The Long Way Home

The estimated time of arrival on my GPS read 4:12 a.m. That meant my head could hit the pillow by 4:15 a.m., which would give me a solid 2 hours and 45 minutes of sleep before my kids were ready to start the day. 

Earlier that day, I decided to make the 5-hour drive to Chicago to attend the opening night of a play my mom was in. However, due to a chaotic weekend for our family, I wasn’t able to stay in Chicago overnight, which meant I had to turn around and drive home after the play in order to be with my kids the following morning. With an unfortunate time change thrown into the mix, 4:12 a.m. was the best I could do. 

With a couple of hours to go, I had to make my one stop for gas on this leg of the trip. After passing multiple exits while my car’s emptied gas tank warnings grew increasingly dramatic, I finally veered toward an off-ramp and made it to a gas station. With some renewed energy for the final stretch, I headed for the on-ramp of the highway only to find that it was closed. Of course, the one exit I finally chose had me trapped at 2:00 in the morning. 

With hope that the detour would be brief and clever (Did they build an underground tunnel to get me back onto the eastbound highway?), I reluctantly followed the bright orange signs for my re-route. To my disappointment, there was no tunnel or bridge leading me directly back to my intended path. Instead, I was directed onto the westbound highway, essentially taking me back to Chicago. 

While both my arrival time and my car were moving in the wrong direction, I looked around for ways I could outsmart the system. Generally, I’m a rule follower, but this was 2 a.m. on an empty highway and my children’s internal alarm clock does not account for wrenches thrown into plans. Unfortunately for me, there were no options for U-turns—illegal or otherwise.

This was the only way I could go, nonsensical as it seemed.

Ultimately, I trusted that the path would somehow take me where I needed to be, but it definitely didn’t look or feel very efficient. 

Life has been full of unexpected turns, blocked paths, and re-routes that are inconvenient, to say the least (downright painful is more accurate). Anyone following my journey would have some serious questions and understandable opinions because, by all accounts, I was going the wrong way. 

But sometimes, what appears to be the wrong way is ultimately leading us home. Nobody wants it to be this hard, this drawn out, or this tiring—and yet, there may not be another way. No shortcuts, no turnarounds, just you and the path made available to you. When faced with the unexpected detour, the options, as I learned, are limited; you can give up and just stop right where you are, essentially assuming that this is as good as it gets. Or you can keep moving forward, discovering what this path may hold for you and ultimately trusting that as crazy and confusing as it may be, it is going to take you home. 

A few hours later, my kids were at my side with gentle hugs and morning breath kisses. It didn’t make sense, and it didn’t have to—I was home. 

Mallory Redmond embraces anomalies—she is an adventure-loving homebody who keeps a clean house yet always makes a mess while eating or brushing her teeth. She loves dry humor, clean sheets, and gathering around the table with friends. Mallory and her husband, Darren, live in Ohio with their beagle, Roger, and their two daughters. You can follow her writing here, where her stories are told with the hope of further uncovering the places of connection in our humanity.