Childhood summers were often spent with my grandparents, touring the roads of the western United States. Sometimes my brothers joined us and away we went, walking through the Redwood forest, looking for Ewoks and Storm Troopers; playing in the endless ocean or roasting marshmallows to the tune of crickets and busy highways that embraced America.
It was on these youthful adventures where bluegrass/gospel music rooted inside, becoming threads of fond memories. I might have made fun of that genre of music back on the playground where everything was separated by “cool” and “uncool”, but inside, I was reliving the inner slideshow back by the campfire, listening to my grandparents harmonize their way into hearts of their grandchildren.
America. I can still smell the ocean where I first saw starfish, watching them for hours. I visited swap meets where people sold cool stuff like ballet shoes, antiques and books. And, of course, there was McDonalds. “The steering wheel automatically turns into McDonalds, no matter how tightly I hold it”, my Grandpa would say. A giant grin would creep across his face as he spoiled us with endless boxes of chicken nuggets with honey mustard sauce; a child’s gourmet meal.
One memory made when dining under the golden arches was the meeting of the Birds. Not the tweeting kind, but those that shared the same surname as my Grandparents. By the time we had finished our Egg McMuffins, and absorbed the smell of coffee into our clothes, we were invited to park the motor home in any Bird driveway available on our travels. After all, if we went back far enough, we could be related. And what says family like those named after the creatures that travel freely and sing love songs to America?
Back home, my brothers and I would enjoy the Arizona sunsets once again on My Grandparents front porch, shelling pecans and getting bit by mosquitoes before they became harbingers of this or that disease.
My grandparents may make their way into the pages of my book, singing their love of our country into the restless hearts of my characters. If you read about Earl and Geneva, sit down and enjoy the legacy they leave. They will be singing, “I’ll fly away” and watching a family in search of what they already know: Faith in America.