July 30, 2015 9:38 am Road Trip
Reaching to shut off the alarm clock, John thought, “That was the shortest night of my life.”
He was in a B & B in the state of Washington, a long way from his home on the East Coast. After a quick shower, he went to the desk to pay for his room. He grabbed coffee in a paper cup and said, “Thank you very much. I’ll see you again,” as he went out the big screen door.
John was on a mission to find someone he hadn’t seen in many years. Her name was Lulu and she had been John’s nanny for his first five years. He had the warmest memories of Lulu, who had spent part of every day doing nice things with him. Now, at 30, he felt that he had to find her again.
John’s childhood had been both lucky and unlucky. Lucky: he still had happy memories of his parents and knew they had adored him. He remembered holding his mother’s hand in a field of wild flowers. He remembered his father putting on different funny voices for his stuffed animals. They had been a very happy family until (unlucky) his parents were killed in a plane crash when he was turning five.
John’s parents had left an explicit will, which provided for his financial security and detailed that their best friends, Elizabeth and Mike Longford, would raise John as their own child. John had spent so many good times at the Longford house, and loved their two older boys. They became like brothers to him. Elizabeth and Mike had loved their friends so much and were comforted by adopting John and taking care of him.
Still John had dearly missed his parents and cried a lot. Lulu came in every day and tried to comfort him. He grew even closer to her and she adored him. They loved doing projects together. Lulu taught John to ride a bike and pump on a swing. She read his favorite books every day. They put on pretend plays, and she was great at acting out the roles he assigned her. Lulu taught John how to draw a cat. She always kissed his hair. But eventually, Lulu wasn’t needed as much. John went to first grade all day, and Elizabeth was able to take care of him in the hours after school.
After a few months, Elizabeth had to tell Lulu there weren’t enough hours to keep her employed. She felt sad saying that Lulu probably should look for another job. Lulu and John were both crushed. Lulu couldn’t face starting over in town, so she decided to return to her family in the Pacific Northwest. She and John promised to keep in touch, and for a few years, there were calls and letters and presents at Christmas and birthdays. But eventually, the two lost contact as John grew into his new life.
Now, over twenty years since John last heard her voice, he wanted to find her again. She had been family to him and he felt a need to connect with her. He wanted her to know that he was fine and had become a successful writer. John wanted to know that she was all right. So he decided on a road trip.
Driving though narrow passes, reading Beware Avalanche Zone signs, made John realize he was getting close to Barrow Falls, the town outside of Seattle Lulu had moved to. He was delighted when he read, “Entering Barrow Falls.” Passing a place called The Best Diner, he realized he was famished. He went in and ordered vegetable soup and a cheeseburger.
When the waitress brought his soup, he said, “I’m looking for someone I haven’t seen in over twenty years. She’s from around here. By any chance, do you know Lulu Chandler?”
The waitress smiled. “Of course I know Lulu. She is a real honey. How do you know her?”
John explained briefly and then asked, “Can you tell me where to find her?”
“Sure. Keep driving about a mile the way you were going. You’ll come to a big sign, Evergreen House. Lulu’s father is in there recovering from a broken leg. She has lunch with him every day.”
“I’d better get going then. Thanks for the great lunch… And your help.”
As John got into his car, he felt his heart beating faster. He quickly found Evergreen House, and parked. He ran his fingers through his thick dark hair, hoping to look a bit more presentable. Walking up the brick path, John could see older people having lunch in the sun. Family members were helping their relatives. One young woman put a blue cardigan around an elderly lady’s shoulders. Another tied a big cloth napkin around an older man’s neck. Looking around, John saw an older Lulu, sitting with a white-haired man in a wheelchair. He walked up to them.
She blinked and then smiled. “Oh my John!” They hugged for a long time. “Daddy, this is my John,” she explained through tears.
Lulu’s father put out his hand. “John, I heard all about you. Many times. ”
“John, you’re all grown up. How are you? How are the Longfords?” Lulu peppered him with questions, which he answered as fully as he could.
“I always knew you would be a writer,” Lulu declared. “You had such a wonderful imagination!”
When it was time to leave, they wheeled Mr. Chandler into his sunny bedroom.
“Daddy, we’ll go now. I’ll see you tomorrow.” She kissed his white hair.
“Goodbye my girl. John, glad you found us.”
John and Lulu left with their arms around each other, feeling the emotion of their reunion. In spite of tears on their cheeks, their hearts were happy.
Lulu’s father’s house had lots of rooms and Lulu invited John to stay there.
He felt like a little boy, full of new and familiar feelings. He called the Longfords with his great news and they were thrilled.
“Lulu, I am so glad to be with you. ”
“John, somehow I always felt we were together, even though 3,000 miles got in our way.”
John felt as if his life was being renewed. After a supper of salmon and summer vegetables, and hours of talking, John and Lulu were happily weary. John’s room had a big bed. Lulu handed him a green blanket. “It gets chilly at night, John dear.
Please sleep as long as you can. We’ll have a big breakfast and share more news.”
John brushed his teeth and got into bed. On the night table was a small picture of John, Lulu and his parents. As he began to drift off, John thought, “Tomorrow can’t come soon enough.”
As a child, John had been given many chances to feel love and understanding. Remembering and reciprocating those feelings led to his compelling interest in finding his former nanny and letting her know how grateful he was for her tenderness at a terrible time in his very young life. Once he reunited with Lulu, his life began to open up in a whole new way.
Written by: Anne Martine Cook, Managing Partner & Mom, with 35+ years experience teaching nursery school children.
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