Change of a Heart's Scenery
by Rachel Burkum
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I hated change. Come to think of it, though my mom kept telling me that I needed to be excited, I’m not sure I knew too many people who actually liked it.
My chin slipped from my hand, but I returned it once more with my elbow resting against the car window. I wanted to lower the glass and feel the wind in my hair, but Mom insisted on running the air conditioner. The passing scenery evoked little interest.
Fields, trees, road signs...everything looked the same. It was all one big blur and I hated it. Thirteen years old and forced to move not only to a different town, but a different state. It was not my ideal summer, nor was I going to allow myself the pleasure of enjoying any part of it. It wasn’t my fault that Mom had gotten that new job offer - I’d wanted to stay right where we were.
Feeling the car slow, I turned to look out the windshield, noting that we were pulling off into a gas station out in the middle of nowhere.
“You can stretch your legs while I get the gas,” Mom offered cheerily.
I didn’t respond. Inside, I wanted to toss back some sort of sarcastic remark, but I knew better than to let the thought evolve into audible words.
Once we were parked at the pump, the temperature began to rise in the car and I grudgingly exited so I could breathe. “Can I get a pop?”
Mom turned from the pump and nodded. “Sure. Go get what you want. I’ll be in to pay.”
I stuffed my hands in my pockets and trudged inside the station. The temperature inside wasn’t all that much different than out. The only difference was an oscillating fan that was blowing around the hot air, fooling visitors into thinking that it was cooler.
Spotting the cooler with a skimpy selection of beverages, I made a beeline for it, ignoring the grubby guy behind the counter who seemed more interested in his week-old newspaper than in any customers. After I’d located the root beer, I hung back, waiting for Mom. I did take a sip of the sweet, carbonated drink though, quenching my thirst.
My eyes happened to drift to the window where I saw my mom, still at the pump. But she was done filling the car. I squinted through the grimy pane. Mom was leaning on the top of the car, her eyes closed and her palms turned up. The look on her face was one of quiet anguish - almost like she was in pain but refusing to utter a sound. Her lips moved in silent murmurs and I knew that she was praying. She prayed a lot lately. After Dad had left and we’d been on our own, the prayers had become more frequent. Or maybe I just noticed them more.
Still staring, I felt an odd twist in my gut and it wasn’t from the root beer. I didn’t like seeing Mom like that...I didn’t like seeing her sad. My gaze drifted down to the cold pop in my hand. Here she was, driving for hours and never uttering a complaint - even letting me have whatever I wanted, just to keep me happy. While all the time she was experiencing a much greater inner battle than I was.
I was leaving friends behind...but so was she. I was leaving behind familiar territory...but so was she.
For the first time since we’d left town, I felt the pangs of guilt. This wasn’t fun. I still hated change. But...maybe together it wouldn’t be so bad. Mom always said that change made us grow, and maybe she was right. I knew in those few moments, looking out that gas station window, I had grown. It wasn’t easy for a girl my age, but if I’d heard what she was saying to God about me, maybe I wouldn’t have been so surprised. She loved me and I loved her, too.
Back on the road again, I offered her my still-cold root beer. “Want some?”
Mom smiled her first genuine smile on our trip. “Sure.”
“Maybe when we get there, we can celebrate with some root beer floats,” I suggested, “like we used to do for birthdays.”
A burden seemed to lift from Mom’s shoulders and her face brightened. “I think that sounds like a fantastic idea.”
My head turned as I stared at the passing scenery again. I hadn’t noticed before that with each mile there was something new to see.
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