jayellebee's Blog

April 23, 2011

Memory Lane

Filed under: Musings — Joanne @ 8:38 pm

     You’ve had the experience.  You’re driving along and a song comes on the radio.  The melody beams you through several dimensions to a place miles and years away, and you’re singing along like a high schooler.  Or smiling at the memory of a special vacation spot.  Maybe even fighting back a tear.  Music can do that to us.

     Smells, too.  Each December, that first whiff of Christmas tree lot carries me straight to the “way back” of Dad’s station wagon – to the time before seat belts and air bags when kids could tuck in beside the perfect Douglas fir for the ride home.  Another example?  Coppertone suntan lotion, excuse me, “sunblock” connects the dots between my brain synapses and summers at Clear Lake.

          Yesterday I realized a freeway also has the power to resurrect long past experiences.  Ken and I took a day trip to Reno traveling on I-80, an interstate along which we’ve logged way too many miles over the years.   I usually read on the long, mostly straight roadway.  But yesterday my mind bounced from journey to journey.

     My first trip into the Sierra Nevadas was in the fall of 1959, in the back seat of my parents’ 1958 white Chevy Impala convertible.  Dad needed to make a field inspection of some equipment he sold to the Olympic athlete’s village under construction in Squaw Valley.  The weather was nice enough on the way uphill for us to have the top down.  I know this because that afternoon a cold front came in and, despite our best efforts, we couldn’t get the car’s back window to zip into place after the roof was raised.  Inconvenient, but not really a problem until the next morning when I witnessed my first-ever snowfall.  Brrr.  That was one nippy ride home.

     In the winter of 1970, I piloted my ’66 Mustang and several fellow students into the mountains for a ski trip.  I’d never driven in the snow, but had all the confidence of someone too young to know better.  I had to pay a “chain monkey” to get me out of trouble after successfully tangling a snow chain around my car’s axle at Blue Canyon.  Two slope-filled days later, I dropped my last passenger off in Berkeley.  Fatigue got the best of me and I forgot to clamp the roof-top ski rack closed.  My brand new Head skis slid out of the rack and under the car following mine.  So close (to home), but no cigar.

     Ken and I introduced our first two sons to skiing as soon as they were potty trained.  We took the boys, with their abbreviated skis and tiny boots packed in the Plymouth’s roomy trunk, to Tahoe’s Incline Village in 1979.  The little one, secure in his car seat and sucking on the binding of his blankie, squealed with delight at his first sight of snow just above Auburn.  The squealing lost much of its cute factor by the time we passed Soda Springs an hour later.

     By 1989, our family had grown to five and our vehicle had grown to a four-wheel drive SUV.  Our journey home from Truckee came to an unscheduled stop one cold Sunday afternoon.  The Cal Trans radio alert repeatedly blamed the delay on road conditions.  No, really?  We sat a stone’s throw past the final Donner Lake exit for hours.  At some point a gentleman got out of his car, walked through deepening snow, and discreetly relieved himself beside the road.  Our youngest, then age 8, watched in amazement.  Another man gave in to the urge, and then another.  This was too good to be true.  Young Master Brown excused himself and . . . wrote his name in the snow bank beside our Suburban.  In cursive!  He even dotted his i.  Best part?  That’s a toss-up.  Option #1:  The passengers on the tour bus stopped beside us had an unobscurred view over our roof from their upper deck seats.  Option #2:  Our family had lots of time to critique the kid’s “penmanship” before I-80 re-opened.

     Travelling in the memory lane yesterday hastened our arrival in Reno.  Ken and I drove to the biggest little city in the world to take our middle son, his fiance, and her parents out to dinner to celebrate the young couple’s engagement.  We enjoyed a champagne toast and a terrific dinner at Brick’s restaurant.  I can recommend this establishment without reserve.  Be sure to go there.  You’ll have wonderful memories of the experience.  But, probably not as wonderful as mine.  That is, unless your son is recently engaged, too! 

     Kevin and Kate, I wish you a lifetime of memory-driven happiness.  Love, Mom



  1. Joanne that is a lovely story and the end is the best. I wish you all much joy and I loved the photo of the beautiful couple.

    Comment by nina bucchere — April 24, 2011 @ 11:41 am | Reply

  2. Joanne, what a delight!––and a nudge into my own memories. The writing here is so lovely, as always clear and rhythmed, theme richly flushed out with detail. I love it!

    Comment by Jean G — April 24, 2011 @ 12:47 pm | Reply

  3. While reading your article, I took my own trip down memory lane–driving to my cabin at Soda Springs, taking Ginger and a little friend to Circus Circus, cross country skiing in the national forest or PG&E lands around the cabin, and much earlier driving with my father from Kansas City to Connecticut for the summer. I marvel at the power of a scent, a shape, a song, a place, to transport us away, back to the past. I find it amazing that the journeys are all happy memories. How wonderfully our brain filters out the slights, the arguments, the injuries–all the hurts large and small. Thanks for the trip!

    Comment by Bee Hylinski — April 25, 2011 @ 7:19 am | Reply

  4. Beautifully recalled memories, Joanne. Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed the ride!

    Comment by Chris Pedersen — April 25, 2011 @ 8:54 am | Reply

  5. Another great story. Congratulations to Kevin and Kate!

    Comment by Donna — April 30, 2011 @ 12:52 pm | Reply

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