"Are we there yet?"
Who hasn’t asked that question? Excitement when we travel brings the question to children (and some of us anxious adults). Perhaps the answer was:
"When we cross that old rickety wooden bridge, we're almost there." Or "When you see the big, blue water tower …" or "When you hear Grandpa's dogs barking …" As our parents quieted our squirming and poking each other in the back seat, they unknowingly began an intrinsic part of our training as voyagers with their answers, and we began to absorb points of "almost there."
Sometimes, a familiar smell signaled how far along we were in our travels. When I was little, our family made regular trips to Springfield to shop and, once in a while, take in a movie. For us, crowded sidewalks and window displays were an adventure. We knew we were close to it all by the fresh-baked-bread scent wafting from Schaeffer's wholesale bakery on the west end of town.
My friend, Marilyne, relates to that kind of "almost there." A paper mill close to Portsmouth, Ohio, sent wet-paper/bleach-scented air over the bridge and river that she crossed on the way to her grandfather’s house in Kentucky. July or August heat only served to produce a more pungent grade of "paper perfume." When they smelled it, she and her siblings knew they would soon see the house, Grandpa, and all those special aunts, uncles, and cousins.
"Almost there" points can penetrate deeper than our lungs. They can hit right to the heart of the matter — a chance to share special times with very special people.
A special friend from long ago lived out on a country road in a neighboring county. Her farm was called Windy Hill. In the summer, when trees were full and hedge rows thick with ivy and trumpet vine, her house was hidden. But we knew with the sight of the neighbor's barn and playful goats that we would be turning into her lane any minute. We were blanketed in love, warmth, and laughter.
She moved to be closer to her sister who lived in town in Newark, Ohio. We drove two hours on highways to see her. It was a lot different than winding along a country road. Our "almost there" points? It was not the green highway exit sign. Real points of "almost there" are not highway signs or street signs or traffic lights. Our point of reference was a huge billboard deep in a field advertising a Pilot Dairy Queen truck stop where, like our friend's house, we could find rest, refreshment, and a smiling face.
Sometimes our reference points disappear due to time and progress. They never fade from our mind's eye though. Even after eighty years of changing landscapes, my mother vividly recalled her "almost there" point to her grandmother’s house in McKitrick Heights, down in Jackson, Ohio.
They often rode the DT&I train from Springfield to Jackson. But it was when her father drove them down old Route 35 and she saw Browns School just past the swimming pool that she knew she was almost there.
Mom attended the little one-room school and recalled how Miss McKitrick, the teacher, could make you knuckle down to book learning. The young teacher could also "knuckle down" and beat the boys at marbles. When the boys challenged her authority, she called them out for a game.
And you know … winners kept all.
It’s that way with our "almost there" points too. We keep them all. Through years of change, through seasons of love and friendship, through days of mundane routines, we collect them. Those of our past are stored with sweet memories, our present ones signal us along life's roads, our future ones are there, waiting for us. Ready to tell us, "We’re almost there."
Comments can be sent to Connie at mooredcr@Juno.com.