It was my first trip back home to my parents farmhouse in quite some time. Living in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont thirty miles from the Canadian line, it seems my parents endure the kind of winters only polar bears would find tolerable. I affectionately call it the most wonderful place to be from. As I shivered in my bed in their upstairs bedroom I was fully dressed wearing my hoodie. As I lay awake I surmised I could probably eat a full ear of corn in 10 seconds with as fast as my teeth were chattering. I couldn’t believe I had ever liked snow and cold. The exterior of my parent’s house looked like a crystal cave replete with rows of stalactite icicles. The snow two feet deep crunched under foot as I loaded up the sled to bring in all my luggage from the car. I used a plastic sled so I could make it all in one trip. Only a penguin would welcome a return visit into these elements for a second load.
Those of us who now reside in the south may never know the “joys” Vermonters experience this time of year. Back home in Tennessee if we get a hint of frost on the grass; schools close, bread and milk vanish off store shelves faster than a cheese pizza at a Weight Watchers Convention, and fist fights break out over the last birth control products. Yet here I stood in single degree temperatures with a stiff northern wind and blowing snow and it was dark yet peaceful. Since I was staying but one night, I chose to leave the car running all night. I feared the expected -20 below temperatures, might keep me there till the 4th of July if the car never started. I couldn’t risk it. The eighth of a tank of gasoline I would use overnight was well worth the peace of mind. As I drove the frigid snow covered tundra the following morning I did it with a smile; my backside benefited from the long idle, it was toasty warm.
If you’ve never traveled with parents later in life, you have to do it at least twice. Once for the reality check and the second time to view what your own future holds. I did have moments where I reverted back to my own childhood. It’s not often at 53 years of age where you visit an establishment and the restaurant proclaims “kids eat free” and you get too! Driving the 2600 mile roundtrip twice picking them up and bringing them home, fostered humorous stories from my childhood. I was reminded vividly of the time I streaked through the large back yard sans clothes, or when I flushed four pickles down the toilet at the same time and flooded the bathroom, or when I slathered my twin and me with diaper ointment when we were two creating a bathing nightmare. We shared stories of living on our first farm in Maine and the surprise I got when I hugged my favorite horse goodbye; he bit my ear. I learned I didn’t miss him much after that. A lesson I still draw upon when people hurt me in life.
As our vehicle passed through Albany, NY, Hershey, PA, Pigeon Forge, TN, and a host of other towns, our nostalgic journey took us through inspirational venues like; Yankee Candle, Marshall’s, Goodwill, Dirt Cheap (yes there is a southern store chain by that name). At each stop the car interior got smaller. Our waistlines and bargain finds fought continually for every inch of available space. In one store my mother hit the jackpot when she purchased a 25 pound bag of road salt for only two dollars. That would last two winters in Tennessee, but only two days in Vermont.
As quick as the two week getaway started, it was over. I delivered them back just the way I left them. Blowing snow with single digit temperatures. Despite my father’s continual question of “Are we there yet?” Our role reversal left me undaunted, I’d do it again. One thing you learn after your 50th birthday is there may not be many more nostalgic trips one can take with parents. With a lump in my throat I drove the long journey home. I stopped at the top of their mountain to see the stunning winter sunrise one last time.
I am now at home, and this morning I looked in the mirror. I saw what I always see, plenty of gray in my hair. But you know it didn’t bother me as much as usual. I gained valuable wisdom on my trip. I learned all’s well as long as my parents are with me. Because as long as they live, it doesn’t matter what I look like, I’m still a kid.