first time

Frequent readers might recall that the last time I checked in with Mother Runner Land, my life was in a state of minor upheaval. I weathered that storm, dropped the oldest off at college, and essentially adopted a whole new family. 

Upon my return to Minneapolis, I became connected with a newly immigrated family. I invited them into my life and am working to help them navigate what it means to be in a new place. Initially this meant school registration and learning about the almighty dollar. And, so much more entertaining, it meant introducing them to the things that make Minnesota and the United States special. 

One Sunday afternoon, we went on a drive around the Twin Cities. We sat outside nestled between old buildings in St. Paul, drinking coffee while the sun warmed us and watched a group of college students dance as the Cuban Shuffle blared from the speakers. We stopped at the Minnesota State Capitol building where we talked about politics and the structure of the government; we took pictures on the steps as we faced downtown St. Paul and the mighty Mississippi. We drove the marathon route (what else does a Mother Runner show newcomers?), winding down Summit Avenue and the River Road. And as we made our way back to the house, we drove past First Avenue and the famous Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture at the Walker Art Center, a Minneapolis landmark. 

As we drove, the mom said, “You know how it feels when your entire body is filled with happiness and you can’t contain it? I’m feeling that.” I know they all had fun that day driving around and seeing their new home. What I didn’t expect was how remarkable it would be for me to see it all anew. The capitol seemed brighter, more filled with possibility. The houses on Summit looked even more impressive with their size and age. The Sculpture Garden felt more magical, an exclamation mark on a vibrant city. 

In the weeks that have followed, there seems to be something new to share at every turn. New for them, renewed for me. Spaghetti hot dish? A delicacy. Fall festivals, backyard bonfires and s’mores? Joyful celebrations. The first snowfall of a lifetime, tree branches heavy with snow and frozen lakes? Absolutely transformative magic. 

I know the family is grateful for the support they have received from so many places. I am equally grateful for the perspective I have been given in so many ways. Their needs are basic: coats to stay warm in the frigid winter we’re having (it turns out the 14-year-old disdain for coats is universal), navigating the bus system, learning an entirely new language. My own list of needs is viewed through new eyes. I have such gratitude, not simply surface gratitude – deep, abiding gratitude, for safety, easy access to more food than we can ever eat, immediate and accessible transportation. 

As I continue to walk alongside this family on their journey of a new world, I hope to maintain this gift of perspective. We opened presents together this weekend. Presents that were wants, not needs. Friends and friends of friends came out of the woodwork to buy stuff for the family and provide a magical holiday for them. As we sat around the house, scraps of paper strewn about, lights glowing on the tree, cookies laid out on a platter, the 14-year-old took a moment to say, “These gifts are amazing. All of this is so nice. But the best gift, for all of us, is family. Look at all of us here, a family. This is what matters.” 

So, as we walk slowly (or run, as the case may be) into this coming year, I invite all of us to see the world through new eyes. Maybe you get to witness someone’s first snowfall. Perhaps you witness a mother knowing her children are safe. It could be you eating your favorite dish with anticipatory tastebuds. Or you seek simple beauty on your run. I hope you witness your own family—birth or found—as a gift. And I hope that every new experience has a chance to change your perspective.