Souvenirs for the Soul: Never Judge a Four-Room Motel by Its Size

Talk about last minute.

In three days, Bob and I discussed, decided, and departed on a 4,000 mile trip. We hadn’t planned to go to my niece’s wedding. The distance and cost seemed prohibitive. But my sister-in-law was in her final days of life* so we made an impromptu decision and headed west.

Last minute airfare was too expensive. So we drove most of the 1900 miles in two long days. Needing low-budget accommodations, we chose to spend the second night about 150 miles from the wedding venue, in the small town where my husband had lived most of the first nine years of his life.

Silver Lake, Oregon

Silver Lake is in the middle of high desert, where its lake had dried up long before my husband lived there in the nineteen-sixties. The town itself sits at an elevation of 4345 feet, encompasses a whopping one-and-a-third square miles of land, and boasts a booming population of fifty. The night we drove into town, we’d traversed hundreds of miles in desolate darkness, dodging thousands of little jack rabbits. Sadly, we weren’t able to dodge all of them. (Oh, the things we remember!)

July 10 Oregon High Desert

Despite its remoteness, Silver Lake does offer a four-room motel that sits about fifteen feet south of the highway that runs through town. You know, the kind of motel where your double-sized bed is a mere eight steps from your car door. And if you take an additional six steps, you’ll step out the bathroom window. It’s more like a concrete tent, but with actual beds (yes, there was also a single bed in the same 12 x 12 enclosure), and an in-room bathroom.

It’s a good thing we liked adventures, especially those that hold a touch of nostalgia.

But you know what we discovered that night (or rather in the wee hours of the morning) when showering the highway grime off our weary bodies? This itty-bitty, hole-in-the-desert motel had the best towels ever. Big, soft, and absorbent. They were even better than the towels from the Hilton Hotels my husband frequents for business travel. Who would have thought?! And the next morning we got to stop at the general store next door and help ourselves to a free cup of coffee and friendly conversation.

Souvenir for the Soul:

Never judge a motel by it’s size. You never know what little comforts await you.

Isn’t this true of life? Where the experiences, especially from our childhood, that really stick out in our minds are the simplest of things? They cost little, if no, money. They involved laughter and usually other people. They may have required some imagination and creativity. And they were likely something hands-on and multi-sensory.

Like playing in the rain, making turtles out of walnut shells, mimicking Dad with his tools or Mom in the kitchen. It didn’t involve a trip to Hawaii. And even if we’d gone to Hawaii, we’d probably most remember something like eating fresh pineapple around a kitchen table in a rented room.

My most poignant memory of my own childhood travels from Missouri to Arizona is of long hours in the back of a hot station wagon, eating Snack Pack pudding. Seriously! My mom was from Arizona and we were traveling there to spend time with family. But had that not been the reason for our travel, my parents could have easily thrown us all in the car, driven an hour down the road, and fed us individual cans of sweetness to create the same feeling. Right?

July 10 The Simplest Things

You see, we may think we’re small and have little to offer. But we never know when some little thing we do, ministers welcome and comfort to a weary soul. We all have those special little touches we like to extend to others. Itsy-bitsy extra miles we like to go. We need to quit downplaying these. They matters. They make a difference. They spark a smile and invite pleasant conversation. Those that partake of our simple offerings may scoot on down the highway in short order, but chances are, we probably touched their lives in ways we’ve never dreamed.

And if you’re feeling guilty about your minimal vacation this year? Don’t. Engage those little things you specialize in and I think you just might be surprised at the baskets-full of leftover memories you’ll create.

“Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’ So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets …”
(John 6:11-13, NIV)

Do you have any simple childhood pleasures that are fun to recall? Are there ways you’ve created similar memories for your family? Would you honor us by sharing them in the comments below?

*In case it sounded like it, this sister-in-law (Jane) was not the mother of the bride. Jane got to meet Jesus face-to-face the day we started our impromptu journey. We were sad to not get to say good-bye but know we’ll see her again someday. Driving to Oregon allowed us the opportunity to spend a couple weeks there and so we were able to attend Jane’s inspiring memorial service.