When my mother and I traveled back to Montana recently, she offered to drive a good portion of the way. This turned out to be a gift to me. It freed me to pay close attention to the journey and capture it in photos, for myself and others — particularly people with whom I grew up who couldn’t make it back to see our friend laid to rest.
Because I know the heart-tug of wanting to be somewhere and knowing you just can’t, I was determined to bring the others from far away along with me through my thoughts and images shared mainly through Facebook updates.
Through this, the trip came alive in a way I hadn’t planned. At one point, one of my friends from my earliest years who still lives in the area but had to go out of town wrote on my Facebook wall, “How close are you now?” It was exciting to me to share with her that I was only 70 miles from home — the place where we used to hang out by the train tracks, run through dusty streets, eat Tony’s pepperoni pizza, and when we were a little older, spray on too much perfume.
When I got to this point in the journey, I had butterflies. We were within about 12 miles of our stopping point. I took this photo through the windshield, energized to be in this spot that said so loudly to me, “You’re getting really close, Roxi. You’re almost there now.”
I shared it on Facebook as soon as I could, and the response came quickly from another of my very first friends in Poplar — a long-ago neighbor from the East End of town, a dirt-pile-playing, grasshopper-catching buddy. He’s married now to one of my good high-school friends, living in Kansas, enjoying his years of being a father and grandfather.
“I recognize that bend in the road,” he said. And in that moment, when I knew my image had connected with someone hundreds of miles away, feeling certain he did indeed know the bend and know it well, I felt a rush of emotion. Time reversed, and I was back again, seven years old, heading home from another friend’s house, where I’d just spent the night spooked by the howling of wild dogs, ridden her horse, and wasted a great deal of time trying to ditch her crazy little brother.
The familiar bends in the road are evocative. When my friend articulated that he recognized that spot, I was able to pause in my mind, hold that bend as precious, and feel sweet gratitude for having spent all my childhood years in one corner of the world — an isolated corner that often seemed far away from everything that mattered, but will always hold the richest imprints of my life’s beginning.
Those bends, the familiar ones, cannot be shaken from who we are any more than our freckles or fingerprints or hair color. They are an indelible part of us, images that have become absorbed into our childhood psyche and thus, our souls.
This bend in the road spoke to me, wooed me home, and in sharing it, I was able to freeze a moment in time and relish it with a longtime friend.
Having made this connection now, the bend has become like gold. It represents something much bigger than I could have imagined when I first snapped the photo, simply caught up in the moment of seeing something familiar. It has become representative of all the things in this life that matter, fleeting as they might be, insignificant as they may once have seemed.
These bends in the road point us to where we’re to go, bind us together, remind us of what’s real.