Julie Lyles Carr: Monday Musings...Go Greyhound!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday Musings...Go Greyhound!

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.
John Steinbeck

Looking back, she does question her sanity.

But at the time, it seemed like it could be a fun adventure.

Going back home to Mississippi every couple of summers was very important to my mother. As we traversed the country chasing my father's career dreams, she made it a priority to take us back to the places and faces that were the mosaic of her childhood.

One year, she figured out a coupon deal that allowed her to save incredible money on plane tickets by saving every Cheerios box top known to man. She was able to fly herself, my two brothers and me across the country to the Memphis airport, where my grandmother picked us up and drove us across the Mississippi state line straight to nostalgia.

But this particular year, no Cheerios box top-air line deal was in the making. So we left the high deserts of Southern California in that most inefficient mode of modern travel...the Greyhound bus.

I can't remember exactly how old my brothers and I were, but it seems like I was about 9, my next youngest brother about 7 and my baby brother 3. We left close to dusk on a dry, hot day.

I never knew that Greyhound buses trafficked in time warps.

But they do.

Because the next 48 hours may have been 48 hours on a clock, but in perceived time, it was eternity and a half par sec.

Somewhere between the deserts of California and the deserts of Arizona, my brother R and I contracted some kind of bizarre motion-sick/virus combo that had us heaving into empty beef jerky tins. We would have straggled back to the chemical toilet at the back of the bus, but it was experiencing technical difficulties...and there was a very scary person smoking interesting substances in the back row adjacent to the non-functioning facilities. As my mother struggled to keep my energetic baby brother from running up and down the aisles, my other brother and I feverishly slept, drooled and urped across state lines.

I remember coming to somewhere in Texas and having to change buses. We sat in a busy, filthy terminal, inhaling bus exhaust fumes. Baby brother still showed no signs of slowing down, but brother R and I were still down for the count. We weakly sipped apple juice. Our new bus finally arrived and my mother dragged kids and luggage to our gate.

We ultimately made it to our Mississippi destination, thinner and wiser. My mother's commitment to extended family was firmly established, her martyr Girl Scout badge honorable earned. Brother R and I finally began to recover on a steady diet of saltines and ginger ale. Baby brother continued his quest for world dominance.

But that particular trip has always remained the pinnacle (or should I say 'deepest valley') of the family vacation annals. I still can't smell exhaust fumes without experiencing a deep shudder. Slim Jim Beef Jerky cans still look like emesis basins to me. And chemical toilets? That's best left unexplored.

But I also carry with me the memory of the sacrifice my mother was willing to make to instill in us a sense of place, a sense of history, a sense of roots. Those Mississippi summers were the one constant in a changing venue of real estate locations. The symphony of the early evening cicadas, the first blink of the fire flies, the sweat of condensation on drinking glasses filled with Coca Cola (from glass bottles!), these little memories are the touchstones of my childhood, the familiar texture of memory under the fingertips of my mind. They are roots that run deep, roots that anchor me still.

Even if I had to earn them riding on a Greyhound bus.

So what are the trips, holidays, vacations of your childhood memories? Where did you go, how did you get there, why were those experiences important? Write your own post on this topic and post the url of that post and your name in the Mister Linky's box below or leave your memoir in the comment box. Share the highways and byways of your memory!

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