I pull in about twenty minutes late, follow that circle of asphalt past well-manicured lawn and landscaping, up to the front doors of a building that looks more like a hotel than a senior living facility.
I’m late because of traffic. Specifically, because of summer road construction. It seems like there’s way too much of that today. But in New England, and really everywhere, you have to make hay when the sun shines. Or pave the roads. Or whatever.
Also, it’s rush hour, or at least it was rush hour a half-hour ago when I was still on the highway. And it’s Monday besides, and all these little things might add five or seven minutes to your drive if you’re driving across town or even across a few towns, but when you’re driving fifty or sixty miles? They add up and you show up twenty minutes late.
My mom is waiting outside, all dressed up with makeup and hair just so and so she gets in the car wearing a smile and saying a thank you, and she doesn’t even mention the fact that I’m late and that we’re kind of trying to get to the RMV before the lines get too long, so she can renew her license.
And I’m grateful for this.
Small graces offered can offer someone a bit of relief, you know?
I’m not wearing makeup at all. Because some days the best I can manage is to pull this tangle into a ponytail, and I wonder if I’ll ever get to the place where I am organized enough to have my hair and makeup just so. I kind of don’t think I will. I kind of think I’ll always be sort of bad at that.
I don’t tell her this, because there’s no time and anyway now my GPS is not working. All I’ve got is this blue circle that keeps on circling and circling, and I guess Google’s not gonna help us get us to the registry this morning.
I drive, kinda-sorta knowing where I’m going. I make it all the way to the highway, but the registry that we’re going to wasn’t here when I lived in this area a hundred years ago, and so even though we pull into the service plaza off the highway where it’s supposed to be, I don’t see it.
And what I’m thinking, now, as I pull back onto the highway is this – who in the world puts an RMV in a service plaza off the highway? With the gas pumps and the fast food and the rest-stop amenities? And if you do put one there, wouldn’t you put a GREAT BIG SIGN saying – oh, I don’t know – RMV – so that people would know that the little building on the end was THAT?
There is no sign. And me? Well, I don’t listen to my mother, who says it’s probably back there in that little building on the end.
Because here’s the other thing I’m really bad at sometimes: listening to wisdom.
Don’t get me wrong – I WANT to listen to wisdom. I LONG to listen to it. Only I sometimes don’t recognize it. Because sometimes wisdom is not pushy enough. Sometimes wise people speak and they don’t shout. Actually, most of the time when wise people speak, they don’t shout.
So yeah. I don’t listen. I think I know stuff. I pull back onto the highway because obviously if there were a RMV here, there would be a big sign.
Sometimes, though, the signs are small. And you just need to take some time to look. And listen.
We ride that highway another five, or maybe even ten miles, before the next exit offers a turnaround. And of course that service plaza with the RMV (which I don’t really think is a service plaza with an RMV) is on the EASTBOUND side of the highway. And we are now on the WESTBOUND side, and you’d think (wouldn’t you?) that there’d be access to it from either side.
But there isn’t.
We end up driving about an hour before we finally pull in and park and find out that yes, indeed, the RMV is in that little building on the end. I try to remain calm during all of this driving and lateness. My mom tries too. But neither of us really believes that the other one is calm.
We make it there before the lines show up, which I just think is God giving me a pass. Which I clearly do NOT deserve, because already this morning I’ve not honored my mother (by listening to her), and also I displayed more than a bit of pride in my whole I-know-what-I’m-doing-here attitude. Oh, and you can add judgmental to the list, of whoever decided (or rather did not decide) to put a big sign up declaring the presence of the RMV.
We manage to get through the process. The people there are really nice. The man who helps us – Cedric – is possibly the nicest person I’ve ever met. We go to lunch afterwards. And to a shoe store, which is always fun.
It all takes hours and hours longer than I thought it would.
But here’s the thing – in those hours and hours longer than I thought it would take, this errand to renew a license stopped being an errand to renew a license and became something more.
Time to connect.
Time to talk and to listen. (Yes, somewhere along the line I did actually manage to figure out how to listen).
Time to find joy and yes, to find grace, in these most ordinary tasks – renewing a license, shopping for shoes, getting lunch.
But isn’t it in these ordinary moments of life that life is really lived?
I’ll admit it – I didn’t know where I was going. But maybe it’s right there in the times when we’re searching and seeking and lost, that we find what we’re really looking for in the first place.
Of course, if you need a ride to the RMV, and you’re on a schedule, you might not want to call me.
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