Our Big Cross-Country Trip

July 8, 2007 @ 8:35 am | Filed under:

In October of 2006, I packed my five children into our minivan and drove from Crozet, Virginia, just west of Charlottesville, to San Diego, California, where my husband had begun a new job a few months earlier. Our road trip was a grand adventure, and I live-blogged the whole thing. This page collects those posts, as well as the posts written by my best pal, Alice, whom I talked to every day on the road.

The adventure began, as many adventures do, with a christening. In the frantic days before Scott’s departure—he had to be on the job in mid-July—we squeezed in two very important family events: Rilla’s baptism and Rose’s First Holy Communion. Despite a rather embarrassing faux pas on my part, the day was beautiful and surprised us with just how much significance it held for our upcoming move:

In all the chaos I hadn’t really noticed that
yesterday was the feast day of Blessed Junipero Serra, an
eighteenth-century Franciscan priest who founded missions all along the
coast of California. Imagine how my heart thumped when our priest, Fr.
Francis, began his homily with a story about his trip to San Diego last
year when he visited the mission established by Father Junipero. He
spoke about Junipero’s travels and how he was so full of joy in the
gospel that he couldn’t help sharing it wherever he went. The homily
ended with these words, which are still ringing in my ears:

"Like Bl. Junipero, we too are sent forth to—through our lives and occasionally through our words—share our joy with others."

(Here’s the whole post.)

In August, we made a trial run to Alice’s house in New York. We couldn’t leave the East Coast without introducing our new baby to hers!


I later wrote about what my kids packed in their backpacks for the trip.

And I wrote about how hard it was to be separated from Scott all summer. Our neighbors helped a lot, a LOT. iChat helped too.

Suddenly we had a move date and I realized we’d spent the last regular day in our old home, because it was time to focus all our attention on the packing. Moving, I discovered, is like childbirth. And also like living in a sliding puzzle.

A couple of days before the movers came, I fell and hurt my wrist, but it wasn’t too bad.

October 1st: the last hard push before the packers came.

Somewhere in there, we took a walk up our street for the last time.


October 2nd, the packers arrived.

October 3rd, loading day. When it was over, we were exhausted.


All too soon, it was time for the hard goodbyes: goodbye to our beloved butterfly garden, farewell to cherished friends.


Now the trip posts begin. Most of them were short—I texted them on my cell phone—so I’ll put them on this page in their entirety. To see the originals (with comments), click the post titles.

October 4, Day 1 on the road. Crozet, VA to Charleston, WV.

From this point on, all photos were taken with my cell phone—thus the fuzziness!

Goodbye, Almost Heaven—Hello, West Virginia

We’re in Charleston WV, not-sleeping in a hotel room. This morning was hard: the goodbyes. Then the Blue Ridge slipping away behind us. But oh the gorgeous views. We saw autumn progress by the hour: so many more reds and goldens in the trees here.

Stopped for a long break at the New River Gorge visitor center: awesome. Kids had a ball hunting the answers to nature mystery exhibits. I stopped there on a whim and we wound up staying almost an


October 5th, West Virginia to Kentucky.


See, Our Old Neighborhood Is Having a Bit of a Bear Problem

Rose: What do they have in San Diego—wolves, foxes, or coyotes?

Me, thinking it’s the setup for a joke: Um, coyotes?

Rose, dead serious: Oh great. From bears to coyotes! That really is out of the frying pan into the oven.

Today in Brief

One case of conjunctivitis, two Belgian waffles, three states, four
stuffy noses, five chocolate milks, six "Are they all yours?" queries,
seven pieces of salt water taffy, eight choruses of Big Rock Candy
Mountain, nine bridges, and I literally just fell asleep while trying
to think of ten, so it’s time to quit thinking and go to sleep.

October 6th, Kentucky to Indiana.

Instead of Posting

I will just write titles and let you fill in the blanks. Like:

Spilled milk is blue under blacklights


Pinkeye and red nose


It’s really cold in the parking lot at three in the morning

(Note to self: don’t leave contact lens case in car.)

October 7th, Indiana to Missouri.

Giant spools on a flatbed parked outside the Comfort Inn in Dale, IN.

The Complimentary Breakfast Buffet May Be Man’s Finest Achievement

Belgian waffles! Sausage and bacon! All you can eat for the five of us
who eat table food, included in the price of the room. Gotta love that.
We are breakfasting our way across America. It was the Ramada in
Charlestown WV that had (as icing on the cake) blacklights above the
table. The kids loved seeing their milk turn blue.
This morning we’re in Dale, Indiana. I swear parts of southern IN look
like the Shire. Except, you know, for the Denny’s billboards.
(BTW, no worries about the pinkeye. My awesome VA doc got a scrip
phoned in to the Rite Aid in Winchester, KY. I’ll be fine.)

But Is It My Color?

Cracker Barrel east of St. Louis. Full dish of cocktail sauce in baby’s
fist. All over my jeans! Not my favorite perfume. Now at McDonald’s
Play Place for some exercise. Is this what they mean when they talk
about seeing America? Next up: the Arch. (Singular and not golden.)

Photo taken by Jane out the car window as we crossed the mighty Mississip.

After Two Days in the Car, it Could Be Worse

Rose: Even though Beanie can be annoying, I wouldn’t want her to be eaten by a shark.

(I’m sure we’re all glad to hear THAT.)

Alice recaps our first leg of the trip: A Path to the Pacific.

October 8, Missouri to Kansas.

No Catholic Church in Boonville MO

like we’ll have to head to KS City for Mass this morning. Might also be
able to squeeze in a quick hello with some friends there, and then it’s
on to Kansas and an overnight rendezvous with Karen E! Color me a-cited!

I think it was over at Lilting House that I was rhapsodizing about
that fine invention, the breakfast buffet. I forgot the best part of
yesterday’s morning repast. The food was in the hotel lobby, the tables
in a small adjoining room. I filled Beanie’s plate and told her to go
find a place for us to sit. When I entered the dining room with my own
full plate, I was surprised to spot Bean chowing down at a table
occupied by a large party of senior citizens. Everyone at EVERY table
was grinning with amusement at our happy Bean and her hard-boiled egg.

"Oh!" I cried. I had to laugh. "I told her to find a seat. Guess I didn’t specify AT AN EMPTY TABLE!"

Alice chronicled my Kansas drive for me: "I spoke to Lissa
just as she was crossing the Kansas River this afternoon. She was in
high spirits as the sights and sounds of the prairie always give her a
feeling of coming home." (Continues…)

October 9, drove to Salina, Kansas, where we rendezvoused with Karen E and her girls.

Again With the Counting

One hotel, two pizzas, eight children, a thousand giggles, one stern phone call from the front desk.

Friends worth driving to Kansas for (even if we weren’t just passing through): priceless.

Back home in Nebraska, Karen wrote this lovely post about the fun our gaggle of girls had together.

And here’s Alice’s daily bulletin!

October 10, Salina, Kansas, to Burlington, Colorado.

Oh Give Me a Home Where My Phone Doesn’t Roam

in Colorado! No web access all day yesterday, but loads of fun. Really.
The Prairie Museum of Art & History in Colby, Kansas: HIGHLY
RECOMMENDED. Super fun even in cold rain. More on that later.

More on everything later! For now: Pike’s Peak or Bust! OK, not
really. We aren’t going to Colorado Springs. Grandma’s House or Bust!
Only a few hours to go before we descend upon my parents in a noisy,
rowdy, riled-up bunch. You sure you’re ready for this, Mom & Dad?

Beanie explores a display of memorabilia in the Prairie Museum.

Jane does a little light housework in the soddy.

And Rose, as is her wont, makes a four-legged friend.

Alice’s Oct. 10 recap: "Toto, They’re Not in Kansas Anymore."

Approaching Burlington, Colorado (and our only snowstorm of the trip).

Ain’t It Good to Be Back Home Again

The first (long) leg of our journey is over. We made it to my parents’
house in Colorado, and the first thing I saw when I walked into my
mother’s kitchen was my favorite cake waiting for me on the counter.
Which is why I can’t write more right now. Don’t want to get crumbs in
my father’s keyboard, you know.

Oct. 11, still in Denver

So Much to Write About

So little time to write! This morning,
at least. We are off soon for another fun visit with friends, and I
still haven’t had a chance to write about our marvelous visit with the Edmisten
clan, who (amazing, this!!) drove four hours to meet us in Kansas the
other day. Four hours. Each way. I mean, really. A. MAZE. ING.

And then there are all the stories and snippets from the trip, the
ones too long to type into a PDA. Soon, soon. (I am promising myself.
Must chronicle travels or else explode into teeny tiny bits of untold
tales. Story shrapnel?)

Of course I’ll be forever in Alice’s
debt (again) for taking notes on all the things I babbled into my
wireless headset on the drive. She is the best kind of friend, the kind
who not only doesn’t MIND if you interrupt her on the phone to
maniacally shriek LOOK LOOK GIRLS A BURROWING OWL ON THE FENCEPOST OH RATS YOU MISSED IT!!!!! I’m sorry, Alice, you were saying?, she even writes down what you’re shrieking about. She
also says far nicer things about me than I deserve, but you can just
skip over those parts. She is totally biased, and we should all just be
very frank about that. Whenever she uses words like "descriptive,"
"spontaneous," and "adventurous," you should substitute "longwinded,"
"flaky," and "nuts." Just so you know.

While there, enjoying the chocolate cake and the round-the-clock babysitting, I had time to write about an encounter on the road in Kansas. It’s a longer post (and probably my best one from the whole trip), so I’ll just put the first paragraph here.

Ain’t That America

Somewhere in the middle of Kansas, I called Scott to say we’d be
stopping for lunch in either Wakeeney or Ogallah, I wasn’t sure which.
He called back and got my voice mail. Left me a message saying Wakeeney
has a population of something like 1650 souls. Ogallah? Population 162.
By the time I heard his message we’d already driven through Ogallah and
hadn’t seen enough evidence of human existence to sustain sixteen
people, much less a hundred and sixty. (Continue…)

October 13, Denver

Agley Again

No post
yesterday because I spent all day trying to figure out our plans for
the next leg of this travelpalooza. And also eating cake. Karen, you
asked WHAT KIND of cake? It’s my mom’s famous Rocky Road Sheet Cake
although technically it isn’t rocky road because years ago, at our
request, she started leaving out the marshmallows. It’s an incredibly
moist and rich made-from-scratch sheet cake with a semisweet fudge
frosting studded with pecans. You just can’t believe how good this cake
is. I will be riding the sugar-high all the way to New Mexico.

So. The movers threw a wrinkle into our plans. The truck was
supposed to reach San Diego, oh, about now. Scott is waiting on the
other end to meet it, and then the plan was for him to fly out here to
Denver and make the rest of the trip with us. But now the truck isn’t
arriving until next Monday. Which means he loses the weekend for
traveling. Argh.

But not to worry. We have a new plan. He’s meeting us in Phoenix
instead. See, we all really want to make the last bit of the drive
together, the entry into California, the first glimpse of the Pacific.
(For the kids and me, it really is our first glimpse. I’ve never been
west of this great state of Colorado.)

So I’ll leave Sunday and head south. Scott will meet the truck on
Monday and grab a cheap one-way flight to Phoenix early Wednesday
morning. (Knowing how inevitably the best-laid plans of mice and moms
gang agley, we are allowing for a cushion day on Tuesday, just in

In the meantime, the kids and I are thoroughly enjoying our respite
at Grandma & Grandpa’s house. The food, my word, the food! When my
sister came for dinner the other night, she surveyed the feast my
mother had prepared and remarked that she had just mentioned to her
husband that she was in the mood for a Thanksgiving-like spread. Which
is what we’ve had, every night. Just yum.

My dad has taught Wonderboy how to go down the slide head-first.
Which explains why the kid is walking around with leaves plastered to
his forehead. Awesome.

On Wednesday the kids and I zipped across town for a lovely lunch visit with some 4 Real Learning friends.
Mary, Mary, and Gwen, it was a joy to meet you all in person. We
realized that between us, almost half of last year’s impromptu Journey
North group was present!

Yesterday was, as I said, devoted to trip planning and also the
dreaded van-cleaning-out. Which actually wasn’t too bad. I had to
figure out how to clear space in the passenger seat for me to, you
know, SIT in after Scott joins us. And then my mom took Jane and me
shopping. Shopping! In an actual store! Where you see items in real
life and put them in a shopping basket and then stand in line where an
actual human person rings you up! No mouse-clicking of any kind! I
could hardly remember how the whole system worked. Fortunately my
mother was there to gently nudge me to the right side of the conveyor
belt. ("No, dear, that’s a cash register, not a computer, and you
mustn’t push the buttons.")

And she bought me some really cool shoes.

October 15, Denver

On the Road Again, Plus: Cake!

Well, the Colorado interlude is drawing to a close, and this morning the bairns
and I will hit the open road again. Next stop: Somewhere, New Mexico.

But before I leave my mother’s kitchen, she said I could share the
My Favorite Cake recipe with you. So now you’ll all know what to make
me next time I visit. (Kidding! You don’t have to!)

(Cherry cobbler will be just fine!)

(Or pie!)

(Or that thing people make that has chocolate cake and pudding and
whipped cream all in one big gloppy bowl, whatever it’s called. That’s
always a fine choice.)

(But I digress.)

Rocky Road Sheet Cake

Sift together: 2 cups flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 3/4 cups sugar, 4 tablespoons cocoa.

In saucepan, combine 1 cup cold water, 1/2 cup oil, 1/2 cup butter.
Bring to boil and pour over dry ingredients. Beat until creamy. Add 1/2
cup buttermilk (only I’m pretty sure Mom just uses regular milk), 1
teaspoon baking soda, and 2 eggs. Beat well. Bake in greased sheet pan
(one of those big old cookie sheets, not a cake pan) at 400 degrees for
18 minutes.


Melt 1/2 cup butter and stir in 1/4 cup cocoa. Then stir in 1 lb.
powdered sugar. Yes, one whole pound. Hush. Add 1/3 cup milk and 1/2
teaspoon vanilla, and stir until creamy. Fold in 1/4 cup chopped pecans
(I think my mom uses more than that, YUM) and, if you must, 1/2 cup
miniature marshmallows cut in half. Personally, I’d think the
marshmallows would make it too sweet. But it’s your cake; do what you

Okay, there’s my contribution to world happiness today. Now I have
to go finish packing up. It’s always the socks that get you, you know?
I think we’ve left a trail of socks all the way across the country.
There are at least six mateless socks in my bag now. I guess we can
keep them as spares in the car so we won’t get kicked out of any more
McD’s Playplaces. Did I tell you that story? Apparently you’re not
allowed in with bare feet anymore. They are very strict about that rule
in Indiana, just so you know.

October 16, Aurora, CO to Santa Fe, NM

Heading south from Denver on I-25.

Sometimes It’s Hard to Make a Positive ID

Rose: "Mom! I just saw either a horse or an elk. I couldn’t see the
head or the tail, so I can’t be sure which. It was definitely brown,

That was the day Alice christened my minivan and obliged me with some research:

"Our intrepid explorers are on the move again, using every leg of the
journey as a springboard to nature, history, literature, geology,
geography, and any other avenue of interest this great nation of ours
may have to offer. They spotted a golden eagle wheeling circles in the
Colorado sky and breezed past herds of bison and llamas, discovering
more unusual wildlife by the side of the road in one morning than I
would expect in a day at the zoo. Always fond of homeschoogling,
the gang requested that I check the internet for information on a sign, ‘Site of the Ludlow Massacre.’ We were all appalled to learn about this terrible event, especially because it occurred in our own century."  (Post continues…)

October 16, Santa Fe to Winslow, AZ

Gusty Winds May Exist

I love the road signs in New Mexico. Polite, noncommittal, vaguely
existential. Gusty winds did in fact exist when we crossed Raton Pass
from Colorado into New Mexico. Also gorgeous views. This is one
spectacularly beautiful country we live in.
Yesterday’s travel highlights: a golden eagle swooping over the road, a
herd of bison (not wild), lots of mule deer, prairie dogs, and llamas. Also Pike’s Peak, the Greenhorn Mountains, the Sangre
de Christos, and the Spanish Peaks. Googleworthy landmarks: site of the
Ludlow Massacre and Wagon Mound, NM. This morning we will explore Santa
Fe, especially the church with the miraculous staircase. I have a great
respect for the Sisters of Loretto, who built the church—but not the
stair. (Something else for you to Google.)
And more hotel infamy! Last night we managed to lock our bathroom door
from the inside when no one was in it. Brilliant!

Standing on a Corner Down in Winslow, Arizona

I think I am now on a mission to title every other post with song
lyrics. Just so you know.
I haven’t actually stood on any corners in Arizona yet, though. After
our Hair-Raising Adventure, which cannot be described with thumbs alone
and must therefore wait until I reach the New House (hint: it involves
vomit, plane tickets, and a pack of junkyard dogs), all I could do was
deposit us in this hotel, which has plenty of corners but not the kind
you stand on. I suppose I should be glad we made it 2,417 miles before
anyone threw up in the car. Before that, though: Loretto Chapel
(breathtaking despite the touristy entrance fee), Sandia Crest, and the
NW NM visitor’s Center (possibly the cleanest bathroom in America and a
cool video on volcanoes).

The miraculous staircase of Loretto.

Alice didn’t know we were going to visit Loretto Chapel, so this post of hers was typically insightful!

Later, after we were settled into our new home, I found time to write about the scary encounter with dogs I mentioned above:

I Never Did Tell You About Those Junkyard Dogs

On Oct. 17th, we drove from Winslow AZ to the Phoenix airport, where we had a joyous reunion with Scott, who flew in to meet us for the last piece of the trip. After a lot of hugging, we piled back in the van and drove to Yuma, Arizona, where we got the very last room in town, the seven of us squeezing into two lumpy queen-sized beds. The next day, Scott took us all the way to the Pacific shore.

On the way to Phoenix, we hit some rough weather.

In Arizona: a changing landscape and a fierce storm.

The worst of the storm is behind us now.

Headed for Phoenix: It’s all rainbows ahead.

I wrote this post in the car on Oct 18th:

Together at Last, Together Forever

I was torn between the Annie lyrics and Peaches & Herb, but in a
contest between sappy and cheesy, I will always go for the sap. And
anyway, it’s true: "I don’t need sunshine now to turn my skies to
blue…" I don’t need anything but the driver of this minivan. We
picked him up at the Phoenix airport yesterday, spent the night in Yuma
broccoli crossing sign
!! We’re here!
Just a couple more hours until we reach our new home.

West of Yuma…

…the landscape changes dramatically.

A wind farm atop the Kumeyaay mountains. You can’t imagine how big those turbines are until you’re passing beneath them. They’re like Redwoods.

Oct. 20th, San Diego, CA

Home Sweet Home

We’re here. We’re so happy!

When I last wrote, it was Wednesday morning and we were crossing the
border into California. After that we crossed an honest-to-goodness
desert and some amazing mountains, about which more later. Scott drove
us right past our new town and straight to the end of the road. He
wanted the kids to see the sea first, before anything else. And just:
wow. Pelicans! Sea lions! So much blue!

And then he brought us home. We’re renting an adorable little (very
little) bungalow about half an hour’s drive from his office, which is
right on the water. (His office, not our house.) Right now the house is
crammed full of boxes (obviously) and we’re squeezing through the
cardboard towers trying to find clean socks or, say, the washing
machine. But our wonderful new friends had dinner waiting for us—two
dinners, in fact!—and bags full of goodies from Trader Joe’s. We ate
like kings the first night, if kings used paper plates. Last night,
another feast, and this time on real plates because I did manage to get
the kitchen unpacked yesterday.

People are so incredibly nice. And the internet, really, what an
amazing thing. Here I am in a city I’ve never set foot in before, and
I’m being showered with as much warmth and food as if I’d lived here
all my life. Or, say, five years, which is how long I was in Virginia,
where our dear friends and kind neighbors took such good care of us
during the long weeks and months of Scott’s absence.

When I have to actually cook dinner next week, I may faint from the novelty of it.

We are loving the sight of palm trees and flowers wherever we go.
And mountains! San Diego has mountains everywhere, who knew? Okay,
Scott did, and he kept telling me about them, but really you have to
see the city for yourself to understand how beautifully the urban
development is speckled into the landscape.

The gang and I went out for a walk today. Around the block, we
thought. It’s possible I should have taken a peek at the map first
because it turns out that if you go left and left at the first two
corners, you can’t go left again for about three-quarters of a mile.
And then you will find yourself at the 7-11 your husband pointed out on
the way in, a five-minute ride by car, which amounts to about
thirty-five minutes by double stroller. Uphill most of the way.
Fortunately we popped INTO the 7-11 before embarking upon the trip
home, and the children now think we’ve come to paradise because there
are ice-cream sandwiches within walking distance.

Scott was worried that I’d think the house was too small or too
urban. It is both small and urban, but it’s going to be great. I’m
writing from our enclosed patio which is really more like a sunroom.
Nice cross-breeze, and lots of room for the kids to play. And, HELLO,
he’s here. Well, not actually at this MOMENT, but he’ll walk in the
door at dinnertime and we will rush him in a pack because we can’t
believe the separation is finally over and we are TOGETHER.

And I think I should tell you that the first thing I saw when I
opened the fridge was a new stash of Ritter bars. The man is a jewel.
I’d drive three thousand miles for him all over again, if I had to.


Postscript, a year after the adventure began:

"Go Forth to Share Your Joy."

I love it here.

I feel a little guilty saying it: we left behind such beloved
friends back in Virginia (and in New York before that), and leaving
them tore me up. I miss them wrenchingly, miss bumping into Sarah and her herd of turtles
on the bike path across the street from Lisa’s house, with Lisa waving
a cheery hello from her incomparable flower garden. I miss pizza nights
and berrypicking and Lisa’s cream scones and sitting in the sun beside
the neighborhood pool, counting heads and complaining about how much I
can’t stand sitting in the sun beside the pool, counting heads. (I have
ever been a shade-loving sort of girl.)

I miss my blue mountains and the view from that bonny, bonny glen.
But mostly I miss our friends. I know my girls—happy as they are here
with new chums and a whirl of fun activities—still ache for the cherished pals they left behind.

The pain of separation is real and stark. And yet I knew, as we said
our goodbyes last fall, with "Danny Boy" running endlessly on the
soundtrack in my head, that it was easier for us, in many ways, to be
the ones heading off on a splendid new adventure—not to mention reunion
with Scott, who is half of me. If Lisa’s family had left the
neighborhood, or Sarah’s, there would have been one mighty big hole
ripped in the fabric of our daily lives.

I guess we were the ones ripping the hole this time—same as I’d done to Alice and Brigid five years earlier. And although you know your friends will get along fine without you, still you feel some guilt.

And that can make it hard to admit to yourself how much you love your new hometown.

I love it here, love San Diego like I’ve been living here all my
life. Love the perfect weather, the white stucco buildings with the red
clay tiles on their rooves, the unkempt hills rising abruptly from flat
scrubby plain and subsiding just as suddenly, as if in imitation of the
ocean swells just a few miles away. You couldn’t call this valley we
live in a bonny glen, exactly, but it’s got an undeniable charm.

It’s more than just the novelty—an avenue of palm trees will still
catch me by surprise, but it’s not just the unfamiliarity—it’s what
Jane of Lantern Hill would call "lashings of magic," meaning an
indefinable quality about a place that speaks to something deep within
you. We keep tumbling, here, upon places that whisper welcoming words
to us, greeting us like they’ve been waiting for our footsteps since
time out of mind.

The brown hills that flank Mission Gorge Road; the breathtaking
expanse of blue rolling west from Point Loma, west to the end of the
world; the swooping ride down a backstreet in Santee, where the
suburban desert sprawls eastward toward red mountains that aren’t hills
so much as giant heaps of boulders. The old Estudillo estate on the
plaza in Old Town, where stout white walls enclose a courtyard so laden
with blossoms that hibiscus are as common as the dandelions that ruled
our old backyard.

The white cross atop Mt. Helix in La Mesa, stark and serene against
a cloudless sky. The Marian shrine at the Maronite Catholic Church,
seventeen feet high and crowned in spring with a garland of flowers.
The Mission San Diego de Alcala,
the first church built—in 1769, two hundred years before I was born
(and one hundred years before Laura Ingalls Wilder arrived in that
little house in the big woods of Wisconsin)—by Fr. Junipero Serra,
before he began his long trek north. Its pews are short, its center
aisle wide, and arched doorways on three sides stand open to admit the
jasmine-rich breezes. At Mass there, two weeks ago, Beanie sat
wide-eyed, staring up at the rustic vines painted on the wooden beams
of the ceiling. Her gaze was turned heavenward, but her thoughts were
on the things of this earth: "Mommy," she whispered, "did people of
olden times really go to church here, just like us?"

"Yes, sweetie, really."

"Do you think they had donuts after Mass?"


My own thoughts may not have drifted toward pastries (for once in my
life), but I shared Bean’s sense of wonder that morning. It was July
1st, and we were there for the First Communion of a new friend, the son
of wonderful Erica who made us feel at home here before we even
arrived. July 1st is the feast day of Fr. Serra, and there we were
sitting in the church he built, listening to the priest speak about the
parish’s "first pastor."

Exactly one year earlier
we had sat in another church thousands of miles away, red Virginia
brick instead of white-washed adobe, at the First Holy Communion of our
own child, listening to a priest speak about Bl. Junipero and the
Mission San Diego de Alcala. We hadn’t known, that Saturday morning,
July 1st, that the day was the feast in honor of a saint who had
carried the faith to the destination that was soon to be our new

"Imagine how my heart thumped," I wrote afterward,

"when our priest, Fr.
Francis, began his homily with a story about his trip to San Diego last
year when he visited the mission established by Father Junipero. He
spoke about Junipero’s travels and how he was so full of joy in the
gospel that he couldn’t help sharing it wherever he went. The homily
ended with these words, which are still ringing in my ears:

‘Like Bl. Junipero, we too are sent forth to—through our lives and occasionally through our words—share our joy with others.’

So here we are, beginning to feel at home in
this magical city at the edge of the western world, missing our friends
back east, deeply and daily, but yes, finding joy here, lashings of it.
It bubbles up like a spring in the desert, spilling out, starting
things growing—flowers lush as hibiscus for us to pluck and share
with our friends old and new.

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