American literature sometimes contains themes of roaming, travel, listlessness that takes characters on wandering journeys - maybe because America is so vast simply in terms of land mass compared to smaller European countries. Or maybe because Americans are listless.
I've mentioned before that some of the stories that stand out from my younger years involve a physical journey. I loved The Grapes of Wrath when we read it in school. My favorite movie was A Perfect World, the story of an escaped convict running running the law across Texas.
And one of my favorite things to do was take the regular family road trip to Florida. I kept and checked/updated a travel log that contained lists of everything at every exit off I-75. I still have it. And there were always sentimental 80s songs playing on the radio during these trips, so that they have become engrained in my memories as "songs that remind me of Florida." I've checked my memory on this to make sure I wasn't making it up - but I have a strong recollection of riding in the back of the green Ford Fairlane wagon in fall of 1984, looking over the seat and asking my dad why we were going to Florida, and his answer that my grandmother had died. I remember lying back down next to my younger brother (because we didn't have car seats for 2 and 5 year old back then) and feeling sad, with two songs playing on the radio as a backdrop to my little five year old thoughts. Looking the songs up as an adult, I found that both had been recently released and were popular at that time in 1984. I was really remembering those exact songs at that moment when I was only five. Music can play a powerful role in memories.
Driving back to Florida now to get together with family at the same beachfront condominium we stayed at multiple times during my childhood - taking my own children there - is special. Same songs (because I taped them off the radio in the very early 90s and then burned them to CDs from Napster downloads in the early 2000s), same road, some of the same roadside landmarks and businesses, but many have changed.
Although I have always enjoyed restless journey stories, I've been content with repeated drives to the same destinations overall. It's exciting to see new things, but I love the familiarity of a repeated road trip.
We've discovered that today is the travel day for some sports car convention trip between Atlanta and St. Petersburg, Florida. Lucky us - that means we get to avoid multiple speeding crazy people in decal-covered expensive looking cars as we drive the same route today. Interestingly, the Lamborghinis drive the most reasonably. I guess when your car costs that much, you don't take stupid risks with it as much as the people with the Mitsubishis and such. What are they all looking for on their $22,000 nine-day journey? All I know is that I've never seen so many cops along this stretch of interstate before.
Restless travel exists throughout the Chalice series, but especially in Book One. The protagonist is not satisfied with repeated trips, and he doesn't care where he's going as long as it's somewhere new. While it's not a chase for the latest and greatest - he's extremely frugal and from an underprivileged background - it comes from a place of dissatisfaction with his life. When questioned about his wanderings by his best friend, Dallas says, "You know I never go the same place twice if I can help it."
This same drive we're completing today is one I've used in my fiction writing, putting an actual realistic setting to events I've created. A character who we meet in Book Three of the Chalice series, Eric, has taken family vacations to the beach along this route numerous times throughout his childhood, and he is taking a return trip as an adult. So I took this trip from my own childhood and placed a fictional family on the same route, with the same vacation plans. Dallas goes along with Eric's family this time, and the experience gives him a taste of tradition and family bonds, a window into a world where pointless roaming is not the norm.
His search for a destination, a true home, is very literal, but it speaks to a deeper longing inside. Each book gets him a little closer - a little less restless. But it takes him a long time to truly understand and live out a belief in St. Augustine's words: "Our hearts are restless, Lord, until they rest in you."
Leave a Reply.
Catholic. Wife & Mother. Vocations advocate.