In telling people the complicated story of my summer, one of the commonest questions is, "Why on EARTH did you leave town for a week two weeks before Citygirl's wedding?"
The answer is a complex blend of the balance of our lives. Citygirl's wedding was a high priority, indeed. I had taken off the entire week before the wedding to help with preparations, and had dedicated every weekend from April through mid-July to readying the house: Adding a deck, upgrading a kitchen and remodeling a bathroom were all accomplished in that time.
But Citygirl isn't our only child. Babygirl still needs raising, and her life, in the past few years, has been a lot different than Citygirl's exuberant high school experience. I had no problem giving up Beach Week for an event as momentous as a wedding, but the annual mission trip is an opportunity for fellowship and friendship that Babygirl's illness so frequently isolates her from. To complicate matters (and to add just a TOUCH more stress to an already far too stressful summer) Babygirl's June run to Philly had yielded some nerve-wracking lab reports. Her neutrophil counts had dropped. Not into the don't-go-out-in-public-without-a-mask levels, but suddenly and radically lower than they had been. Low enough, that as they stood, the mission trip was off the table.
Well, or you could repeat them. So the Monday before we were to leave, we went to the hospital to visit our favorite phlebotomist, only to be told he no longer worked in the lab. Crap. When your kid has ONE vein on the back of her hand, you want someone you know can hit it, right? We hooked up with a new lady, got the tests and waited.
Wednesday, two days before we had to load up the vans to leave, we got the call. "Counts are back to normal! See you in October!"
So we went to Lincoln County, West Virginia to install a floor on house for a family who'd been living with a dirt floor (and no bathroom, kitchen or indoor plumbing) for six years since a fire gutted their first floor. We were the final team on the 7-week project, so we did painting, tiling, and laminate floor installation.
On the last day we had a bit of extra time, and the building inspector had said that the family needed to clear the construction trash before they could move in, so I rounded up Babygirl and a girl from another team and we started loading trash in the van to take to our Center's dumpster. After the second load I realized that we needed to move the bags from the front of the dumpster to the back so that we could REALLY pack it full. The girl from the other team said, "I ain't gettin' in no dumpster." Babygirl just laughed at her and said, "I'll do it!"
(Caveat: Please remember that this was construction trash, not garbage. And the dumpster was dusty, NOT disgusting. I'm not completely crazy. I'm NOT. Stop laughing! I'd have done it myself except that although I was sure I could get into the dumpster from the back of the van, I was equally sure I wouldn't be able to get back out.)
Babygirl hopped into the dumpster and shifted about 30 fully-loaded construction-sized trash bags from the front end to the back. She was able to stand upright under the top of it initially, and was climbing over stacked bags as time progressed. With each additional load we brought she played dumpster-Tetris and stuffed them from bottom to top, back to front, until we had filled the entire thing completely. Toward the end, she stumbled and sat down on a bag of trash. She laughed - she was in the shade of the dumpster lid, there was a breeze, and she said, "This is the coolest I've been all day - I could sincerely take a nap right here!"
At the end of the day, one of our other teammates incredulously asked her, "You really went dumpster diving?"
"Yup. Bucket list: Check!"
OhMyDearLord that kid is funny. And kind. Clearly not every kid on this mission trip understood that dumpster diving was part of being a missionary, part of getting a family into a home that, this winter, for the first time in six years, would have a floor, a toilet, and a kitchen sink.
THAT's why I left.