I love America. I mean, I really love America. What I really mean is I really, really love America.
I could very easily make this post more complicated. I will try to keep it very simple. I will tell the story of when I first remember falling in love with America.
Near the end of the summer of 1983, my parents and three younger siblings drove from our home in Lexington, Kentucky to Salt Lake City to visit my grandparents and other relatives.
It had been one year since we had moved away from my birthplace in Utah. I missed it terribly.
I don’t remember much about our visit in Salt Lake. Here’s what I remember most:
A beautiful sunny, blue-sky day, looking out the station wagon’s rolled-down window to see the St. Louis Arch. Something stirred within me when I saw that unique, welcoming structure that overlooks the great Mississippi River.
The green hills turned into flat, green farmland that stretched to forever in Kansas.
“Tell Her About It,” by Billy Joel had just been released. We heard it a lot as we tuned into the radio stations near more populated areas. What a great tune. When I hear it now I remember an old gas pump in central Kansas and snacking on something unfamiliar on the drive.
The terrain turned yellow and brown by the time we crossed the state line into Colorado. I marveled at the change in landscape.
Late at night as we weaved through the everlasting hills of the Rocky Mountains, Mom told us a story about Falling Rock that I didn’t understand but it romanticized the mountains and made me feel more at home there.
Two or three days after leaving our Old Kentucky Home, we awaited the moment we would see the Salt Lake Valley on the other side of the mountainous trail. I don’t remember seeing the valley but I remember the anticipation.
When I went back to school, Mrs. Johnson, the best teacher in the world, asked us to write about our summer. I wrote about our drive across America. I have a file my Dad kept with my old school work. After writing this, I went through it with my son and found this report:
Like most love stories, it was love at first sight. It can’t easily be explained. But it created a foundation of what would blossom into a deep love and admiration for America’s history, America’s present and a sincere hope for her future.