Monday, January 23, 2012

Trip back to Iowa -- part 1

It is October and I am planning to head back to my home state of Iowa to celebrate my parents birthdays and see my family.  I prepare for the visit like any other visit - purchase a plane ticket - rent a car - pack according to Midwestern weather- and soon I am ready to make the journey.  My flight this time is to Minneapolis, Minnesota, as it won the battle with Omaha, Kansas City and Sioux Falls for the least expensive ticket and car rental this time, so my plans are all set. On travel day with bags packed,  I am ready to head to Jackson Hartsfield International Airport.  A short cab and Marta (train) ride and I will be there rather quickly so I leave about 2 1/2 hours before my flight.  Arriving at the airport and breezing through security I get to my gate in plenty of time.   I begin to watch people of all ages and sizes hurry by as they obviously have a destination.  Some of them weighed down with a few pieces of overstuffed carry on luggage, obviously trying to save the current checked bag fee.  Others with children in arms attempting to keep them entertained, which often includes a bribe or two.  Then there are yet others with a small computer case and a cell phone attached to their ear.  All with travel plans to take them to an adventure whether it is ordinary or extra ordinary. 
My flight begins to board and soon we are departing the gate,  speeding down the runway, and finally lift off which is actually about 15 minutes early.  Once we reach the appropriate altitude,  I pull out my Ipad and begin working on some of my apps I had downloaded.  The flight seems to take no time and just as soon as we are finished with our beverage and snack it is time to land.  I have not checked any luggage as it is a short trip home and so off to the rental car counter I head.  As I scurry through the terminal I once again notice all the different people hurrying about.  The volume of people does not seem to falter as I near the tunnel that leads travelers to the rental car train.  After a short line and the regular jibber jabber at the counter,  I am in my car and driving across interstate 494 toward 35 beginning my four hour drive to mom and dads. The day could not be more perfect for the drive.  Blue sunny skies filled with white fluffy clouds.  It makes me realize what I miss about this part of the country.  All the blue skies.  It is simply breath taking, and the white puffs add an element of intrigue.  I drive along and spot a windmill, which quickly reminds me of my dad and begins my journey down memory lane.  Growing up, when my family would drive any distance, we would often start playing " The Alphabet Game".  As the car drives along, all participants start scouring signs looking for the letters of the alphabet in order.  They would proceed to yell out the letters as  they locate them on billboards and signs along the road side.  Of course the usual Q and K are harder to find but eventually one is found and the game continues until someone reaches Z.  Another popular passer of time would be: "I see something you don't see" where we would take turns describing something we could see and everyone else would try and guess what it was.  My dad's favorite thing to see would be tall and dark and blows in the wind.  (A Windmill)  I will always associate windmills with my father and playing that game.  With their use for obtaining water no longer needed,  I must say traditional windmills are harder and harder to spot.  Most people don't take the time or money to keep them operational.  There are new windmills that dot the earth in this area of the country and I see many on my drive today.  They the large white ones with three blades which generate energy from the wind that blows across the plains.  These large turbines have been increasing in numbers over the past ten years in Iowa and Minnesota.  They are not as rustic as the old windmills and I would have to give them a futuristic or artistic description. I am sure they are someone's favorite thing to describe when playing the car game mentioned above.

After about 2 1/2 hours of driving I see some blinking lights in the distance so I slow down. There is flag man directing traffic and I have to wait for a minute.   It is obvious that there has been an accident on the curve ahead as several cars and people have gathered in the area.  Finally my turn comes and as I drive by I see a truck overturned in the ditch.  I begin to think how your day can change in the blink of an eye.  We often rush through our day, never hesitating to think about those small details which if we miscalculate a little could change the rest of our day or even lives.  This trucker obviously was taking the curve a little too fast for the load he was carrying and rolled the truck.  I drive by slowly as people are scampering about to get things back to normal.  

Soon I cross into the state of Iowa and honestly it is not that much different then Minnesota with its fields of corn ready for harvest and round hay bails occationally along its straight roads.  As I am driving thought this area I begin a journey of a different sort.  I start to think about growing up here and memories start racing in. I am not far from the "Lakes" region and visions of summer days spent at Lake Okaboji with cousins and friends begin playing in my head. Way too many to list, but all contributing to the person I have become.  Further down the road I come to Spencer, with the Clay County Fair held once a year and a movie theater where my friends and I would often come to see the latest release if we did not head to Storm Lake.  It was like most carefree childhoods, with lots of things going on in the little local bubble I had created.  How far I had come since then now living in Brazil and traveling throughout the world.  I knew those places existed back then, but I had no idea I would ever be where I am today or experiencing the life I have lived. 

Now back to the present day and my journey with empty soy bean fields and corn fields ready to harvest lining the road as I travel a little less then an hour.   The drive takes me through the town of Sioux Rapids where I attend high school.  I turn down the main street  and besides a few name changes or store changes it is pretty much how I remember it.  At the end of the street is the public swimming pool where I attended swimming lessons in the summer and after a couple of turns I am cruising by where the high school used to stand.    The school district has built a new school at the edge of town and all that remains of the old three story brick building is the gymnasium which is utilized for community activities.  Sports, choir, swing choir, theater, speech, were all a part of my experience here at SR-R high as being a Cougar meant a lot to us then.  As I begin to leave town,  I think of the 35 people I graduated with and wondered what they are up to.  Where their adventures have taken them.  I have not kept up with many from my class, except for finding them on Facebook the past couple of years.  It has been nice to reconnect and see their journeys.   Once I hit the outskirts of Sioux Rapids I decide to take a small detour instead of going the direct route home.  The detour will take me to my  "home town" of Rembrandt, Iowa.  Past more fields down highway 71, I soon come to the sign stating "ONE REMBRANDT USA" accompanied by invitations to worship at the two local churches.  I turn and drive the short distance off the highway into the little town.  The memories come rolling back as I drive past the Methodist church on the right where some of my friends attended and we shared vacation bible school.  Turning right down the street just past the church, with the little town park on my left I come to the church I grew up in "Our Saviour's Lutheran Church".  The building has not changed much but the passing of  time is marked by the two large trees in the front yard that were not even there when I was young.   I reminisce about Sunday School,  Bible School, Confirmation, Luther League, and all the other activities I participated in.  The church was a cornerstone in my growing up.  There were two girls from my school class that grew up with me at the church as well and we all participated in many of the same things.  I continue down the street past the old parsonage  where one of these two friends lived as she was the pastor's daughter.  At the end of the street only two blocks further,  two more classmates lived with their families.   I have not spoken to them since high school and briefly wonder what they are up to.  So many years spent together yet now it has been so long. I turn left to head around
the block and back towards downtown.  Arriving at the main street, it has not changed much since my last visit but compared to when I was growing up it has lost a few businesses.  Hondo's lawn equipment which used to occupy the buildings on the right  has moved to Sioux Rapids and now sits vacant.  The convenient store on the adjacent corner no longer sales gas or grocery items.   A restaurant has opened  on the other corner where a little grocery store was when I was in elementary and middle school.  It was a candy stop on our journey from school to confirmation classes at the church every Thursday afternoon.  The First National Bank of Rembrandt where I opened my first bank account still  anchors the remaining corner of downtown.  There are only a few other buildings remaining on main street and this past year, the post office has battled to stay open.  I am not sure what was decided in that battle.  Further down the old theater sits,  the building reminds me of the Haunted Houses created here every October to celebrate Halloween. Today I believe the building is a storage facility for a local seed company and they have not had a Haunted House there for many years.   My eyes cross the street to the library which continues to lend books out to anyone with a library card.   Like most rural towns in the United States, Rembrandt is holding on tightly for survival.  No major housing developments here and it is more common for a store to be closing then opening.  I continue driving down the street to where the old school used to stand.  It also has been demolished except for the gymnasium which now holds a local auctioneer  company.  I remember grades K through 6th in the old brick building and remember planting trees along the street out front in 5th grade.  Today those trees are huge and gracefully line the street I am driving down.  I recollect starting Kindergarten with 13 people in my class.  All but one of us graduated together 12 years later.  (wow 12 years does not seem very long today when back then it seemed like forever) .  It was Rembrandt Consolidated School then and at the end of my 5th grade, the school consolidated with neighboring Sioux Rapids to become Sioux Rapids- Rembrandt.  At that time our class of 13 (we had lost one of the original classmates but gained a new one)  was the largest in the school which graduated 8 seniors that year.  Yes,  "Eight is Enough" was the last graduating class of Rembrandt Consolidated School's theme.  I would spend 6th grade with the original 13 and adding another 23 from Sioux Rapids making our class the new largest class in the school with 36 pupils.  After 6th grade we started attending middle school in Sioux Rapids, only 15 minutes away and as these memories float through my thoughts,  it is time to turn right heading out the country road leaving Rembrandt for my parents farm 4 miles away... (to be continued) ...

(click hear to read part 2)


Anonymous said...

Enjoyed reading your comments. Amazing how time changes things! My class of 22 students graduated from RHS in 1960!

Dave said...

Glad you enjoyed -- amazing where my life came from and is today... simply amazing!