Today’s guest post comes from Shawn Smucker of shawnsmucker.com. Shawn and his family recently concluded an adventure of a lifetime in which they traveled the U.S. on a big blue bus, meeting people (including me, twice!), seeing our beautiful country, talking shop with fellow writers, and learning about life all along the way. It’s my honor to share this funny, sweet, personal piece of Shawn’s adventure with you here! –Tamára
The woman who still feels like a girl sometimes tires of digging through the bottom of the bus for the kids’ shoes, or wondering if the next Laundromat will have a change machine. The man who still feels like a boy is weary of emptying the waste tank and worrying about getting the bus stuck. The third month of a four-month trip is the 21st mile of a marathon.
The woman looks for a movie for the kids while the man makes popcorn. She bends over and sweeps Legos out of the way, then opens the small drawer under the couch. The man pinches her butt. She laughs and looks over her shoulder.
“What movie are you picking, mom?” one of the four kids shouts.
They have been in very close quarters for over ninety days. Moments of intimacy for the parents are few and far between. The man gives the woman a signal.
Meet me in the back in two minutes.
They walk back the long bus hall, closing the two doors. They are giddy, like high schoolers trying to find a place to park late at night. Unfortunately the bedroom door has a gaping hole in the bottom where a large vent used to be, so the man blocks it with an oversized plastic storage container. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
She moves the dirty clothes on to the floor and he jumps into bed. More Legos greet him, like tiny sea urchins. They sigh and pull back the sheets and pick out the Legos and doll clothes and Matchbox cars.
When the bed is clear, they lay down. He smiles. She smiles. He kisses her. Then they hear the tiniest of voices from the other side of the storage bin blocking the door. He looks over his shoulder and a small head peaks up through the narrow space.
“Guysh, what are you doing?” It is their four-year old. She has long blond hair and blue eyes and her s’s come out like sh’s (think Sid from Ice Age). She wants a drink. The man shakes his head in disbelief. He looks at the woman.
Is the universe conspiring against us?
“How do you even fit through there?” he asks, walking toward the door.
“Are you guysh naked in there?” she asks them.
He tries not to laugh. She keeps asking questions.
“Did you lock the door sho that no one would shee you when you’re naked?” she asks again.
“I wish,” he says, leaning down and pushing her head gently back through the vent. “Now go ask your brother for a drink. And don’t come back in here until the door is open. Understand?”
He goes back to the bed and lays down beside the woman. And suddenly the woman and man are boy and girl again. They look at each other – she giggles and he laughs. They hold hands and stare at the ceiling. She suddenly remembers, in the time it takes a lightning bug to flash on and off, that this is the greatest adventure of their life together. He recalls the first time they held hands in that move theatre in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. He remembers how he hadn’t wanted to be anywhere but there.
They hear the voices of their children in the front of the bus: how’d it happen so fast? How could those two people holding hands fifteen years before be in any way connected to these very different but same people, holding hands in Yellowstone while their four children argue over popcorn rights in the front of the bus?
Outside, a few miles away, herds of bison and elk wander through Haydn Valley. A bear swims through icy Yellowstone River, her cub following desperately behind. Downstream, water crashes through the gorge, wearing away another layer of time.
But in the big blue bus, for just a moment, time has stopped.
Shawn recently finished a four-month trip around the United States with his wife and four children (8 years of age and under) and is now back home in Paradise, Pennsylvania. His book My Amish Roots explores the roles of family, death, life, tradition, and legacy against the backdrop of his Amish ancestry. He has also recently written an E-book, Building a Life Out of Words, which tells the story of how his failed business became an opportunity for him and his family to live the life they had always wanted to live.