Upheaval, the Hula Dancer, and Me

Tension pressed in around my shoulders as I grabbed a large, silver spoon and plunged it into the thick, creamy mass of pasta and cheddar coming down from a boil on the gas range. Much of my culinary expertise has devolved into mac and cheese. Blame it on three small children, a husband in medical school, and constantly starting life over in new places, but I cannot say I’m too upset. Standing in the corner cubicle-of-a-kitchen with the sloping ceiling and vintage trappings on the third floor loft of a Gilded Age mansion in Kansas City, I awaited the jingling shuffle of my husband arriving home from the hospital a mere five minutes up the street. My husband and I had a lot to discuss tonight. His phone call earlier continued to haunt my dinner preparations, and I had a text I was dreading to press “send” on.

Listening to the musical squelch of butter, milk, and cheese coating every hot noodle in the pot was strangely comforting.

Yesterday was so different. Yesterday we were looking at maybe not having to move again for an entire year. I had a year long lease on an adorable 3 bedroom Cape Cod house nearby, ready to sign once all the medical rotation scheduling was finalized. The owners lived a few blocks over and had a daughter my children’s age. We just found a church we were ready to call home. I remember looking around the sanctuary thinking “yes, this is where my family can grow and be nourished and serve.”

Yet within the course of 24 hours, some strange virus was sweeping China and Italy, and was now showing up in the U.S., and mandatory city-wide lockdowns and shelter in place orders were happening nation-wide. Was Kansas City gonna do this too? And the icing on top—medical schools had now been suspended until further notice.

“They told me today was my last day,” my husband had said earlier.

What? No no no, everything was just falling into place!

In hushed whispers while we served, cleaned up dinner, and got the kids down for bed, we made a plan for our unexpected journey back to San Antonio, Texas to wait out the pandemic with my parents and their large backyard. We couldn’t afford to stay in Kansas City indefinitely.

We arrived March 22nd, weary and frustrated, tense with the endless unknown rolled out before us. For the next three months we felt displaced, trying to figure out what life looks like in a city that is no longer home to us. I have roots in San Antonio, and lots of family, but the forward motion of my husband’s career and our livelihood was at a standstill for…we didn’t know how long.

This was not a pivot we wanted to make.

I felt suspended, holding my breath, awaiting whatever came next. I tired of hoping for specific outcomes.

I wanted to simply rest in the promise of God’s presence and goodness, which vacillated between easy and impossible.

At some point each day, I am faced with a piece of art I picked up at a tiny thrift store in Kahului, the year we lived on Maui right after my daughter was born; one of the first times I faced a move I didn’t want to make. I can’t remember if my daughter was with me or not. That season of my life is rather hazy to look back upon. But I had noticed from the road that this particular thrift store benefited a local women’s shelter, and I thought I would like to find something here, rather than at a traditional chain store. I was looking for shoes.

While perusing the racks and shelves of clothing, shoes, and various odds and ends, my eyes rested on this mesmerizing painting of a Hawaiian woman hula dancing by the ocean. Her gaze, so peaceful and steady, demure as the undulating rhythms of her beautiful and complex dance guided her. The matte frame around her was speckled with water damage, but I had to have her. She had a courage and grounded-ness that I desperately needed in that season of loneliness and isolation.

I remember this day fondly as she has traveled with me everywhere we have gone—to Saba in the Dutch Caribbean, to Maryland, to Miami, to Kansas City, and now back to Texas. She reminds me that when I can simply let go and trust, the unexpected pivots can be a peaceful dance that connects me to the center of myself, and to the center of God’s heart; a tethering that can’t be broken by the waves and winds of change.

Kelsi Folsom is the wife of a medical school student and a mom-to-three navigating marriage and motherhood with black coffee, ink stains, Maria Callas records, and a whole lot of prayer. Her essays and poems are published in Motherly, the DC-Area Moms Blog, The Caribbean Writer, Mothers Always Write and elsewhere. Her first full-length collection of poetry, Buried In The Margins releases with Finishing Line Press in 2020. She enjoys traveling with her family, getting lost in a good novel, and occasionally putting her B.M. in Voice Performance to good use. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and at her website.