Friday, August 28, 2009

Precious Memories

Family vacations can provide
a lifetime of memories.
Later in life, when the kids are grown-
photographs and special moments
are fondly shared
of those sentimental road trips.


Maybe not.

One particular summer
we packed up the three kids
and decided to take a few days off
to visit Big Spring in Van Buren, Mo.

It was a wonderful drive
through hills and valleys
and everything was so green and lush.
My husband had spent some time
in Missouri as a child and teenager
and he always commented that
someday he would like to live there.
And there are lots of "kinfolk"
still hanging out in those hills.

Well, we still don't know if
it was accidental or on purpose,
but we got lost going home.

My husband's driving got us
maneuvering down dry, rutted roads
that curled past an occasional rusty mailbox
and old barns.
The kids were freaking out.
I had to pee.
And the gas gauge was creeping
quickly toward E.

Green turned to brown-
lush turned to lousy-
and those dirt roads made riding a camel
seem like a magic carpet.

I was sure the movie Deliverance
was about to make a sequel,
when after an hour of mazes,
we came out onto a hard road
and a gas station.

"Hooray!" said the kids.
"Finally!" I chimed in.

Then my husband got out of the car
and said, "Well, I'll be. We're in Briar.
And there's my cousin Sharon!'

There she was behind the counter.
And I had just enough time to meet her
and grab the bathroom key.

" 'Taint no key," she drawled.
"'Sout back, thar," she motioned.

An outhouse.

"Thar's a stick in thar
to knock down the spiders," she instructed.

At this point,
I was going to have to dance
the next fourteen miles to
the nearest town,
or take my chances with the spiders.

It wasn't easy getting to the outhouse.
I had to pass through a blackberry patch,
trip over a couple of old car batteries,
and go through the goat pen.

There it was.
Leaning a little to the right-
smelling not so great,
but a sigh of relief ran through me.

"Come on, kids", I yelled to them
from the stack of one million old tires.

They shook their heads "no"
and continued sipping their
Mountain Dews.
No way.
No time.
Not ever were they going to use an outhouse.

Oh, they would have jumped at the chance
if they had known that we were going
to spend the entire day in Briar.
That we would meet kinfolk
and grannies
and flea bitten hound dogs.
That we would feast on
fried carp, tater salad,
baked beans
and sodie.

That we would make pit stops
to every known relative
that side of the sawmill
and that we would all have an accent
before leaving there.

That night we stayed at the Northwald.
A quaint little motel just
outside Briar.
It had an old noisy air conditioner,
red quilted bedspreads
and green shag carpet.
The kids were devastated.

But I was happy.
There was a real toilet.

We still talk about that vacation.

After that day, we took lots of trips to Briar.
We built a bond with the kinfolks,
learned to pick off ticks,
and swung that 'ol stick through
spider webs as big as Oprah.

The kids loved the river
and the forest-
and even the little gas station
where Aunt Sharon worked.

The Northwald burned down
a few years after that.
The kids still speak fondly of
that place.

We miss those days.
Of family time.
Of growing up.
Of exploring new territory.

Of getting lost
but finding our roots.
Of making memories that
no one can ever take away from us.