I was supposed to work yesterday because we had a staff meeting scheduled, always a priority event for us here. Nevertheless, I took another vacation day at the last minute. It was Amy's last day in the states, and we decided to drive down to see Erin, James and the kids in Mahomet, just west of Champaign. I let Amy sleep in for awhile and then off we went--our last adventure together for a long time.
Amy has a couple of Marine friends who live along I-57 in the small towns scattered along our route. One friend, I think his name is Matt, lives in Manteno, just north of Kankakee. She brought her camera along to take pictures of the road signs along the way so that she should show them to her friend in Okinawa.
"Yes, we drove right past your home town!" I imagined her saying. "See, here's the sign for Manteno, here's another one for Kankakee..." and so on. Amy has a very sociable demeanor and bubbly, enthusiastic personality, enabling her to make even a rather mundane road sign into something of grand significance.
The only problem was that she was also working on her laptop while I drove and she missed all of the signs on the way there. The sun was shining and the pictures would probably have turned out very well. Now, we had to initiate plan B--that I would be taking the pictures while we drove by on the way home--in the dead of night, windows down, cold wind blowing. Sigh! yes, that's the way things happen for us.
After a nice visit, I was happy to oblige. Truth be told, I was happy just to let her do the driving. I-57 is long, winding and dark during the night time hours, wreaking havoc on these tired and worn eyes. Taking pictures sounded like a reasonable alternative.
I was actually able to capture most of her requests with more than adequate success. My best shot was the one of the Manteno sign--clear as a bell and centered perfectly, it was! I burst with pride in my accomplishment, especially since this is the sign she most wanted to record. It wasn't easy, we had to decrease our speed considerably will pulling onto the shoulder, not quite stopped and parked but very nearly so.
"Great shot!" I bragged. "Okay, that's the last of them." I rolled up my window for the last time and relaxed into the warmth of my surroundings.
Arriving home later than we'd planned, we began the process of packing up whatever clothes and belongings Amy decided would make the return trip. Folding, sorting, and refolding, all the while people called or stopped by for that one last hug or one more "fare-thee-well." Amy took several more pictures--our two dogs, my husband and I, the dogs and both of us. We passed the camera around to each other so that everyone could get a picture with her. Every passing minute of this final day became digitally recorded.
The washing machine continued to churn while Amy critiqued her photos. "Delete, save, save, delete..." the litany continued for each and every shot.
"Ughh! Oh no!" was her dire warning cry.
"What?" I cried, panicking. Had she lost her wallet with her military ID and debit card? Perhaps her orders had been misplaced.
"She left something in Mahomet, I just know it" I thought. "What?!" I demanded to know. Immediately!
"I accidentally deleted the picture of the Manteno sign," she wailed. "I meant to delete the picture of your coat, the one you took when you were holding the camera backwards..."
"Is this a criticism of my photographic ability?" I wondered. "Hmm... well, if so, it's justified." I just don't have it when it comes to cameras. Especially anything other than a point and shoot.
"Well, we'll get in the car and drive out and take another one."
"Really? Can we really do that?"
"Sure," I replied. "After all, we have to wait for the laundry to be finish up anyway. And you can always sleep on the plane. It is a fourteen hour flight. Plenty of time to sleep."
We put on our coats and jumped back in the car, warming it up for a few minutes before we drove off to Manteno yet again. What better final adventure or memory for her last day at home? There was nothing more important that needed to be done at 1:00 AM this dark Thursday morning. And never will there be anything more important to me than her happiness. It was such a small thing to do for her, compared to all the big things that she continually does for all of us.
"And now because we can get off and turn around, we can take some pictures in the town, too. That way you'll have more to show than just the road sign."
"Great idea!" she smiled.
Before her return trip to Okinawa, we had our own return trip. Moments and memories like these make her departure a little bit more bearable. They create the images that I will savor in the coming months. There were many moments like this in the past few days. Stay tuned and I will be happy to share more of them with you. It is my way of reliving our time together and a way of remembering Amy. Return trips...a way of revisiting our lives and love...together.