For most of my childhood Thanksgiving was a singular memory: a road trip from my home in Northeastern Ohio to my grandmother’s home in the Allegheny mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania. The drive took us 8 long hours as we followed a two lane state highway that meandered in and around the mountains of the region, and the tiny towns that dotted the hillsides and valleys of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
I curled up with my comic books and pillows in the back seat and my father drove over mostly dry roads up steep mountains, around hairpin turns, and through small towns. We did hit a snow storm now and then, and I watched as my parents silently worried as they hit icy mountain roads and went across bridges in the rain and sleet and snow of the nascent winter driving season.
I came to know and love the towns along that road: Coudersport, Wellsboro, Towanda, Wyalusing, Wysox. Each had its own quaint charm: a river, a town square, a plaque honoring a civil war hero, store front diners and craft stores, an entire store dedicated to selling Christmas decorations. Each town, always decked out for the coming holidays with wreathes and garland, seemed like they had a special welcome for us as we had to slow the car to accommodate the sudden drop to a 35 mile an hour speed limit.
We rarely stopped except to get gas. Delicious food, including my grandmother’s special recipe sugar cookies, were waiting at the end of the line, no need for anything until we got there. Of course we were all impatient too. I am sure I said, “how much longer till we get there?” the requisite 100 times, after every stop light and lane change.
Somewhere in my young adulthood when trips to Grandmother’s house changed to trips to my Aunt’s (Grandma died in 1984), my parents began taking the new interstate that opened up just north of Route 6. It shaved two hours off their driving time. It was then I realized that the long slow meandering drive through the small towns of Pennsylvania was probably the best part about our annual Thanksgiving pilgrimage. Oh, I loved seeing my family and eating all that great food, that was always important, but the getting there by that slow beautiful drive became a touchstone for me.
Thanksgiving reminds me of those times in my parent’s car, watching the towns go by, wondering what it was like to live in Laceyville, Pennsylvania next to the Susquehanna river. I can still hear the sound of the car as it slowed to turn the corner.
Of course, all the drives we take now are fast and efficient. There is no other way to get where we go, and of course I miss the slow road: the anticipation of what waited at the end, the intimacy of small towns even for strangers passing through, and the sites and sounds of other places and times. I have promised myself that the next time I take route 6, I am definitely stopping to shop at the Christmas store and reading that Civil War marker, and maybe even stopping for pie at some town diner. I really hope it is all still there waiting for me.
Amy for the Poplar Grove Muse
Amy for the Poplar Grove Muse