I drove up to my parent’s house after work today. I needed to pick up my finished tax return, and they were going out to dinner and invited me along. It was a nice late afternoon drive up route 33, the sun was trying to peek through the clouds that had been hanging around all day after a gloomy rain-soaked (and partly snowy!?) morning, and I was looking forward to my first full weekend off in three weeks. I decided to take a slightly different route to the homestead than I usually do, and drove through Sciota, Neola, and Reeders, three tiny little hamlets with weird Pennsylvania Dutch names, via my favorite thruway in the county, Neola Road.
Neola Road is one of those narrow country lanes you always read about but never drive on. It’s a winding, hilly 5 mile road that connects one end of the county to the other, and for those in the know, it was the route to take when you needed to get from Brodheadsville to Stroudsburg and avoid the sticky parts of 715, 611, and 209. It’s one of those roads you take just a little too fast (if you’re lucky to not be stuck behind some Sunday driver), and get a little thrill at the roller-coaster like dips your stomach takes into your pelvis when you take that last hill and catch air. It’s a road where you pass big three-story white farmhouses, cookie-cutter McMansions, broken down barns, and the occasional double wide. There’s the old general store where I used to buy Garbage Pail Kids, just around the corner from the restored one-room schoolhouse my Gram used to take classes in. It’s a road you can find a used car on, for sale by owner. A road you can find the perfect Christmas tree on. There’s a lady selling organic eggs, straight from the chicken. Just bring your own carton. It’s a road you can get lost on, if you’re not careful, and it’s a road that, for me, is imbedded in my past.
I drive down Neola Road and I see myself, age 17, newly licensed in my powder blue Plymouth Reliant with my friends all piled inside, driving to the Snydersville Diner for late night milkshakes. At age 19, skipping Anatomy and Physiology for the nth time to go shopping. At age 8, in the back seat of my mom’s Subaru, coming home from a weekend stay at Grandma’s. At age 24, in my first brand new car, a cherry red Jeep Wrangler with the top off, heading to work early on a perfect summer day. I drive down Neola Road now, as a 35 year old woman, headed toward the place I grew up, and I realize the old cliche is true. You can always go home again.
But, you know, just for a visit.