Last night, I had a crisis.
On the way to celebrate Christmas with my wife’s family in Spartanburg, SC I realized that I had made a major mistake. I pounded the steering wheel and had an adrenaline-spurred moment of animal rage followed by the inevitable realization that the deed had been done and the only thing left to do was figure out how to fix the situation.
My daughters had been with us over the weekend and gone ahead with Merianna to the family party while I stayed back in Columbia and worked for a couple of hours. I had too much to do, left the house in a hurried panic to make the Christmas party, and completely forgot their elf. It was my duty to bring along “Leroy.”
Leroy is a four year old elf that has become part of the family in many ways and has transcended the elf-on-the-shelf cliche-ness into something akin to a family member that flies in for a couple of weeks. I suspect my six year old sees through the “Leroy is a real elf that does mischievous things for a couple of days then flies back home to the North Pole” and keeps the myth going for my three and a half year old. Regardless, Leroy isn’t as much as a creepy judging watcher as someone who has a past, present, and future with her experience of Christmas. It’s like advent on training wheels as Leroy and our family look forward to the twelve days of Christmas time that start tomorrow when we celebrate the presence of God in this world and the “at-handness” of the Kingdom of God.
As a dad, it’s insanely important for me to make sure that my girls cherish this time of the year and realize that Advent and expectation are just as important for our faith and family as the actual Christmas event.
So, I knew what I had to do. I had to drive. Drive a good deal.
I left the Christmas party, we dropped the girls off with their mother and they headed back to Asheville. I left Spartanburg and headed back to Columbia. I arrived in Columbia at 9pm, ran into the house, picked up Leroy from his last mischievousness (making smores with a candle) then headed back to Asheville. I got to their mom’s house at midnight and dropped Leroy off in a passed-out pose on the wood pile outside of her house. He and I felt the same at that point. Then I left to drive back to Columbia and finally crawled into bed at 3am.
During my ten hours on the road, I had a lot of time to think and listen. I’m completely fine with long drives. I loved driving from South Carolina to Connecticut when I was in graduate school and I always loved my late night drives in college. It’s been a few years, but I remembered my old tricks to get me through. A few hours on a current Audible audiobook, then a few minutes of silence, then a few songs that I sing/scream along with while on cruise control.
It was sometime around 2am near Clinton, SC that I realized I was listening to much of the same music that got me through late night drives to Wofford College then to Columbia and back to my hometown of Mullins fifteen years ago. There was Willie and Waylon, Johnny Cash and the Beatles, Beastie Boys and George Strait. Finally, I turned to Fleetwood Mac and John Lennon (the two that got me through late night drives in my old Jeep with headphones attached to my cassette player because there was no stereo and that I had recorded myself on a mixtape).
I thought of late night drives to see girlfriends in the past, or to see my best friend and college roommate. Then I thought even further back to my high school mentor who loved Stevie Nicks in an unhealthy but inspiring manner and how much he both changed my life and inspired me to be a teacher (and how many of his tricks I stole when I was a middle school teacher). I thought of what I thought I would be when I was 15 or 20 and how things have turned out.
And then Landslide came on.
“But time makes you bolder
Children get older I’m getting older too
Yes I’m getting older too, so”
I don’t know how or why my subconscious mind knew that I needed those ten hours away from a computer and work and building a company in complete and forced solitude. I was cut off from Twitter or Google Adwords or a CSS file that I’ve been struggling with and forced to focus on a single and seemingly absurd task of delivering a cloth elf.
It was beautiful and it was a great way to end an incredible year of my life. The best present I could have given myself despite my state of sleep deprivation today.
Thank you, Leroy.