My uncles used to drive back from the shore in summer on back roads, me seated in the staring through the rear windshield like a movie in reverse, watching the landscape slip away – perhaps partly because I didn’t want to go back north to the mundane everyday life I lived there.
The shore was always a fantasy land full of endless possibilities, and I loved sitting on a dock near the bay (Sorry, Otis, different, different bay) watching the men in boat trying to catch crabs, or stand on the sand near the sea, searching the waves for signs of whales.
I was grateful for my uncles taking the slow route home, although they did not to it on my behalf. They craved bits of their youth when grandpa took this same trip both ways on these same highways before the
State Parkway made it easy to by pass the twists
and turns I loved so much, but also blotted out any of the real places. The
Parkway was an illusion, decorated on all sides so that you always felt as if
you were driving through a park, not the real world.
My uncles missed most the roadside stands that proliferated when they came south just after World War II, stands that sold farm fresh stuff that tasted like nothing found in the supermarket. But the stands were slowly fading away and could not be found easily, and so our trips north were always a kind of search for something that might no longer exist, or would vanish before our eyes if we did not grab hold of it.
We always managed to find a few before forced back into civilized world where fresh anything was impossible to find, and my uncles always loaded up the trunk of the car with everything they could manage, especially eggs.
I always heard the same tired advice about not putting all our eggs into one basket, and it was wise advise then, as it is now, since the bumpy roads generally did damage to some eggs, and we often returned home with fewer than we purchased.
Many years later – in my mid-30s, I went back with my mother and one of my uncles on a similar magical mystery tour, searching those remote highways for a memory I wasn’t sure we would find, development having eaten up farm land and so making it harder for us to find food worthy of eating. But we did, one small farm stand in all those long miles remained, holding out against the tide of corruption and development, refusing to abandon its ethics for an easy buck.
And as my uncle and mother loaded the trunk with everything we had purchased (knowing the stand would not survive the next onslaught of greed,) I heard my uncle say, “Don’t put all the eggs in one basket.”
And this was as true then as it had been before, and it is still true today, long after everything we value as pure has been corrupted.