Saturday, July 14, 2007
It's been less than 24 hours since I returned home from my trip with Dan. Our time together is separated by a baseball game, having coffee with my brother, Matt, and visiting with my Dad. In my mind's eye, the weekend already has a soft vignette border around the edges.
From Horsham, Pennsylvania, which is just north of Philly, we drove in our rental car through Lancaster County. It is Pennsylvania Dutch country, and we marveled at the magnificent barns and acres upon acres of lush green crops. The locals drive the roads with their horses and buggies, and the barefoot children play in the yards or ride their scooters alongside the roads. Dan laughed at how I loved the sight of the laundry hung out on clotheslines that stretched across their farm yards. Sheets and towels and their solid colored shirts.
Our destination was the battlefield at Gettysburg. We drove along the roads of the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside, carrying just the things we needed for the day, and drinking in the bliss of traveling so easily, just the two of us. There are enough cup holders, we get the whole back seat to spread out maps and brochures, hats and cameras. We enjoy it ten times more now than we did BK (before kids), because we've experienced how complicated it can be with three children along.
He stops so that I can photograph every memorial and statue (I love statues), and I patiently trod behind him so we can climb every observation deck and point of interest. I read aloud from the touring brochure, until the dates and facts start to jumble in our minds and we agree to just enjoy the quiet and peacefulness of these hallowed grounds. On the way back to the hotel that evening, we go through the back roads of Lancaster County, driving through a covered bridge and catching glimpses of the residents at their evening chores. An Amish man brings in his team of horses from a field. He rides, standing up in the wagon while holding the reins of three Belgians horses, hitched so they are walking abreast. In the dusk, the sky behind him is beginning to turn pink and it's a picture I want to hold in my mind forever.
The next day we head east into New Jersey to spend the day at Long Beach Island. I have so many memories of being there as a child and with my boys when they were little. Dan and I sit in view of Barnegat lighthouse and have our lunch. Later we walk farther down the beach and just enjoy the ocean. We share memories of our childhood vacations and talk about trips we want to do with our kids before they fly the nest.
There are so many things that are distinctly "back east". Seeing Queen Ann's lace on the side of the roads, lightening bugs in the dusk, farm stands selling Jersey corn, and toll booth after toll booth. Yet, even knowing how small our world has become, I'm surprised at the familiar Starbuck's signs all around (and glad for them!) and more surprised to find that 98.5 on the radio is Jersey Country (Jersey Country? What happened to the familiar jingle of WNEW New York?) So, we drive through the back roads of rural New Jersey, listening to Toby Keith. Life is good.
On our last day, we spent a wonderful afternoon and evening with my aunt and uncle and cousins at their home. We got caught up on new things and re-lived a lot of the old times. I can't begin to put into words what it means for me to be with these people, my first family. It's going back and being who I was before my life now. Not that you can ever really do that, but they knew me first as just Karen. They've seen me so few times in my capacity as a mother, wife, homemaker. They see me and they see my mother. And when my aunt and I are together, my mother feels so very close, and we know she is shaking her head at the two of us, gossiping and carrying on. When I'm with them, I remember so clearly what it was like to be part of the family I once was. And that's all good, because that was such a very good time in my life.