Due to some unexplained and yet unavoidable family turmoil that seemed to exist in my life as a child, my family only made it to Kansas to visit my maternal grandparents every once in a while. We came to celebrate special holiday’s like Christmas or Thanksgiving and then left only a few hours after the celebration. It didn’t take long for my father to feel as if he was in a house full of uneducated idiots before dragging my mother and I back to our small town in Oklahoma.
After my parents divorced when I was 13 the hour and a half ride up to Wichita with my mother would now seem to be long and drawn out. I’m not sure if it seemed to be excruciatingly long due to the 80’s music that my mother blared or the straight shot of highway with corn fields that lined the road on either side. Either way, it seemed to take an unfortunate amount of time to finally reach Exit 13. Once we did I knew it was only 15 more minutes of the same revolting dog food smell, which lingered from a chemical plant we passed, until we reached the nicer part of River Side and just four more small blocks before we arrived at my grandparent’s house.
My mother would slowly creep our slate gray Jeep Grand Cherokee up into my grandparent’s steep driveway and park in her usual spot underneath a large pine tree. My grandparent’s would always greet us at the car and help us unload our bags and other belongings in their excitement for our arrival. It seemed trivial at the time, but as we walked up the steps to the large blue barn-shaped three story house the usual smell of my grandmother wafted out the front door that my grandfather would hold open. We’d walk into the entry way and I’d take a deep breath. I was always trying to save the scent for our quiet house at home. The smell resembled the soft scent of laundry softener, gentle touch of sweet perfume, and a light mist spring scented cleaning product. A combination that to this day I am trying to recreate in my own home.
We’d set our bags next to one of the stair cases and chat in the living room for several minutes about how the trip was. My mother would explain that the trip was fine and that we took the highway that my grandmother wanted us to, which we never did, and that we didn’t reach any traffic, which we didn’t, solely on the fact that we took a route that was on my grandmother’s bad side. She was always concerned with the car accidents and explained how dangerous two lane highways were.
After my grandmother would ramble on about the new crisis she saw on the channel 14 news station and the new found evidence that pink meat, like steak, was now a leading cause of cancer we’d unload our bags and get settled in for the weekend.