Monday, December 29, 2008

17 Miles

Growing up, we didn't travel much as a family.  In my parents' defense, you can imagine the enormity of shoving 10 yours, mine, and ours children into the family station wagon and you start to see why one trip to Yellowstone early on in their marriage (and in my young life--I was too young to remember the nightmare) was the only vacation I think we ever ALL went on together.

But one travel experience that took place several times every year was the long drive down to my grandfather's house in Antimony, Utah (pop. 122).  My dad loaded the willing into the car for a long weekend of sitting around listening to adults talk about people you didn't know and were possibly related to. People who were probably dead. It was misery, but I never missed an opportunity to go because it was a "vacation," a rare opportunity. And home was equally boring, though it had more toys. And even though the only television allowed came in the form of my grandfather watching Jeopardy, "the ball game," and the 10 o'clock news on full volume, there was something about it all that kept me coming back. Maybe it was in hopes of the slight chance that my dad would drive us the hour and a half to Bryce Canyon on back roads (all dirt, mind you-- I never knew there was a major highway that would take you here). We'd drive with stops along the way at the Antimony Merc, the ugliest all-dirt cemetery where my grandmother is buried right near the entrance, and at a condemned "haunted!" mill (the highlight) that I easily could have been severely paralyzed in had the rotted out wood given out under the weight of me (now that I think of it, my father--never blessed with the red flag warnings of a potential worst case scenario--was insane to take us here).

The drive down was equally as boring. My father didn't believe in purchasing the treasures to be found in the gas station. Nope, the cooler was stocked with homemade, soggy sandwiches wrapped in aluminum foil (my "frugal" father thinks even ziploc bags are unnecessary) and a 2 liter of Shasta. Needless to say, I typically tried to fall asleep by Provo.

After enduring the long, miserable trip, typically in the dark, watching, waiting for the numbers to shrink on the green signs reading "Cedar City 228 miles" and "Richfield 73 miles," Antimony finally showed up, glowing like a beacon, at the entrance of UT S.R. 22. "Antimony 17 miles" it reads. And though I'd been stuck in the backseat for hours as it was, those final 17 miles always took the longest. At the end of those 17 miles was my grandpa's porch light, his dog Tibby barking in the night, the blaring sports report on the 10 o'clock news, and a big, rough hug with my grandfather's gruff Hello Schweethaht! in my ear. The drive down was miserably long, indeed, but those 17 miles were torture. The longest leg of the trip.

I haven't driven those 17 miles in who knows how long. My grandpa passed away at 92 while I was still in college and I've been back to his house and Antimony only once (another post for another time). But I've been thinking lately about how most of my life is a lot like those 17 miles. I feel like sometimes I am just surviving, enduring the monotony of a long road trip. Most days I'm trudging through the 17 miles to the weekend, the 17 miles to summer/winter/fall/spring. I'm living for what is next and not enjoying what is now. And I don't think I'm alone here. Life is frequently spent in auto pilot. Endurance mode. But sometimes, you can look up in the dark night along UT S.R. 22 and there are more stars out there than you've ever seen in the city. Sometimes the moon blinks its single silver-blue eye in the dark, murky water of Otter Creek Reservoir as you pass, and it is beautiful. This change will be a challenge, but I really want to work on redefining my idea of enjoyable moments. Life is lived in that in-between time. Life is lived in those 17 miles. Rather than thinking those miles to be a monotonous torture, I want to work on thinking of those 17 miles as my life. Wish me luck!

(And, seriously, what was my dad thinking, letting me walk around in that condemned mill?)


Wemdu Pea said...

LOVE IT! You are so funny. I remember Yellowstone and have had NO desire to go back since. :)

I love you and am excited whenever I get to ride the 17 miles with you. :)

Rie Pie said...

"Sometimes the moon blinks its single silver-blue eye in the dark, murky water of Otter Creek Reservoir as you pass, and it is beautiful" Wow. That, my friend, is some great writing.
I need to get out of survive mode. I've been in it for far to long now.

I've never been to the haunted mill. Always wanted to.

Mrs. Bennett said...

What a great post! I can relate so much to your family "vacations" as almost all the vacations we took were to and from distant grandparents homes in Arizona or Washington. The drive was always lovely in the suburban with no air conditioning. We are all in endure it mode most of the time. It is good to enjoy the 17 miles I agree!

Alice said...

I love this post friend. I too have been thinking the past few weeks that I need to work harder to enjoy the moment and the "everydays" of life.

Thank you for the fabulous way you can illustrate these ideas. You are best. I needed this.