The 18th day of September, and of our journey, unfolded like so many others – a change of plans and of allowing – allowing ourselves to be open once again to people unknown before this day, to hearing about a lifetime lived, to seeing the beauty found in a family, to learning about a journey. As the months, have drifted by since our journey through the northern United States, from east to west and back again, this moment is one that has remained strongly with me.
We had been traveling long and hard for the past several days; twelve hours that included the long awaited for Yellowstone National Park the day before, after a fitful few hours “sleep” in our car at a rest stop in Montana, after a full day before that in Theodore Roosevelt National Park; before landing in Cody, WY late that night. We knew we needed a day to rest, to catch up on where we had been, as well as on our laundry.
After passing up one laundry mat, we wound up at the second one on the map in a small strip mall by a grocery store. I wonder why we selected this one – maybe it was the bench out front inviting us to sit there with Emma while our clothes were going through the cycles. Whatever the reason, the Sebring women and their little dog, Dagger, decided to use this laundry mat because they saw us sitting on that very bench.
They were heading east from northern California near the coast on a journey home and, until that 18th day, we had been driving west, always west, on this journey into our new life. This was a momentary intersection of lives which allowed glimpses into each other’s worlds – of breaking through the initial uncertainty with small talk, of opening up to each other, sharing our stories, sharing our lives, and watching it unfold as the connections were formed while sorting and folding laundry to the sounds of the machines humming and buzzing.
It is a beautiful memory for me ~ this connection made with these three women who have lived such rich, full lives. Their story began in Spearfish, SD, where Diane Sebring, the mother, now 87-years-old, was born and lived until she was 19. She told of how she was unable to afford her second year of college and she knew she had to work. So, when a recruiter came from California looking for teachers and knowing that wages in California were higher than in South Dakota, she thought “that sounded like a good deal.”
She taught in a one room school house for two years in the small town of Hyampom, meaning “peaceful place.” She shared, “If I’d had money, I would have gone home the first month. You know it’s a long way from home…” But, she said, “I was lucky to board with some really neat people…it made a difference.” She met her husband, George, through these folks, and they had three daughters and raised them in that small town. She now has 7 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. George passed away eleven years ago.
Two of her daughters, Stacy and Sunnie, were traveling with her on this journey home. Stacy said that this was a special trip – taking their mother home. She shared that Diane had “just kind of a longing to go home.” I think we all have this longing to find our way back home, whether it be a real home from the past or a place somewhere deep within our hearts. I understand this desire and if we are blessed we will have someone we love alongside us for the journey.
Having the support at home from her husband and daughter, she (Stacy) and Sunnie decided to drive their mother rather than let her fly alone and worry about all the connections. In addition to this special time together, the journey gave them the time to visit with family and friends all along the way. We met them a week into their travels and they had already made a couple such stops. They had visited her 92-year-old brother, Jim, and his big clan of kids and grandkids in Boise, ID, for a couple of days. Their next destination had been in Bozeman, MT, where they spent time with one of Diane’s oldest friends whom she’d met when she was six years old. While there, they also reconnected with a dear friend whom they had not seen in 42 years. The next stop would be Spearfish with one of Diane’s sisters who still lives in the old family home in which she grew up.
Stacy said that she and Sunnie were having a great time with their mother. “She’s a wonderful, smart, funny woman, you know.” I felt the strong bond between the three women of this family; the love for their mother that brought them away from their everyday lives to do this for her; and Diane’s love and respect for her daughters.
The warmth of the love, caring and respect of these three women for each other as they made this special journey home is what remains with me all these months after that momentary crossing of paths in the laundry mat. I hope that one day we will all meet again.