The fifteen hour drive yesterday gave us nostalgic moments as we passed places we remembered as significant stops on previous trips.
One year Pierce and Spencer had been throwing up for a week when it was time to leave on the annual trip. We thought most of it was behind them so we pushed ahead. Yesterday we passed the park in Nebraska where we had an emergency stop and evacuation when Spencer couldn't be in the car one more second without tossing his cookies. He and I had tried to access the park bathrooms but they were locked up. So we walked for fresh air and to try to let his stomach calm down.
Then a few towns later yesterday afternoon, we passed the Shop-Ko where we stopped and bought Rubbermaid bowls on that same trip so we'd have barf bowls with lids in the car. Turned out we didn't need them for that purpose. But I just put the cracked bowls in the recycle bin this last spring when they finally broke apart after years of use as our food compost bowls where we kept potato peels and orange rinds before taking them outside.
Another part of yesterday's drive took us to a truck stop where we'd stopped with car trouble when the kids were 4. While waiting for the car to be fixed, we flew kites and blew bubbles out on the grass next to the highway to entertain the kids and help pass the time.
Usually we rented cars for the Minnesota cross country trips since ours was always running on borrowed time. A rental fee was no more than a tow and repair cost, plus we'd save on wear and tear on our own car. But one year was a sudden unplanned trip on Christmas Eve when Jason's Uncle Charlie passed away. When Jason got off work that Thursday, we packed up our old van, hiding the kids' presents in the back, and left early evening for the farm. We reassured the kids that Santa would know to look for us at Oma and PaJack's. In fact Santa called to ask them what they might want. When Spencer got off the phone with him, he told Jason, "Santa sounds kind of like PaJack." Jason said, "Yeah, he kind of does." Molly had memorized a scripture reading for the Christmas Eve service at church, so sadly we had to cancel her appearance. With Jason and me switching off every 30 to 60 minutes to stay awake through the wee hours of the morning, we drove all night. We got to within five miles of the farm at about 9:30 Christmas morning when the van's rear wheel bearings went out. We pulled off to a rest stop just over the Minnesota border and Jason called his dad from the pay phone. Last night, we stopped there and I took a picture for old time's sake. With our breakdown occurring over Christmas, it took a bit of negotiation to get the repairs done. We made phone calls around the funeral arrangements for Uncle Charlie, plus the local mechanic had a funeral too, his wife's brother's cousin's father-in-law or someone like that, and so he just wasn't sure when he might be able to get to it. Then he had to order the parts. Then he had to find the time to get to the garage because there are always reasons why people in towns of only 700 can't open their shop today. When finally it was ready to drive again, it was Tuesday afternoon and a terrible storm was on the way. We got on Interstate 35 and headed south as fast as we could go. But the blizzard had already hit. I felt like we were the Ingalls family on the Minnesota prairie trying to survive. With white knuckles, we pushed straight south, headed for Kansas City where the temps were predicted to be above freezing. The clouds around us were thick and swirling and blowing ice and snow. The visibility was bad and the ground was freezing fast. If we'd gotten the car even an hour earlier, we could have beaten the storm. Finally, finally we got far enough south--farther south than our chosen route normally took us--that the ice turned to rain and we could breathe a sigh of relief--and turn right and start to head west again to get home.
As I write this, the train is passing and blowing its whistle, sending another shot of nostalgia through my veins. When the kids were little and all the cousins were out playing, we moms--sisters-in-law--would hear that train whistle and look at each other, knowing we were each thinking "where are the kids right now?" One or two of us would walk casually to a window, acting like we were just getting up to stretch, and we'd do a head a count, just for reassurance that no kids were down by the tracks.
Memories are everywhere around this place. Of course they are. We've been making them here for a lot of years.
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