It’s time for a little holiday nostalgia, so I return you to the years of 1981 through 1994. Although I have no records to support this, I believe that I traveled at Easter to the Rinne farm near Keytesville, Missouri, for nearly every one of those years. (I can’t really recall when Grandma and Grandpa moved to Cordova, Nebraska, and if I text my mom to find out she will instantly call me, talk to me for awhile, and then close by thanking me for calling. At which point, I will sheepishly point out that I only texted her. But anyway, to avoid all that, I'll just guess.) But I want to take you back to what it was like to make those annual Easter trips.
School would be for half a day on Thursday. My dad would get to the house early Thursday afternoon and then begin cursing at how utterly unprepared we were to actually leave. We would throw things together haphazardly and then get into a poorly-made vehicle. Some of these trips may have been made in the "drug van," which was a giant brown van with two front seats, one row of seats, and then a black void. (I nearly got frostbite on my toes one year on a Christmas trip to see my other grandparents due to the van’s complete lack of insulation). But my more vivid memories of the Easter trips are being in a sedan of some kind (possibly even the old Cutlass) and being crammed in with my brothers in the back seat with limited leg room. Keith and I on each side, and Elliott smushed in the middle. I would stare out the window as the countryside changed from farm fields to farm fields to farm fields. Maybe changed is the wrong word.
It was a six-hour trip, which was interminable to the young me. I can remember the towns: Beatrice (this meant stories of my mom's childhood, which were ... uh... something); then the Missouri border (bathroom break); then St. Joseph (could only be referred to as St. Joe, who always seemed like St. Joseph's cooler alter ego); then Chillicothe (which I always enjoyed saying); then Marceline (I'm probably asleep by this point) and then the farm. During the last few miles, my dad would claim he could turn on road signs by flipping from dims to brights. This did impress and confuse me at the time, which is a sad commentary on the young me. At this point, it's about 10:30 p.m. And the second I step onto the back deck I can smell the popcorn. Grandpa has his air popper going, and I've got popcorn soon after I've gotten a hug from my Grandma. This was an era before cell phones, so my Grandpa only vaguely knew when we would be arriving. But it seemed the popcorn was always hot and tasted perfect. He might have been making it all evening just to be prepared, but this could simply be the magic of grandparents. Then, I would get in bed -- either the foldout bed in the living room or maybe a bed upstairs -- and try to fall asleep. It wasn't always easy because I was excited for the next day's adventures.
Friday would be a day of four-wheeling and sports and good meals. That evening, we would travel to Salisbury to go to Good Friday church, which was always a somewhat scary service. Lots of darkness, terrifying scripture readings, people whispering. It was a rather chilling scene.
Saturday would be more adventures, maybe some exploring, croquet, basketball, or fishing. We could go with Grandpa to feed the giant catfish. And, of course, copious amounts of good food. In the evening, we might sit down with even more popcorn to try the TV to see if any stations come in. Maybe there was a movie of the week (I think I remember seeing LA Story there, but I remember nothing of the movie. Could have been Roxanne.) Sometimes at the end of the late newscast, Dr. Red Duke would appear. He seemed like a cable access "doctor" who relied on remedies that "Big Science" did not want you to know about. These segments were always enjoyable for their occasionally bizarre turns.
Easter Sunday would be a much happier service, and then an Easter Egg hunt in the front yard. It was thrilling to find an egg with chocolate in it or a dollar bill. Then, a big lunch and our goodbyes to Grandma and Grandpa. Then, it was back in the car to head home. Six more hours in the car smushed in with my brothers, and trying not to have my dad yell at me too much.
Those Easter weekends are what I think about when I think about my grandparents. I probably am getting numerous details wrong (maybe we left on Wednesday, maybe we did not go through Marceline on the way, maybe we didn't have popcorn right away, maybe Dr. Red Duke was a staid and sensible doctor, maybe he was not even a doctor). But it does not really matter what the truth was now. The memory is what I treasure. I loved those trips. I loved that farm. I loved spending time with my grandparents. I love that I can still go back there in my mind.
But of course I can only return in my mind. One of those people is no longer with us. I would never, under any circumstances, want to ride for six hours in the backseat of a sedan. Someone else owns the farm. But if I just smell the popcorn, I go back.
Sometimes when I'm watching Hulu Plus, they have a commercial for Disneyland that attempts to guilt parents into bringing their children to Disneyland to "create memories that will last a lifetime." But honestly, the Dumbo ride probably is not that memorable. Long car rides, the anticipation of seeing your grandparents, frightening church services, and Easter egg hunts, those are the memories that will last a lifetime. That is what childhood is about. Now that I have my own family, I hope to start making those kinds of memories with them. (I'm sure they are not looking forward to it.) But I hope someday they can look back with a smile the way that I do. We are not going anywhere this Easter, but, like the Chicago Cubs, there is always next year. I hope that when Ada is older, she can think about Easter and have similar happy memories. We should all be so lucky.