"It's always hard to go back there because of the memories," I said to my mom in a phone conversation the night before I left on a trip to Kansas City last weekend.
My parents divorced when I was young and my dad remarried and ended up in St. Louis. After his second wife had two children, I would drive to Kansas City in the summer to meet Dad and/or his wife to bring my siblings back to Omaha to visit. We usually spent the night in a Kansas City suburb called Blue Springs, Missouri, so I got to know the area pretty well.
We stayed at Interstate Inn, and ate at Applebee’s at least once per trip. That exit contained the first Walmart I ever visited, a McDonald’s and a number of other businesses we frequented. After a few visits, the familiarity of the area made it feel like a second home – so familiar that it became the setting for one of the novels I have written that will probably never be published.
One year, my dad taught me how to drive a stick in the parking lot of Perkins in Blue Springs. I was terrible at first – grinding the gears, taking my foot off the clutch too quickly which caused the car to jerk back and forth, nearly giving us whiplash. But eventually I got the gist of it, making it one of those milestone moments you never forget.
I had a desire to see that parking lot last weekend. I was in the area with some friends to see a couple of baseball games. When I got to the parking lot, I discovered that Perkins is now a bank. If I can offer a word of advice, take photos of milestone moments, or have someone else take photos. I would give anything for a photo of the day my dad taught me how to manipulate the stick shift of that old orange Fiat.
I had to settle for reaching out of my car window on Sunday with my iPhone to capture the empty lot in its current form (see above). I didn’t want to keep my friends waiting, so I couldn’t reminisce long at the actual spot, but they were kind enough to tolerate my sentimental side for a couple of minutes.
From there, I looked across I-70 and saw La Quinta Inn – the place where Interstate Inn used to stand. I snapped a picture of that, too, recalling the times my family used to get adjoining rooms and how I would wrestle with my siblings on one of the beds.
Those times are long gone. And that’s okay. Life isn’t supposed to stand still. That’s what pictures are for. But with that said, these slices of life become part of our reservoir of experiences – a pool we can tap into when we need to remember, honor or feel the past. And last weekend, I felt the need to do all three.
I think it was spurred on by what my mom said in our phone conversation. After telling her how hard it is to return to Blue Springs, she responded with the perfect motherly advice.
“Be glad you have those memories,” she said.
Lee Warren is a freelance writer and editor who has written twelve non-fiction books, one novella and hundreds of articles for various newspapers and magazines as well as edited more than 50 books that currently appear in print. He's a fan of NASCAR, baseball, tennis, books, movies and coffee shops.