The drive back is filled with sleep for all but my son and me. I ride shotgun, he drives his sister’s Xterra. The cargo hold is filled with a box of books my parents are done reading, jars of pickled beets and plum jam. Leftover pasties and a bag of plums from my parents’ tree. The side windows reflect sleepers in the back seat. Nose buried in blue pillow. Fist curled. Another nose pressed against the window, flat palm on forehead. We listen to his new Mumford and Sons CD.
Oh, the bass line, he says as he gears down to climb a steep pass. We are the only vehicle in view.
He takes his eyes off the road for a bit so we can share the look we’ve shared ever since he was two, old enough to turn the volume up on the radio. It’s the look that says—this moment matters. It’s so rare now to have these moments with just him.
Crescendo goes the music. Flop goes my heart.
Oh, the banjo, I reply.
We’ve driven this road between my childhood home and where I raised my kids for so many years, we boast about knowing every curve, every dotted line. Comfort in familiarity.
When the Crazies and the Little Snowies rise in our horizon, we catch our breaths, soak in the view: this is where the Purple Majesty Song came from—something I always told my kids. Amber waves of grain, purple mountains majesty. The sweeping, open blue.
Oh, the snow caps, he nods toward the peaks.
Oh, the shorn wheat, I nod to our right. Strips of prairie grass and snow fence flash by, and then fields of . . . grazing, brown dots.
Once again, he takes his eyes off the road for one quick moment. We exchange looks. One eyebrow pops up. I know, I know: this isn’t the way we remember this trip: someone’s cows are in the amber field.
Photos taken at 70 mph, expect to experience some blur.