The days went quickly as the family made arrangements to leave Palm Beach. Vivian could feel fear growing in the pit of her stomach. Iowa was nothing like their home now; the palm trees, the smell of the ocean, the trendy restaurants, she would miss this place. “It’s only for the summer,” she reminded herself. And that was true. But, there was so much uncertainty in her life and this summer “trip” made the fear loom larger. She’d been in constant contact with lawyers providing tax documents and bank records, whatever they needed as they conducted their investigation. No one suspected her for a moment; it was clear she was completely innocent and unaware of whatever it was Thomas was doing. But, the stress remained. Would they have a single dime when this was all over? Would they be able to move back to Palm Beach once the summer ended? She couldn’t let her mind wander out that far; it was all too unsettling. “I’ll have a sugar free vanilla iced coffee with oat milk, please.” She spoke clearly into the microphone in the drive thru. She hadn’t allowed herself these luxuries lately, but she’d found a Starbucks gift card in the pocket of some shorts while packing a couple of nights ago. “Will that be all?” The tinny voice responded. “Um, yes, oh wait, make that decaf, please.” “Got it, please drive forward.” She sipped on the coffee as she headed back to the house, there was plenty more to do before they headed north.
Grandma woke up early with excitement welling from within. She hummed as she fried bacon and eggs for Sonny. The kids would be arriving in a few days. She couldn’t believe it. True, it was a sad situation they were leaving behind, but what a blessing to have them so close. Literally, a walk across the yard. Her heart soared at the thought of it. The smell of bacon drifted up the stairs and Sonny’s mouth began to water. Nothing like a good breakfast to start the day, he mused. It was 5:30 am and he and Mae had already been up for an hour. They were early risers, always had been. That was part of farm life. They loved to watch the sunrise and see the land come to light. The conversation at breakfast centered on their Bible reading. Proverbs was always full of insight and no matter how many times they’d read it, there was always something new to learn. The verse that resonated with Mae this morning was Proverbs 17:6 “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.” That’s exactly how she felt today. It didn’t matter what scandal may or may not be going on, these children were their pride and joy and she couldn’t wait to teach them all about farm life.
Mae kissed Sonny at the door and he headed out to the barn to take care of the horses; then she walked back to the kitchen to wash up the breakfast dishes. There was only the two of them but she still managed to make a mess; there were always plenty of dishes to wash. She loved her kitchen sink. Well, not the actual sink but where it was mounted. It rested snugly beneath a window that looked out over the farm. She’d stood countless hours over that sink and prayed endless prayers for her family. This morning she felt especially thankful as she looked out the aged paned glass. The corn had recently been planted and the dirt was lined up in piles of perfect rows. It was black, healthy soil and Mae marveled at the mighty hand of God to make it all work. She never grew tired of watching a small kernel turn into a stalk that produced an ear of corn multiplying itself times a thousand. “Your ways are amazing,” she spoke to the empty room as she looked out the window. The sun was barely on the horizon and the morning shadows were lifting; the dew sparkled like an ocean of diamonds across the blades of grass. The brilliance of it all overwhelmed her and tears began to slip down her cheeks. Hadn’t God been good? She knew He would take care of their precious daughter and her children. “I don’t know what you’re up to, Lord, but I know there will be good to come from it. You’ve proven that time and again.” Mae wiped her cheeks with her apron, untied it and hung it on the hook just inside the pantry door. It was time to feed the chickens. Mae wasn’t sure why, but feeding those chickens was one of her favorite tasks each day. She made her way to the barn, slipped on her extra-large rubber boots, and grabbed a bucket sitting by the door. After filling it with grain, she made her way to the chicken coop. “Good morning, girls and boys!” she said in a high pitch happy voice. “It’s going to be a beautiful day!” They clucked in agreement as she fed them breakfast.
“Okay, that’s it.” Trevor closed the trailer door that was hitched to Vivian’s SUV. She was nervous about driving with a trailer in tow, but with all of their luggage and paraphernalia she didn’t see a way around it. Trace had assured her he would help with the driving. Vivian didn’t know whether or not to find solace in his offer; but, she appreciated his desire to help. Trevor would follow in his truck. After a long conversation, they’d decided to bring the truck in case someone needed it to get to work. Abigail stood next to her in the driveway, her eyes shiny with tears. “I’m gonna miss you.” She reached out and hugged Vivian. Vivian returned the embrace and held on tight for longer than necessary. Abigail understood the hug was more than just affection; Vivian needed reassurance and Abigail wished she could protect her best friend from all the pain life had thrown at her. “I’m going to miss you too. We’ll call and text, right?” “Constantly.” Abigail said and smiled widely. “Okay, then, I guess we’re off to Iowa. Our next great adventure.” Vivian tried to sound positive since Thatcher had come up and hugged her around the waist. She put her arm over his shoulder and held on. “Yes, you’re great adventure. And, don’t worry about the house, I’ll check on it often.” “Thanks, Abbie,” Vivian was so grateful for a loyal best friend. She was the only friend Vivian felt she had left. “Load up, everybody!” The kids, big and small, scrambled to find their place in the SUV and Trevor headed to his truck. Tatum was riding with Trevor so that left more room in the SUV for everyone to spread out. “Shotgun!” Trace called. Vivian climbed into the driver’s seat rolled down the window. “If anything comes up, let me know,” she said to Abigail still standing in the driveway. Vivian put the SUV in drive and it slowly began to roll. She could see Abigail waving in the rearview mirror until she was out of sight. In spite of herself, tears began to flow. She was so afraid. She’d been married since she was a child, well, practically. Nineteen was young for a bride. She’d never before faced anything like this and never by herself. In that moment she could feel the Lord speaking to her, you’re not alone, I am with you. She let the words wash over her. She hadn’t been very committed to her faith as she’d grown older, so to hear God’s voice clearly in her heart made tears flow all the more. “You okay, Mom?” Vivian heard Trace and it brought her back to the moment. “Yes, just feeling a lot of emotions right now.” “Yeah, me too,” Trace responded as he handed her a napkin from the glovebox to dry her eyes. Vivian glanced again in the rearview mirror and saw her beautiful children settling in for what would be a long trip. Not one of them complained, even though no one would’ve blamed them if they did. They’d barely cleared the Palm Springs city limit when Thatcher said, “how much longer, Mom?” Before Vivian could answer, Trace spoke up, “a long, long way, kiddo. Wanna play a game on my phone?” Vivian caught Trace’s eye and smiled. He smiled back and gave her a thumbs up. She could already see good changes in him and they hadn’t even made it out of the state. Maybe this will be exactly what we all need, she thought.
The map on her phone said it was over fifteen hundred miles from their home in Palm Beach to her hometown in Iowa. They’d agreed to spend the night a couple of times along the way, Vivian had already made the hotel reservations. She still couldn’t believe it had come to this, but she was determined to make the best of it for the sake of the kids. In the most teasing way she could muster, she started a rousing version of “Ninety Nine bottles of Beer on the Wall.” She had a couple of takers that sang with her, but they mostly groaned at her effort. The “leaving” was over, that was the hard part. Now it was time to start something new, something solid, even if it was temporary. Once her attempt at singing failed, she began to tell the kids everything she could remember about her childhood days in Iowa. She was amazed when they hung on her every word. “It doesn’t sound too bad,” Trace spoke. “You might even like it.” Vivian said with more confidence than she felt. But, acting like she had more confidence than she felt was nothing new these days. She deserved an Oscar for her effort.