It was a long, big, burgundy red Buick, cloth bench seats and a silver dash.
This was the 50’s and a time when the highways were narrow, the nights long and journeys of any distance arduous.
A time when we always traveled and made our way from DC to the Carolina’s.
Dark and winding through small towns where oncoming headlights would blind, curves turned sharply, and the center lines if any, were faded and unnoticed.
We traveled down those lonesome roads and rural country intersects.
I was a small child at the time, probably 5 or 6 and it seemed like every weekend we were heading south because of a holiday or a relative who was under the weather.
My parents, who were working in Virginia at the time, would get a call and we’d be on the road. Me in the front seat with my father and my little brother in the back with my mother. All night we’d drive, Virginia, North Carolina and then South Carolina. Only stopping at small service stations with one or two pumps, low lights, Coca-Cola signs, a few voices, the sound of tires on gravel and crickets in the night, a cigarette and we’d be back on the highway.
The dash lights would be dim and the radio, which was always on would be playing a baseball game or some radio theater. Static from some far-off thunderstorm would crackle and spit like lightning.
The wind whipping through a small triangle-shaped front windows where my father flicked his cigarette ashes and the engine lulled me to sleep.
The smell of burning tobacco and dry-cleaning fluid from the slacks my father wore burned into my memory and settled me as I stretched out across the front seat, my head in his lap.
A rhythm as the engine roared and the click, click as my he dimmed the headlights for oncoming traffic.
A place where I felt safe, secure and in tune with the night. A place where everything in the world was OK and I was protected.
I think about those journeys often. Not so much about the destination but the trip itself and how it awakened me to the fact that my parents cared. They honored family and wanted their boys to do the same. They knew as depression kids how difficult life was and that without family you were a lone reed in the wind and that wasn’t what they wanted for their children. Not a lone reed, but bunches of cattails, a covey of quail, or a school of fish who knew that family was safety, protective and always coming to be by your side when they were most needed.