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The Days and Lessons of a Highway
The car rode smoothly on the new highway road, and the car bumped along as I tried to doze off into sleep. The attempts went unsuccessful on this long, long road trip. My family was going all the way to Boston, which would have been fine with me as long as we didn’t live all the way in Chicago.
The last time I remembered being awake and seeing the road signs, we were still in New York. But this time, I awoke and saw a harbor. This was a sign of relief for me, as I hated overnight road trips. My parents looked back and my older brother, Nick, was still snoring in the back seat of the car. I looked back, smiling because my brother was in the weirdest position for the last five hours of driving: his head was tucked underneath some duffle bags we brought and his legs were halfway in the air. He was in a position you would see road kill in. I almost laughed out loud.
“Kara, wake up your brother.” I smiled, blushing because I knew they told me to wake him up in order for me to stop laughing at him. I reached over the seat and tapped his head, and his hand rubbed his black curly hair down and he opened his eyes. He blinked a couple of times, and then he looked outside.
“Where are we?” I looked outside right as we were going over the bridge. The early sunrise was shining down on all the boats below and the tugboat was traveling right under the bridge. In the water, thousands of jelly fish were visible and floating barely below the surface. Seagulls had gathered near an old couple who were tossing little pieces of bread into the water. I would remember this scenery: Boston harbor.
“Boston harbor. Get up, Mom and Dad said so.” He sat up, pushing the duffle bags up to avoid being stuck in the back seat, with many bags on top of him. I didn’t blame him, because last time I was stuck in the back seat and he twisted around and his feet pushed the bags right on top of me in my sleep. I didn’t know this until I woke up later in the morning when we arrived at the city we were going to.
“Nick. Kara. Let’s get out.” In the midst of waking up my brother, I didn’t realize we had already pulled over to the curb next to a parking meter. I stumbled over the thoughts in my head and I was deeply confused: weren’t we supposed to be going to a nice hotel in downtown Boston? I looked around as I stepped down to the curb. The sidewalk had weeds growing out of the cracks in it and the sidewalk was unsteady: every other block of cement leaning towards the sky or downwards towards the once green grass. I looked up now, towards where noises were filling my head: yells from mothers trying to contain their kids in the buildings, animals going through trash cans, and the rush of the wind through the trees. An alley was in front of me and the old townhouses were stained with years and years of history and stories of people.
“Wait, Dad, aren’t we supposed to be going to the Hilton Hotel? In downtown Boston?” He looked back as we stepped out onto the curb of a weird side street and smiled. I looked at where he was looking and I didn’t exactly get what he was trying to say.
“I wanted to show you both something.” Nick hopped out of the car and smiled to me as if trying to make peace, but knowing how often we fought I shrugged. He grinned. He shrugged and stood near me, less than a foot taller than me and I immediately felt really short.
“This is where Mom grew up.” I glanced around. It was a dump compared to the neighborhood we lived in now. The townhouses were once a cream color but stained yellow and gold. The sidewalks almost tripped me when I tried to step up for a closer look. I looked at Nick after I stood up from half tripping up a step. Nick looked almost disgusted. He was staring around where I had been looking.
“Dad, how could Mom grow up here? She became one of the best doctors in Illinois.” Mom stepped out of the car and smiled and looked from Nick to me. I was confused and I pulled my hair out of my face to avoid another awkward moment.
“Not everybody is given a silver spoon in their mouth. I wasn’t born into the community you were. I was born here, in the Boston. This place taught me wonders. Life is a highway. Either you stick to it and keep driving, or you give up and slow down. I had to learn a lot when I was little and it only helped me when I ended up going to college.” She looked at Dad. She grinned to Dad because they both obviously had learned this well before we were even able to read and write.
“You may think one day doesn’t matter but every day is a gift. You can live one day, but when you go back and try to find it again, it’s gone. Days are chapters of our lives. You have to keep trying if you want to be successful. It’s how I became a good doctor and how I ended up going to college. I didn’t give up on something I wanted.” She stopped giving us the lecture about life and I just stood there, awing how long the alley was and how the more I looked at it, the shorter it seemed. Then I heard the roars of the highway. Mom and Dad sauntered back to the car and Nick and I just stood there. I looked around at this neighborhood, feeling the guilt I felt for living a far better childhood than my mom ever did. But I also felt an adrenaline rush. Nick stood there and took in all there was left of the scenery and strolled back to the car. I was the last one standing there, taking in the broken cracks of the sidewalks, the old stained buildings, and the brush of cold air that made me shiver but in a way made me smile. I turned away from the scene and I stepped back into the car, sliding into the hole between our bags and my three pillows.
I let him climb in the car and I snuck back into my comfortable position. I bundled up in between the blanket and the soft pillow and looked out the window as we left the scenery of the neighborhood and entered the highway. Mom was right. But I felt that the places you visit on the highway are the places that make you who you truly are. Life is only so short, and you have to make something of it before others do so.