My sister, my girl cousins, and I were all dressed alike in pink seersucker dresses, gifts from one of our aunts. We’d gathered at her home for a summer picnic after which the adults did what the adults typically did. They sat around in lawn chairs in the sweltering summer heat and talked about boring adult things. As the adults sat around being boring, one of the cousins led the rest of us in a procession of pink seersucker to the country road which ran in front of her house. There, she introduced us to the fine art of popping tar bubbles which simmered up to the road’s surface in summer heat.
We never wore those pink dresses again.
The road in front of my cousin’s house was so very different from the ones in my neighborhood. Mine were safe, quiet, and predictable. But for the whimsical elegance of those terminating at Hillcrest Circle where a decorative fountain once flowed, most streets were laid out in a grid crisscrossing the town. On those streets I learned to observe traffic rules while riding my bike and to look both ways before crossing on foot. Fifth and sixth grade safety patrols held out their arms to guard the intersection which led to my elementary school, only dropping their hands when they deemed the road safe for younger students to cross.
I have been down a few different roads since those days of pink seersucker and safety patrols. Some I have no intention of revisiting.
I remember a number of family trips taken out west when my children were young. Many of the roads we traveled seemed little more than steep switchbacks and hairpin turns carved onto narrow ledges leading over and through mountain passes. Allowing barely enough room for two cars to a clear one another, the ground beyond the roads’ shoulders often dropped off steeply toward oblivion. Or Hades. Or Mordor.
And those who had constructed the roads seemed indifferent to the need for guardrails, as if to communicate, “This is the West. It’s dangerous here. Exercise caution. Drive at your own risk. Or don’t exercise caution; we don’t care.”
Once, after a day of hiking at Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah, my husband discovered a dotted line on a map indicating a road named Pucker Pass. Ever open to adventure, he turned our rental car off-road onto what he thought would be a shortcut back to our hotel. Perhaps the posted warning signs might have clued us in that Pucker Pass was not going to be a real time-saver. Would-be travelers were advised not even to attempt the road without a high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicle. Also, signs indicated that should emergency assistance be required to rescue a car trapped on the road, removal fees would likely exceed $1000.
We made it through the pass, having had to stop at least once for my husband to remove a boulder from the middle of the road. I have no need to make that drive ever again.
My children grew up within the relative safety of a neighborhood on a cul-de-sac. There, they could roller skate and ride their bikes and scooters out on a road which seldom saw traffic. The year my daughter left for college, I followed in my car as she and her father drove north together in her little gray Subaru. Prior to that trip, she’d had very little experience in highway driving. As I watched her signal and change lanes, and saw tractor trailers merging practically on top of her rear bumper, I screamed out prayer, “Lord! Take care of my baby girl! Those trucks are so big and she’s so little!” Every mile down the highway placed distance between her and the safety of the cul-de-sac.
I watch as others who are very dear to my heart travel a winding, unpredictable road. Their way takes unexpected twists and turns, and signposts for navigation seem few. Their paths don’t seem to register on a smart phone or a GPS; there is no dotted line on a map marking the way for them to follow. There seems light enough to see but one step forward at a time; they walk in the company of few faithful companions.
Yet safety calls out from behind, “This is the way, walk in it, when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21)
Click here for a virtual ride through Pucker Pass.
Linking, for the first time, with Nacole @ Six in the Sticks for #concrete words, and with emily and the imperfect prose community: