Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Road Trip Home

I am not good at goodbyes. Leaving Iowa was much harder than I had
anticipated. Both JoAnn and I refused to face my quickly approaching
departure, in the last days we spent together. But the events that
took place those last few days perfectly wrapped up my summer: namely
the homemade sugar cookies that JoAnn made for our viewing of the old
State Fair we watched for “research” the day before we attended the
actual state fair. Then after our visit to the fair (which was much
different than the movie) we took a pizza over to Rose’s house.

Rose is a good friend of JoAnn’s and a complete blast to be around.
The three of us completed a difficult 1000-piece puzzle that Rose had
been working on since last December. We quickly found out why it was
taking her so long to finish, as she repeatedly shoved pieces into
places they did not fit, and left them for me and JoAnn to correct.
When it was finally complete, we sat out on the porch where, for the
last time, I listened to the sounds of Iowa, as I looked out over a
cornfield that was covered with the glow of lightening bugs. We
briefly expressed our fortuitous friendship, then called it a night—my
last night.

As I packed my truck up the next morning, JoAnn set a pile of things
on the console of my truck to send home with me: The leftover
cookies, a cookbook from the Iowa Master Farm Homemakers, and a
scrapbook that she had put together for me, recapping our many
experiences together. To avoid tears, I waited till later that night
to go through the book. I said goodbye to the kitty that JoAnn
started calling Cali, in hopes it would make the trip back to
California with me. The tears that were in JoAnn’s eyes as I hugged
her nearly sent tears streaming down my own cheeks. But I refrained.
That is, until I turned out of their dirt driveway onto the road where
I had to face the reality that I was leaving this place for good.

I quickly reminded myself of what lies ahead, turned up the radio,
rolled down the windows and headed for Oklahoma City with a smile and
growing excitement. Frequent text messages from Luke along the way,
eased the pain of the growing distance between me and Iowa, as I felt
part of it was coming along with me.

I spent two nights in Oklahoma City with one of the world’s strongest
women and a distant cousin of mine, Miss Melba Jane. She has endured
some of the toughest struggles in her life, yet she holds herself
together, and pursues each day with a smile and a heart full of
kindness to share with everyone she encounters. She took me to the
Oklahoma City bombing memorial, Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar, the
National Cowboy Museum, and my great-grandmother’s gravesite. She
drove me down the streets of Oklahoma City where my grandmother grew
up, pointing out locations of special interest to our family history.

As we drove the crowded streets, I saw them through the eyes of
Grandma Luddie, as a young child. From the stories she’s told, she
was six years old when Great-Grandma Drussy died during childbirth
with Grandma’s youngest sister. After a struggle with the government
to maintain custody of his children, Papa raised his children alone.
After leaving specific instructions with grandma, he would head off to
work during the day. Grandma would grip the hand of her younger
brother and would walk him into the city where they would go
window-shopping, against Papa’s will. She would tell Uncle Obie to
pick out a pair of shoes and she would point to the one’s she was
going to buy, then, empty-handed, they would cross back over the river
and make it home before Papa.

It was good to be able to see the place that Grandma speaks so fondly
of, though I know the Oklahoma City I experienced was completely
different than the one in her memories. I gained a deeper
understanding of my heritage that night, as Melba and I looked through
hundreds of photos and she shared many untold stories with me. The
next day, I started down Route 66, with yet another batch of Miss
Melba’s homemade cookies, banana nut bread, an empty journal and a
stack of family photographs she had sent with me. My next stop, aside
from the occasional photograph opportunities I took: Albuquerque.

My stay here has been extended, on account of bad planning. But it
has turned out to be a very enjoyable stay. My friend Angie has been
here on a communications internship for the summer and it has been so
nice getting to catch up with her. As we pursue the same ambition, it
is very interesting to be able to track each of our paths to
achievement and our different experiences along the way. Angie has
done such a great job and I am so proud of her. It is encouraging to
be surrounded by such strong friends. I am so glad it has worked out
for us to spend this time together before we each head home!

My days have been spent leisurely reading by the pool, writing,
eating, and listening to music…all of my favorite things. It’s been
nice having the down time before I head back to the rat race I will
have to face in Fresno. At night, Angie and I enjoy each other’s
company eating, drinking, talking and watching movies. But I will be
leaving in the morning…

…Viva Las Vegas!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Fresno,
    Great to meet you in Ft. Worth...glad you had such a great time with JoAnn this summer, she's a keeper. Good luck in your future endeavors!
    -mike wilson