There is a story that my mother used to tell about her honeymoon. It’s one of those stories that has become family folklore, and the sharp details have been worked smooth with each telling, until the words that spill out are more fairy tale than anecdote. That’s okay with me, especially because as I’ve heard the story at different times in my life, I’ve heard the words differently. As I tell the story today, I give you my version of this folklore, through the hazy lens of years of translation.
After my parents got married they took a road trip up through New England. I don’t think it was plotted out on a map; I don’t think they set mileage goals each day. I do think that they were looking for stories, and looking to find a version of themselves on the road. My mom grew up in Nashua, New Hampshire, but had most recently made her home in Washington, D.C. where she met my dad. This was more her territory than his, though she’ll be the first to point out the many distinctions throughout this land, tucked north on that map and labeled “New England.”
In my head, they are in Maine, but it could be anywhere. They are driving, and lost. Maybe hungry. Or it could have been definitely hungry and maybe lost. They are looking for something, this I know. Whether is was just looking for somewhere to grab a bite to eat, or to orient themselves towards a more specific destination, I don’t know. Anyhow, they are looking. And what they see is a man, on a bench. In my head, he is an older man, wearing a newsboy cap, with a long white handlebar mustache. He has his one ankle resting on the knee of his other leg, and a newspaper spread on his lap. Oh, and he has glasses, too.
My parents slow their car, a VW bug, until they come to a stop in front of the bench. It’s a sleepy little town, and there is no one else around. They don’t need to throw their flashers on because there are no cars behind them. My mom rolls down her window, because of course my dad is driving. She leans her head out the window and throws her voice out to the man on the bench.
“Are you from around here?” she shouts. He lifts his gaze from his newspaper. He is surprised at the sound of her voice. She’s a little surprised by it, too. The birds, whose song had been the only sound filling that empty street, stop as if to give my mother the stage.
The man makes eye contact with my mom, taking in the scene: my dad in the driver’s seat, the out–of-state license plate. He folds his newspaper, leans forward to answer her query.
“Near ‘nough,” he quips.
I’m not sure what happens next: did they get directions to a fabulous diner and eat breakfast for dinner? Did they find the name of the town through which they had puttered, and discovered they were closer than they realized to the stopping place? I don’t know. But here’s what I know for sure. “Near ‘nough” becomes a mantra of sorts. They become words to mark out how we honor each other with our best. My mother’s car, into my teen years, carries the vanity plate NEARNUF. It becomes a way to measure out life.
I had forgotten about this story when I chose my one word for this year. I was going to orient my year around enough. I was going to shelve my own expectations for perfection, and instead embrace reality. What I am is enough. What I have is enough. When I have to move a stack of papers and books from counter, to kitchen table, back to counter again, to find space to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich: enough. When I wish our house was bigger, with just one more bedroom, just one more bathroom: enough. When one minute the Eldest is stomping up his stairs, the next he wants to snuggle on the couch to read with me: enough. It is not perfection, no. But it is just this side of perfection. And it’s better than perfection because it’s real.
And I think that this is exactly the legacy of this honeymoon legend. It is saying that in all these things, I’m “near ‘nough.” Not spot on, but it’ll do. And what I’ve found is that as I embrace these places where my reality ends and only God’s perfection begins, the gaps are colored in. The holes are filled up. Not made perfect, not erased – just blessed.
Because mostly, in life, we don’t ever get exactly where we thought we were going when we started out. But I’ll take “near ‘nough” any day.