shining celestial light, and with the sound of birds chirping, shiningly.

The journey seemed idyllic; nearly the entire route follows mountain ranges, traverses canyons, and near the end, offers amazing vistas of a huge, pristine, crystal-colored lake. I'm sure it was the same scenery that must have inspired Shakespeare's love sonnets, for I even composed my one and only love song about her throughout the many hours of commuting along this route (and it's actually pretty good). Ah, the spring blooming of young love...

However, after we were married, I'll admit that the long drive, like eating leftover wedding cake for the fourteenth consecutive night, was a little less welcoming. This was largely because the member of my wife's family that I wanted to see most was already seated right beside me.

And let's be frank: despite the many tremendous blessings and joys of having children, when you add kids to a long car ride, it can't possibly improve. There are additional potty stops, often in the middle of the aforementioned scenic canyons (we try to turn it into a family fun-time event called by heralding it "Going Potty in the Wilderness"). You also lose control of the car's sound system in favor of playing the Barbie and the Twelve Dancing Princesses Marry the Nutcracker Prince (Often Named Eric for Some Reason) in Swan-Lake-Topia While an Evil Step-Person With a Large, Hooked Nose Tries to Take Over the Kingdom DVD for the umpteenth time that week. And like the vomit-colored icing on the cake, there is always the occasional canyon-induced car sickness that sometimes results in spectacular, spontaneous enhancements of the landscape.

But in reality, on most rides, many or all of our children sleep for much of the time. And with the sound system devoted to spewing forth Barbie wisdom to any conscious ones, there's really not much left for my wife and I to do but talk.

So we talk.

We talk about the same stuff we do at home, but not in the same way--our conversation is more relaxed, less hurried, because we have literally hours to kill. We remember the old times. We discuss the coming times. We troubleshoot and problem-solve. We discuss our extended families in a depth that we usually don't reach. We discuss our progress together, our goals. We discuss our kids and the happenings in their lives. We joke, we laugh, we sometimes flirt.

And often our conversation transcends everything earthly, and we discuss God and His plan for us, for our family, and His glorious gospel. We discuss things we have been thinking about but are not the kind of things we can bring up in Sunday school. We postulate, we ponder, we learn together. During these special times a sweet Spirit sometimes envelopes us and elevates our understandings. We can then learn together in a way and depth that we just can't seem to reproduce very often in other circumstances.

And it's all because we're stuck in a car.

I have learned to love our mobile Talk Times over the years. They are one of my favorite parts of going to visit my wife's family now. In fact, when we were recently planning our winter weekend getaway together without our kids, I was surprised at what I was anticipating most: it was the Talk Time I knew we would have together in our four-hour drive to our destination, and throughout our weekend. We took a handful of CD's with us, but didn't really have them on much during our long rides. We just talked, and talked, and then talked some more. At one point we were so engrossed in our conversation that we completely missed a planned stop along the way--neither of us even remember seeing the exit signs or the billboards in the town as we breezed through it.

I guess we had better things to do.

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