When I drive for an hour in any part of Texas I see the ubiquitous brown road sign: Historical Marker 1 Mile Ahead. It almost seems that no matter where I am, I am just one mile from a spot where history was made, where the past is made present tense. These are the places where a single event changed the course of things. Remember the Alamo. These markers provide texture in a landscape otherwise swept clean by the passage of time.
I believe that my life is a road trip, complete with detours, u-turns and scenic overlooks. I have been to destinations both exotic and ordinary; places that have expanded my world-view and provided me with rich adventures, while others have left deep cracked-earth wounds in my soul. I’ve spent countless months, years maybe, stuck in places I didn’t want to be, looking for the keys to my escape vehicle. I’ve been locked in emotional gridlock, a lifetime of joys and sorrows doing battle for the right of way. And I’ve been blessed with countless unexpected and joyful discoveries along the way.
My journey too is peppered with historical markers for events in my past that demand to be recognized. I’m holding my new granddaughter and experience a “been here before” memory of me as a young mother, cradling my son, his damp ringlets of hair matted against his forehead. Or I’m standing in line at the grocery store overcome with remorse about my very selfish decision 15 years ago to not spend a shared birthday with my father. It turned out to be his last. These memories bubble to the surface with bewildering ferocity. I embrace these moments, but I often wish for the brown sign signaling an approaching recollection.
I believe that great road trips happen when the destination is incidental. When just being where you are has the right of way over the quickest route to somewhere else. Each time I stop to consider a historical marker, my past and present are made congruent. As I continue to travel routes both scenic and desolate, I know to watch for the brown sign looming ahead in my windshield. I know a choice is required. Will I pull off now and look through the window to the past? Or will I accelerate, knowing that inevitably there is another historical marker, 1 mile ahead?
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