Do you make memories?
How do you make memories?
We went on vacations. They always consisted of me driving my daughters and my mother to my sister's house in Muskegon, Michigan. The first couple years, we took my mom's car. It was a small two-door. We loaded it up with our suitcases, blankies, pillows, and stuffed animals.
For me, these were vacations of economy. We didn't have to pay for a motel.
However, they were also very stressful on me. The drive. One year we went at Thanksgiving time. The drive back was awful. The winds were very strong. It was very intensive keeping the car on the road. I was totally exhausted by the time we got home.
And then there's my sister. She can be difficult to be around, to say the least. She always had something new to show off. She expected nothing less than complete enthusiasm for her latest acquisition. If you weren't completely enthusiastic, you'd be sure that she'd make you pay for it later.
Most of the memories of those vacations are gone for me. Well, one thing does come immediately to mind. That Thanksgiving we went there, she had prepared a new recipe for Thanksgiving dinner. It was basically mashed sweet potatoes, formed into balls, with a jumbo marshmallow injected into the center. She called them sweet potato balls. They were howlingly hilarious.
Other memories of those vacations include driving through the Illinois Grand Canyon. What? Illinois Grand Canyon? There's no such thing! It's actually a gigantic strip mine located on the boarder of Illinois and Indiana. The highway cuts right through it. It's definitely something to see. When you get past the strip mine, going west, you're in Indiana.
If you look at a map sometime, you can see how most all traffic in the northern United States meets and converges at Gary, Indiana. And, the most direct route from Springfield, Illinois, to Muskegon, Michigan, is right through Gary, Indiana. This is white knuckle driving in all its glory. I've been on some pretty congested highways -- Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, to name a few. Nothing compares to Gary, Indiana, where all these highways come together for a few miles. Most years we found ourselves just sitting in the car on the highway. Waiting in traffic. Inching along. Except for one year. It was on this stretch of road outside of Gary, Indiana, where I looked down to the speed-o-meter, and saw that I was going 106 miles per hour. I screamed. It was then I decided not to take that road again, at least not with my little girls in the car So, after that we found another route. Unfortunately, it added over an hour to trip, which made it just as stressful, if not more.
These years, I don't even go to Muskegon.
One year, my mom was going to Florida to stay with my sister and her husband in their rented condo. We drove her to the airport in St. Louis. Afterwards, instead of going back to the Mississippi River on I-70, the way we had come, I drove into downtown St. Louis. It had been a good 15 years since I'd been in downtown St. Louis. But, I knew it was there, and I knew I could catch up with I-55 and take that across the river to get back home.
So, without a map, we found ourselves in downtown St. Louis. It was a Saturday morning and traffic was light, thankfully. I was struck with an idea. So, I found a nearby garage to park the car. It was a bright and sunny and brisk morning. The girls and I walked right up to the edge of the Mississippi. It was beautiful. Quiet and peaceful. As I stood there on the west bank of the Mississippi, I looked behind me, and I could see the waterline from the floods. Where we were standing had, just the year before, been covered in about 20 feet of water. Amazing.
As I looked back to the river, I heard my oldest daughter saying, "mommy, what are those little things swimming in the water?" Spirochetes, I replied. Actually, I don't know what they were, but they looked like what I would imagine spirochetes look like. I told them not to touch the water.
And then, I made sure they looked across the water to the Illinois side so they could take in the Illinois prairie and, of course, the beauty that isn't East St. Louis. I pointed out the old bridge we would be taking home.
We walked back up the hill until we were at the base of the great St. Louis Gateway Arch. The Gateway to the West. We went inside where we bought some souvenirs in the gift shop. We checked out the museum where we saw life-size images of the great expansion west.
And then we did one of the most memorable things we had ever done together as a family -- me and my girls. We went to the top of the arch. Awesome! A couple of factoids. It's 630 feet to the top of the arch. The span from base to base of the arch is also 630 feet. The trip up is slow and arduous. You're seated in a capsule. You can see and hear the gears grinding away, carrying you to the top. The capsule remains totally horizontal for the entire four minute trip to the top. The views from the top are breathtaking. You really have to experience this to know what it's like.
Driving home, afterwards, I felt so good. I felt I had really given the girls some good memories.
When my youngest daughter was in about the fifth grade, she was doing a project for school on law. She needed some graphics to go along with her written report. We drove down to the courthouse and snapped some pictures of the building. We then went to my office. I wanted to take some pictures of her in front of a wall of law books. After the little photo shoot, which took place in my boss's library, she said, "mommy, can I sit at your desk?" Of course you can, sweetheart. And so, she sat at my desk and twirled in the chair for a bit. She scrutinized my computer screen. Then, she placed her hands, palms down, on my desk, looked at me and said, "it must be really nice to be you." My heart soared with pride. I had never really thought anything about my life, much less my job, was worth admiring. But here was my daughter, and in that moment, in those surroundings, she had found something to admire about me. I will always treasure that moment and her words and the way she said them. So very precious to me.