Its hard to describe what it feels like to be driving to Connecticut with the three of them in the backseat–Max sandwiched in between Grace and Mutoni. I look back in the rear-view mirror and see the three of them huddled over the Harry Potter movie on the computer. They are arguing over Justin Bieber (dreamy or ridiculous?–the sides are drawn) and sharing music on the ipod and sharing the box of cookies I snuck into the backsheet. It feels…well…it feels normal. A normal extended family fighting the traffic on I-95, two sisters in the front seat catching up, three cousins being silly as they sing the latest pop songs. And its that normal-ness that makes my heart swell with gratitude.
Three years ago my friend and housemate Odette made her first trip with me to Connecticut for Thanksgiving. At that time everything seemed impossible and stuck. We had no idea if she would be able to stay here in this country and the possibility of bringing her daughters from Africa seemed bleak–at best. After facing a horrible civil war and genocide in her native Rwanda, after losing her husband, after following her heart to cooking school and becoming a chef and after years of supporting her mother and children and nieces and nephews with her amazing cooking, she took a leap and came to the US. When things didn’t go as planned she ended up with me, thousands and thousands of miles away from her children, on a journey to Connecticut.
The thing I remember most about that trip is the hours we stole away dreaming about what it would be like IF she got to stay AND IF she got to bring her girls here. How amazing it would be. I also remember seeing absolutely no path to this dream. It was a far off destination through a wild jungle and a stark desert without a road (or even a path) leading there. I couldn’t see how she would get there but I loved her dreams. They were beautiful, even though they felt ridiculous and completely unreasonable. And I resisted every temptation to try and talk her out of them in order to protect her heart. And with that decision, I started to learn about dreaming, not wishing and praying but the active art about making dreams come true.
If there is anything I learned from my dear friend Odette, it is that we make the road by walking. Looking back over the highs and lows of the last three years, I am not sure anyone would ever have started out on that road if they knew how complicated, hard and impossible it would be. Huge unmoveable boulders would present themselves. Big pits of quick sand. And lions and tigers and bears. And yet, obstacles were faced one at a time. There always was a way around them, even if it took months, and heavy lifting, and impossible stretching. Just when I couldn’t imagine how she would continue or where the answer would appear, countless strangers came out of the woodwork to brick by brick built a path to that dream, chipping in how and when they could. Courage and hope was the only map. They guided everything–and always led the way home.
And then after four years of separation, we were making another journey up north, this time to an airport to pick them up because amazingly they were here. (Side note: for a bit of Thanksgiving inspiration, click over here to see Stephanie Roberts amazing photos and stories of their reunion!)
Having been a witness to this amazing story, knowing full well that when she started she had no idea what to do but it didn’t let her stop her, I don’t dismiss her advice when we are talking about my dreams, especially the ones that I can’t imagine the path towards.
JUST START, she tells me. She says it firmly. The next step will appear once you begin. I know, from the giggling I hear in the back seat, that she is right. She had no idea how she would ever bring her girls here but even though she had no plan, she threw herself into it and did the one thing in front of her. And then, the next thing…and the next one and the path appeared and outlandish, impossible and amazing dreams came true.
If there is anything I have learned from my sister Odette, from witnessing her journey, it is this. Just start. Hope and Courage are found in the doing.