When I was perhaps nine or ten years old, our dad loaded all of his children—I think all seven of us were there, unless our oldest brother was already gone—and took us on a Very Special Trip. I remember it well, because we went on very few Special Trips.
He packed us into the white, wood-paneled Plymouth Volare station wagon that was the family truckster back then. We spilled into the back seat and into the way back, no seatbelts were expected or used then. We were going two hours away, so this was Someplace Very Special, because we rarely went anywhere.
We went to Abilene, Kansas. Abilene is the boyhood home of Dwight D. Eisenhower, former U.S. president. His boyhood home, presidential library, museum and final resting place are located there. It is a Kansas jewel. Our parents wanted us to experience this piece of history.
It is an experience that is imprinted in my long-term memory. The historical significance was coupled with the sure knowledge that this was indeed Someplace Special because we were making this four-hour round trip. Abilene, Kansas then became Someplace Special to me.
I now travel to Abilene at least several times every week, sometimes five days a week as part of my work. It is 30 minutes from my home now. It is still Someplace Special. When I drive into town, that old, warm familiar feeling of being a ten-year old kid on a special trip fills me. It hasn’t waned in forty years.
Today, I was called there late in the afternoon. I hit the road at 4:00 to see a new patient. I had the time, and even though it is typically the time I start to think about heading home, I headed east, and it felt good.
Typically, around four in the afternoon, I feel a funk settling over me. I have never liked that time of day. I think it is because the sunlight is starting to wane, and I love sunlight. I get a little sad thinking about the sun leaving me, yet again. Today, however, the thought of heading to Abilene at this typically blue time of day perked me up. I was going Someplace Special.
Our mom grew up in Wichita. Her parents and three sisters lived there when we were growing up. Our dad was an only child, and his dad lived in town close to our farm. Visiting Mom’s family in Wichita was the only other traveling we ever did. We would pile in the back seat or the way back, watching Dad navigate those three hours on the road from our farm right to the door of our grandparent’s home without a map. He was so brilliant; he had to be to find his way each time.
Driving to Wichita became a profoundly memorable experience for me, just like Abilene was. It still is. Every time I drive to Wichita—perhaps ten times every year—I still get that feeling I had as a kid. And, I can drive there without a map. I’m not as brilliant as Dad was, but I do have a sense of where I’m going, even if I don’t know the exact direction I am traveling in.
Traveling by car now, while it is an everyday occurrence, can seem like a routine and mundane event. That is, when I am traveling alone for work. When I am in the car with my sisters, however, every trip becomes Something Special. Much like a trip to Abilene or Wichita when I was a kid, a road trip with my sisters is always a special event. As we continue to take more road trips, each holds special memories that are built upon the experiences from all the previous ones.
Traveling with someone can be an art form at best, and hell on earth at worst. It is a delicate balance; a nearly-perfect blend that must be achieved in order for a trip with others to be a success. I know this for sure, because I have travelled with people whom I would prefer never to travel with again.
Then, there are my sisters. I could travel with them every day, and I would be a better and happier woman for it. We know how to read each other, how to make our needs known, how to respect—and sometimes ridicule, in good faith, of course—each other. We feel at ease in the car with each other, even if we don’t always agree where to go first, where to eat, when to leave, when to move on, or how to fit in all the fun we came for.
We make it flow, and we make it fun.
Gail and I just returned from Colorado six days ago–another Someplace Special for me. The morning of our scheduled return home arrived, and while the sun shone bright and warm—it felt warmer than 58 degrees beating down on us as we sat on the porch and drank coffee—the dark cloud of we have to go home today hung low and heavy around us. We milked it. We drank another cup of coffee, talked and laughed even more, finally packed up and went to see Christine at 9494 again for one last perusal of her baubles and jewels (maybe we each bought one more) and stopped at the casino one last time—I pulled Gail away when she was $10 up with that hand.
We departed an hour and a half later than I said we had to. Since I was driving, and I had 200 more miles to go after I dropped Gail off, I tried to make the rules. Even though she is the big sister, I laid down the law—at least I tried. She mostly respected it, but given our mutual affinity for the mountains that enveloped us, we lingered, and I didn’t fight back much.
We bade adieu to our favorite mountain town, and began the initial ascent out of the valley, followed by a descent out of the mountains. We continued to talk, laugh, reminisce and dream. We spoke of things we don’t normally speak of at home. Things that the mountains and their rejuvenating air breathe into us, and then gently coax back out of us. Things that are more grand than those we normally discuss, things that the mountain grandeur inspires us to talk about. Heavy, but positive and important things that we may not say otherwise.
And all because we traveled.
I know it is a gift to be able to travel with anyone harmoniously. For some, traveling with one’s sister is the greatest challenge. For us, however, it is joy multiplied. We recognize this as a gift, and we give thanks accordingly.
We know too that it is a gift to have the resources of time and money to travel. We know not everyone has these gifts. Besides these resources, it is also a matter of priority. It is each of our individual decisions to spend the necessary time and money to travel, because it is a priority.
It is a harsh, but true fact of life that we spend our time, money and energy on that which we value. For many, and in the past for us too, this trifecta of time/money/energy was nearly 100% focused on supporting our families out of necessity. In large measure, we have realigned our priorities after the loss we suffered in our family, realizing that this time together is necessary for our own support. We choose to spend our time, money and energy on this time together.
And we are all richer for it.
I was in Abilene two days ago. When I drove into town, I got that special feeling, the one I have had for forty years when I arrive there. All because my parents took me Someplace Special.
Take yourself and/or your family to Someplace Special, even if it is only a few hours down the road, and especially if it will leave a lasting memory of why the place is indeed special, just as Abilene is to me.
Abilene is also rich with Cowtown history as an important part of the Chisholm Trail.
Your kids may still be thanking you forty years later, whether or not you are here to hear them say it.
Today, I am in Wichita, another Someplace Special. We have the privilege of spending the day with this delightful family.
My stepson, his wife and almost-two children are only 100 miles from us, and we are so thankful. It is yet another reason to feel excited when I travel to Wichita.
I still get that warm feeling when I enter the city, and today, it was even warmer when I drove through the neighborhood where my grandparents once lived, the place my dad could always magically find without a map.
Another Someplace Special from my more recent travels with my sisters is mercilessly being ravaged by Mother Nature as I write.
My heart breaks for everyone in the state of Florida and northward as Hurricane Irma relentlessly pounds the entire area. Our new friends in St. Pete Beach are in my heart today, as are all the residents and visitors in Florida and all the areas affected by this nightmarish hurricane. Those affected in the Caribbean, as well as those affected in Texas are in my thoughts and prayers too.
No matter what happens in the next few hours and days, St. Pete Beach will always be Someplace Special for me. My sisters and I made golden memories there last year, and Suzanne and I returned with her daughter not even two months ago, creating more memories. We hope and pray that we will all be able to go back soon. More importantly, may the lives, pets and treasured possessions of all affected be safe, and may everything else be replaced in time by the grace, strength and generosity of the rest of America.
If you have a sister or sisters, may you consider a trip to Someplace Special, if you aren’t already traveling there.
May you take your children Someplace Special that they will remember forty years later.
May you consider a day or a weekend in Abilene, Kansas. I think you will agree it truly is Someplace Special.
May you find a way to balance your desires to travel with your responsibilities to others.
May you find a way to balance your time at work and at home with time spent going Someplace Special.
May you find balance.
This post is dedicated to my Abilene friends–may you realize you live in Someplace Special.