Friday, May 19, 2017

The Slow Road Home

Mother's Day weekend. The traffic on Interstate 10 between Seguin and Houston was snarled. Bullishly stop and go and puke provoking. I realized there was probably little to to lose in taking the longer meandering old Highway 90 route home--maybe I could see something besides the angry red break-lights of dozens of Ford F-150s and bored passengers boring away at smartphone screens.
A few turns later and there was an expanse of open black-top divided by two golden lines stretching onward under towering green Oaks, Cedar Elms, and Caddo Pecan trees. In the gaps between foliage, the Colorado River glinted silver and gold in the afternoon sunlight. I rolled down my window and the wind rushed in full of the smell of earth and river, resounding with the lazy chirps of crickets and the lonely hum of my tires on the road.
I could feel the size of the smile on my tired face becoming nearly painful. Taking another chance, I turned on the AM radio rather than the XM satellite and from some station near the end of the dial came Woody Herman's swinging 1945 hit, "The Good Earth."
Nostalgia hit like a hammer. 
On just this kind of day in October of 1945, my grandparents took a similar drive along another part of the Colorado River from Bartlett to the county courthouse in Llano, Texas on State Highway 29. 
My grandpa used to tell me that story. He was 36 years old, a divorcee in 1945. His first spouse had wandered away somewhere between the Great Depression and World War II just like my grandma's. They were lucky to find one another, and driving to the Justice of the Peace that day to be married felt like freedom to him. His 1937 Chevy with the mohair interior didn't have a radio and maxed out around 85 horsepower. 
No air-conditioning or heating. 
Their windows would have been rolled down too.
They've both been dead for over a dozen years now, and yet, there they were riding along with me in the sunshine on the slow road home--laughing and contradicting one another. 
"The drive was long. Cars went slower then and the roads were smaller. There was no honey-moon." Grandma shaking her head.
Grandpa looking skeptical. "Yes, there was. There was the drive home. Don't you remember stopping to see the damn and Inks Lake?"
"If I did, then I don't now." Grandma's eyes full of mirth as she fixes him a loving glance.
I'm so glad I took the slow road home. I have missed them.

Parts of the old Spanish trail that eventually turned into one of the first transcontinental highways (Highway 90) and then Interstate 10 are still visible in their 1921 era glory.

My grandfather as young man on the road.

My grandmother, sometimes a reluctant traveler.

My grandparents' 25th wedding anniversary.

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