Blown Away

Dear Will:

As I think I may have mentioned, my daughter Bryn left her job dancing for American Ballet Theatre and enrolled in BYU in the Fall. Although at first it was tough to adjust to Provo after having lived in Manhattan the previous year, Bryn took immediately to college. She loved the chance to explore new ideas, meet new people, and feel like a “normal” person for a change.

So imagine our surprise when she called us in October to inform us that she had accepted a job dancing for the Royal New Zealand Ballet in Wellington. Starting December 9. A week before the end of the semester.

Suddenly we found ourselves trying to help Bryn figure out how to move to New Zealand without failing all of her classes. Our efforts were mostly ham-handed, I must confess, as we found it difficult—the amazing Internet notwithstanding—to determine where to live, how to set up a bank account, what to do about phone services . . . the list goes on.

Fortunately, we have a missionary serving here in our ward who is from (it’s hard to believe) Wellington, New Zealand. When he heard our exciting, perplexing news, he immediately contacted his family and just like that we had new friends in Wellington offering to help.

(An aside: If you haven’t met Elder Savaiinaea yet, you should make a point to do so. He is one of the most charming, delightful missionaries to come through here in a long time.)

It then occurred to me that there is a family from New Zealand right here in our stake. I barely know him, but I approached Brother Broederlow and told him of Bryn’s impending move. Within 24 hours he had reached out to friends in Wellington, and before I knew it I was corresponding with Leonie and Peter Brunt, who offered to pick Bryn up at the airport, show her around the city, and give her a place to stay until she figured out a permanent solution.

(Another aside: When Bryn departed LAX, we knew we’d have no way of corresponding with her until she reached out to us somehow. So you can imagine how I felt when I got an email from Leonie which included a picture of her and Bryn on a windy hill in Wellington. I wanted to cry. I can’t tell you how comforting it was to know that someone was watching out for my little girl.)

Bryn and Leonie

I could go on for pages about the Brunts, but they are not the only people who have reached out to Bryn since she arrived in Wellington. When Christmas arrived, Bryn spent several days living with the Charions, a wonderful family she met at the ward there. While it was very hard for us to be apart on Christmas, it was wonderful to see Bryn gathered in by another loving family as she tries to find her place in a strange land far from home.

As I contemplate all of this, I am blown away. No one could reasonably expect this sort of selfless regard by strangers for my daughter’s welfare. The Savaiinaeas and Brunts and Charions are simply living the principles that Jesus taught—and as a consequence their actions cause me to feel His love as well. After telling the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus said, “Go, and do thou likewise.” Which is precisely what they have done.

What a blessing it is to associate with people such as this: members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, my brothers and sisters in a very real sense.


Scary Beyond All Reason

Dear Will:

Bryn drives this 1995 Chrysler LeBaron convertible. It’s a sort of plum-lavender color not otherwise found on America’s highways (thankfully), with a white ragtop and a white leather interior. For reasons often explained but still understood only by Bryn, she calls this aging wonder Ernesto. Her brothers, for their part, have christened it Yzma because of its resemblance to the wrinkled, purple-hued, Disney character often described as “scary beyond all reason”—a much more fitting moniker if you ask me.

Yzma—er, Ernesto—has spent the last year or so mostly getting in my way and dripping oil onto the floor of my garage while Bryn has been living in New York. So you can imagine how delighted I have felt knowing that in just a couple of days Bryn and I will be driving the car and a backseat full of Bryn’s earthly possessions to Utah where she will begin her first semester at BYU.

At least that is the plan. Did I mention that Ernesto is almost 20 years old? And that there are over 600 miles of desert between here and Provo, Utah? And that it’s a Chrysler?

Thus the mixed emotions with which I have anticipated the drive: delighted that Bryn gets to experience the fun and challenge of university life, thrilled to reclaim the open space in my garage, and trepidatious over whether the LeBaron will make it past Victorville.

Which is to say that yesterday’s phone call from Bryn didn’t exactly come as a surprise. “Um, dad?,” she started, trying to sound cheerful. “So my car won’t start.” She was stranded somewhere in Anaheim.  I’ll spare you the play-by-play from this point forward, but as you might guess it begins with busted jumper cables and ends three or four hours later with a repair shop calling about a new fuel-something-or-other and $600. (I definitely remember the $600 part.)

Now I’ll admit that my first thought as this ordeal began to play out was not, Thank God. Rather, I immediately started worrying about the logistics of transporting her to school and getting her from place to place while she’s there. I began wondering about potential disposal fees and replacement costs and probably several more months of oil stains on my driveway. And I thought a lot about all of the things I should have been doing rather than standing around a parking lot waiting for the guy from AAA to show up.

No, Thank God was not my first thought, nor my second or third or even my seventeenth. But somewhere around seventeenth I finally got to Thank God and in a big way. What if, it occurred to me, that fuelamajig had gone out somewhere between Vegas and Mesquite? What if Ernesto decided to give up the ghost a week after I had left him and Bryn there in Provo—or worse, when Bryn and a couple of friends were in the middle of a weekend adventure trip on some side road north of Indianola? What if? “Scary beyond all reason” does not even begin to capture it.

Thank God, indeed. The timing and location of Bryn’s breakdown probably could not have been better. Do I think God had a hand in that timing? Well, I do not know if He bothers himself with 19-year-old LeBarons, but I do know that He cares a whole lot about His 19-year-old daughters. And I know this also: You can never—never—give God too much credit for the good things that happen in life.

So let’s try this one more time: Bryn’s car broke down yesterday—Thank God.