Had a three-hour deja vu this weekend.
I dropped Stephanie and Michelle off at my parent’s house in Fayetteville, NC, and DJ and I headed down I-95 to South Carolina. She’s a junior, and we’re in the hunt for a college. We need one that she can get in and that I can afford! The second part of that equation might be the most difficult.
My parents both grew up in Florence, SC, about 90 miles south of Fayetteville, NC. As a kid we drove there multiple times a month to visit with my grandparents. I don’t drive that route often anymore.
The South of the Border signs hit me first, there is literally one every five or so miles starting 100 miles from this teeny tiny, cheesy little theme park. At ten miles out “Pedro’s” sign say, You never sausage a place, and there is a giant pork sausage glued to the top of the billboard. If you pass the “amusement park,” there is a sign that says, Back Up Amigo, You Missed It (Pedro So Sad).
I used to try to count the billboards on the way to my grandma’s house. But there were just too many and my attention span was just too short.
At one point on the far side of Lumberton, an odor crept into the car.
“Daaad!” My eldest assumed it was me.
“No! It wasn’t me. This smell lives here. It’s part of I-95.”
“Well it’s a nasty part of I-95.”
“I’ve been here before and this is what mile 28 smells like. Mmmm.” The odor was beautiful to me.
When the South Carolina Welcome Center first opened about 5 miles past Pedro, not only could you get a clean bathroom, but they also gave out free Crush orange soda and peanuts! Imagine that. Now you’re lucky to get a bathroom stall that doesn’t have someone’s phone number etched on the door.
My brother and I always tried to hold our breath when we crossed the bridge over the Great Pee Dee River. I could never do it; but I wasn’t afraid to turn blue trying.
It gets easier with grown up lungs.
There was a motel on the outskirts of Fayetteville called The Palomino. I always wanted to stay there because it had two enormous horse statues out in the front parking lot. I shared my desire with DJ.
“Dad. That’s one of those odd things that you think is good to share but after it comes out of your mouth, it just makes you seem even weirder.”
I have a plethora of third and fourth cousins in South Carolina but I don’t really know any of them. My grandmother swore my Great Uncle James died of hook worm which freaked me out immensely. I don’t even know what a hook worm is nor how it could possible get inside your body to murder you, but the images that have gone through my mind through the years about that subject could fill a large coffee table book.
And my mom recalls as a child going to the bathroom with her younger cousin and watching in amazement as a huge worm came out of her relatives behind. As I passed by the exit for the small town they lived in I couldn’t help but recant our family’s history with invertebrates.
These feelings and the memories they conjure up make me feel both joy and loss. How happy I was as a child. How wonderful those adventures with my grandparents. How sad they aren’t here now.
I wonder what my kids will remember.