Post Redux: The Long Trip Home

by Nancy Wurtzel on November 4, 2011

Since I’m making the long trip home again — this time by car — I thought it would be appropriate for me to share a post from a trip I made to visit my Mom last spring.  This was first published March 10, 2011. Think of me as I wind my way through Utah and Colorado tomorrow.  

We’re at 10,000 feet and everyone is reaching under the seat in front of them for their various electronic devices.  Ear buds and iPods abound while dozens of laptops  and tablets are fired up with the familiar logging on tones echoing together. Window shades are lowered, the movie starts and seats recline.

Logging on to wi-fi, I discover it is $12.95 for the duration of the flight. Wine sounds better, so I opt for the chardonnay with a glass of ice.  The vintage is actually pretty good.  I sip from a plastic glass and munch peanuts. I rarely drink during the day but travel days are exceptions.

I’m in coach on a crowded flight returning from a visit to Minnesota — first to visit my Mom and then on to the Twin Cities to spend one quick overnight with my best college pal.  Traveling to my home state is always an intense experience.

It seems like a month ago that my alarm went off in the middle of the night and I rushed out the door to make the long trek to the airport. Speeding down the 405 freeway at 3:30 am, there was already a fair amount of traffic. Where are all these people headed at this ungodly hour?

Morning light was still a long way off but LAX was already coming alive with buses, cabs and cars dropping off blurry-eyed travelers at curbside check-in. Before I know it, I’m going through security, although I don’t even remember parking my car, let alone checking my bag. Coffee is consumed and then I’m shuffling along with the other passengers as we board the sold-out plane.  We take off.  Everyone is subdued and some go right to sleep.

It’s not that easy to get to my small hometown in Minnesota. It’s either a red-eye or a very early flight, and then there is the rental car and a lengthy drive up north.

Upon landing I get my luggage and then haul it to the next level, take a long walk, board a tram and then traverse four sets of escalators and another long walkway to get to the Alamo counter.   People in Minnesota are almost always nice — helpful and welcoming, but they obviously can’t design an airport to save their lives.

Coming from Los Angeles, it seems a bit like another country. For one thing, people walk in groups whereas in California we are more like lone wolves.  Here everyone wears parkas and UGG  boots, but unlike LaLa Land they really need those booties to keep their feetsies from freezing.

I’m dreading the three-hour trip up north.

I opt for the mid-sized car and refuse the cheerful encouragement by the fresh-faced person to pay for a heavier car or an SUV, a decision I will regret almost from the start.

The freeway is pretty clear, although the big cars and trucks drive way over the speed limit and just about knock my little Kea off the road.  About an hour outside of Minneapolis the roads are less traveled.  A fierce wind whips snow across the interstate creating a sheen of black ice as the sun begins to go down.   About 15 miles from my hometown, my little car starts slipping and sliding and I slow to a crawl.  Mammoth semi-trailers pass my car like I’m standing sill.  I grip the steering wheel as if my life depended on it. Truth be told, it probably does.

Finally, I see the sign for my hometown.  Exiting the freeway, I can’t help but smile. Everything looks the same, only there is a lot more snow than there was at Christmas.   I drive to my sister’s house and unpack the car. The house is mine for the week since she and her husband are in Florida for the winter. A few minutes later, I’m on my way to the grocery store and then to see Mummy — I’m exhausted and would like to simply chill, but she has dinner waiting.

The town is small and the streets are familiar. The bank digital clock displays first the time and then the temperature, over and over and over.  The temperature goes down one degree while I’m waiting at the intersection.  I turn onto Main Street and drive past the picturesque park with the old bandstand that used to be painted white on the outside and bright blue inside the big shell.  A few years back it was repainted and is now completely white.  Everyone agrees it is not an improvement.

I pass houses where my friends grew up and their parents still live.  Then I see what used to be Bob’s Grocery, a store that for decades sold three-scoop ice cream cones for 15 cents. Finally, I make the turn before the golf course and in two blocks I’m pulling into the parking lot at the senior living center where Mummy now resides.

Ladies are sitting in the lobby having a hen-fest.  They shout cries of welcome and exclaim that my Mother is making a big meal for my arrival — three courses!

I’ve returned home to the farming town where I was born, raised and couldn’t wait to leave.  I open the door to Mummy’s apartment and suddenly I’m ten again.


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1 Linda Landers November 5, 2011 at 11:04 am

Great post, Nancy. Hope your trip goes well and you stay safe. Let me know when you get there!

2 Nancy Wurtzel November 14, 2011 at 11:59 am

Thanks, Linda!! Call me and we can catch up. Best N

3 Dianne Purdie November 5, 2011 at 10:25 am

Beautiful story Nancy. I too make a long trek home to see my parents in their retirement home. I live in England now with my third (and final) husband. I went home to Florida a couple of weeks ago to see my parents and to go to my first daughter’s wedding. I won’t write a lot about it because you have now inspired me to write about it in my too long ignored blog but it was a 10 hour flight after a 5 hour delay. The time spent at home was good and it went way too fast. When I walk in my parents door I am also 10 years old again, I fully understand your statement. My parents led the wedding procession. My mother left her wheelchair to do it, I reminded her to smile. They did a lovely job. Every time I leave I wonder if I will see them again, especially my mother who is getting very frail. My second daughter gets married in April so I’ll be taking this long journey and trip down memory lane again very soon. All the best to you on your journey, I’ll be thinking of you.
love and best wishes

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