August 3, 2012 § 4 Comments
We make the trip north every year to visit family–and the past. Sometimes we fly. Sometimes we point the car north and blaze up the interstates. This year Ray said, “Let’s take our time.”
We climbed into the car, and set out for my sister’s place in Stockbridge, the long way.
The long way wound through back-road America, past its whitewashed churches, its roadside wild flowers, its forlorn crosses standing in tall grass, its hounds lying in dusty driveways, its parking lot dinosaurs and giant cut-out guitars.
We clipped in and out of the clouds on the Blue Ridge Parkway, then sped along I81, Ray trying to figure out exactly where he wrecked his MG in 1963. We watched the world on the other side of the windshield shaded by the bow of the red canoe strapped to the roof.
We ate on our laps and on park picnic tables. We ate red beans heated over the glowing eye of the Coleman, and dollar menu meals out of paper sacks. We slurped cups of senior coffee.
We walked Moo on skinny strips of gas station grass, and into the shallow water of a state-park lake. I sang along with CDs and the rhythm of the windshield wipers. Sitting on a damp picnic table serenading an empty campground with my old Guild guitar as daylight faded between the trees, I wrote a goofy song.
While on our way to a fold-out couch at our daughter’s, we slept beneath thin nylon, listening to the ping of rain and the chorus of night insects.
The northeast inevitably closed around us, and we realized how soft we’d grown in the south when a blinking gas light and a bumper-to-bumper rainstorm just outside of Philly panicked us.
Still outbound, we will pack the car even tighter tomorrow, adding Josie and Matthew, a diaper bag, a crammed back pack. Moo will squeeze into the small space at my feet and we will go on to Stockbridge, and the annual gathering of my family where we will cook and make jigsaw puzzles, go for long walks and say, ‘Do you remember the time…?”
In Stockbridge we will reach our journey’s apogee. Some time next week, even before we repack the car, our thoughts will make the turn, and one of us will say, “Want to go home the short way?” And we will, pulled back by the irresistible gravity of home.