It was a game of numbers: 4 humans, 3 dogs, 2 hours, and 1 sedan. The two 50-pound dogs would need to nestle themselves somewhere on the laps of human 1 and human 2 in the backseat, or in the eleven inches between. Human 3 drove, and human 4 managed dog 3. How long and far could we get before it became 2 much? (Excuse me, “too much?”) And what was too much? It was a test of physical and mental endurance. And numbers.
As 20 miles passed into 40, the numbers evolved into conversation. Mindless chatter about the song currently on the radio and inquiries as to what makes a Scandinavian donut, well, “Scandinavian” first enveloped our thoughts. Then human 3 asked a question. A seemingly simple and unobtrusive question. But this question, with its 5 simple words, changed the 99.9 miles between here and there.
“How did they arrive here?” human 3 asked of his father.
Slowly, human 1 told of how his father worked in a WWI prisoner of war camp. How that, at any moment, the prisoners could have easily ganged up and overcome the pre-teen and run away from the fields they were being made to harvest, but they did not, because life was better for them there.
He spoke of his father’s foresight and the journey to America. How his mother took a leap of faith, leaving family and country, to join this boy she knew, somewhat, in a new world – with just a ticket and a promise to guide her.
He recalled how he wasn’t supposed to be, but arrived as the greatest gift his parents ever received. He revealed that the trumpet now resting in our closet was one of the few possessions he brought to the new world and the beginning of the family’s deeply rooted musical history. He enchanted us with how he—human 1—and she—human 4—met, loved, and ultimately welcomed five children, instead of just the four they had planned.
Each story, each word dripped with revelation about their history. How they arrived here because they took chances. They stepped away from the comfort of home for the hope of something better. They trusted, and they believed. One alternate decision, one miniscule moment, and everything would be different. Had she decided to stay with what was safe and warm, had they not chanced new technology, had grandchild number 5 not come along, the world would not be the same. For them. And for me.
I came to be in this place—safe, warm, happy, healthy—because they came to be here. For that ride, with 4 humans, 3 dogs, 2 hours, in 1 sedan, I will be forever grateful.
Pete (human 3 and grandchild 5) and his dad (human 1) carrying on a family tradition.