Saturday, April 15, 2006
When we were wee . . . - Sunday Scribble #3
When I was very young, my dad was in the Navy. When he wasn’t stationed on a ship and overseas, we would live in either California or Illinois. At the time air travel was financially untouchable for most people and even though low ranking military could get along then on one income (unlike today) air travel would have been financial folly.
The romance of the road that is nostalgically recalled as Route 66 was for us a reality. When dad was with us, he would load us up in our old green Nash Ambassador Airflyte. The irony of the name of this car isn’t lost on me either considering cross-country flight was never an option for us. However, I had the entire back of that car for the days long trips back and forth between California, Illinois, and oh, let’s not forget the Korean War era and our trip to stay in Wisconsin. That car was so big you could practically set up housekeeping in the trunk. The backseat was a child-size bed and it was in that backseat that I claim my earliest memory.
Route 66 for us started in Illinois and dropped south through the Texas panhandle, across New Mexico and Arizona until we finally reached California. Somewhere in New Mexico or Arizona it was night and I was tucked into that big old bed of a backseat and was staring up into the desert night sky. I was maybe four at the most and definitely under five because my sister was not yet born. There was little or no moon and the stars were so dense and unbelievably bright. The world then was cleaner, the sky clearer, the stars visible even on a full moon night.
Now, fifty plus years later, when we travel at night through the desert I lean my head up against the car window and gaze at the night sky. It looks a bit different today. Even in the most remote areas one can see a solitary light where some independent soul has decided to live. Or high up on the horizon one can see lights blinking suggesting radio stations, weather stations, or military posts. The sky isn’t as bright, air pollution has dimmed its luster but that earliest memory still sparkles in my heart and mind like the stars that so enchanted me in my long ago childhood.