Saturday, July 14, 2007

Back East

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.


Joyful Days said...

What beautiful memories. How wonderful you were able to do that.

Stacy at Exceedingly Mundane said...

Oh wow, what an awesome post! I loved it, loved reading about your adventures, your thoughts, your memories and all of it. I was going to comment on the photos, but now I will wait for the "real" ones! :)

It sounds wonderful... I'm so glad you guys had fun :)

pei girl said...

what a wonderful trip that must have been,love reading your post the pictures are beautiful.have an awesome day(hugs from the Island):0)

Becky said...

We were just in Amish country too, in northern Indiana. So lovely. So unencumbured (did I spell that right).

I have never seen such neat and tidy homes, farms, and gardens. I loved the look of the electric wires cut and tied at the home, and to realize that these folks had a simplicity to life that really gave them much less free time than I have. I tend to fill mine up with stuff and distractions. They fill theirs up with work, and good, wholesome, solid, work.

I learned a lot about their beliefs and respect them even more now.

Glad you had such a nice trip with your husband. That is so deserved for both of you.

Lynne said...

What a great trip! I remember my summers sitting below Old Barney, watching the boats out in Barnegat Bay. Dom and I were back there about 5 years ago. We go to Hilton Head each summer, but it's not "the shore."

Xandra said...

I would love to visit the Amish country and to do exactly what you and your husband did. We feel the same way about short getaways's so uncomplicated with just the two of us.

Thanks for letting me live vicariously through your post!

Robin said...

Your trip sounds wonderful and peaceful. Sounds like so much fun! I hope you get your camera working so we can see more!
My husband and I love to take road trips together too! It IS so much easier being just the two of you!

gail@more than a song said...

It sounds like a lovely trip Karen and I loved your descriptions! We took a trip to Gettysburg one year with 2 of our 4 kids, 3 of us loved it! We spent 2 days there.
In all our travels though we've never done any Amish country stuff but it sounds so interesting to me now. I'm currently reading some books by Beverly Lewis that take place in Lancaster.

kris said...

What a great trip - it sounds like you and your husband travel well together! With the beautiful descriptions in your post, I felt like I'd been there too.

kim said...

what a lovely post Karen. It sounds and looks like you and your husband had a wonderfully relaxing time together--and how special to have been able to see your extended family. What warm memories and feelings you conveyed in being with them. Do you find that as you get older your memories are much more wrapped up with *feelings* connected to them? Does that even make sense? In my head it does-- :) Certain smells, sights or songs instantly take me back to another time and I get caught in such waves of nostalgia. Thanks for sharing--I too look forward to seeing the *real* pictures!

Tristi Pinkston said...

I was able to go to Gettysburg about thirteen years ago -- what an inspirational place. Thanks for the pictures and report of your trip -- you make me want to go see what life is like, traveling with no kids! My youngest is two, though, so it will be a while for us.