Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Trip To Bountiful

Recently, I've been trying to drive around and stop whenever I feel like it, just to enjoy something I see. I remember taking road trips, and always wishing I could stop and run through a field of mustard plant or walk down some dusty, old road into a town I didn't know. I never did stop, and I'm not sure why. I like to drive, in fact, I think I feel safest when I'm in my truck, listening to music, smoking cigarettes, just thinking to myself. Yesterday, after dropping off a friend, I drove by this elementary school that I had driven past hundreds of times. So, I drove around back, looking for the playground, feeling inclined to sit and swing, something I'd been wanting to do all summer, but hadn't done. And there behind the school was the simplest, yet most beautiful playground. Rows of swings, lightly swayed in the late summer breeze. I sat on a swing for a moment, but then stood up and walked to a baseball field, just large enough for a fourth grade game of Casey at the Bat. All around the field were these little, five step bleachers that wouldn't fit more than maybe ten or fifteen children. I smiled at the idea that they were a smaller version of the real thing, but just big enough for these children. I climbed up and sat on the top bleacher, right directly under the shade of a tree older than the school itself. From my seat I could see the interstate in the background, the trucks driving by. And suddenly I realized that in less than twenty four hours, school would start again for the fall and the field would be filled with school children. I was reminded of my return to school, and my days at Mohawk Trails Elementary School, some of my best days ever. I vividly remembered the library, and Mrs. Hopp reading to us in the fourth grade. Having to stand with my nose against the brick wall out back for talking during class and braiding my friend's hair. "Peter, this is not beauty shop", my teacher had hissed. And as I walked away yesterday, back towards my truck, my vehicle for memories forgotten, and new future times, I was reminded of the movie "Trip to Bountiful" and how Geraldine Page had wanted only to return to Bountiful just one last time to be reminded of those times. I sat in my car and really thought about that movie and how in my life, movies had always had such a strong relevance to what I was experiencing at any given time. And maybe, part of this journey, is my trip to Bountiful, my trek back to remembering and then allowing me to move forward. I remember before my mother died, my friend MaryAnn and I found all of my mom's journals and she had commented on what a gift my mother had given me because it would give me an inside view of all of her memories. When I got home yesterday, I turned on the television and "A Prairie Home Companion" had just started. I had watched it before and was not impressed. But this time was different. This time, it had relevance. It focuses on a variety show's last performance before going off the air. At one point, Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin sing "Softly and Tenderly, Jesus is Calling" which was also in "Trip to Bountiful" and I had also chosen in as one of the songs at my mom's funeral. Coincidence? I don't think so. I prefer to believe that symbols occur in my life to teach me lessons or lead me in a certain direction. Things continue to repeat themselves and I cannot ignore them. And strange that I also found myself watching this movie about an ending when I was so obviously struggling with that in my own life. So, interesting that on a Sunday before school starts again, some twenty five years after I would have been starting myself, I found myself on the playground of this school, and I once again, found a new sanctuary. I doubt I'll go there often during school days. They probably wouldn't understand, and that is a sad thing about our society these days, that a grown man with a childish heart can't sit on a playground without question. But on Sundays. Awww. That place is mine on Sundays. With a cup of coffee, smoking a cigarette, and just sitting in silence, my head filled with memories of the past and dreams for the future, watching all the trucks float past, and wondering, just where are they going? And maybe, someday, I'll follow them...and find out. But not today. Today I'm comfortable right here.

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