Today I drove back from the Twin Cities where I spent New Years' Eve with some of my old CBC-Ecuador friends/spouses including: Leah and Wade Gunderson (the gracious hosts), Jared Sandstrom, Eric and Katie Borndal, and Britta Kimball. It was a wonderful time had by all (at least me). Today, I ended up leaving at noon for what I knew was going to be a long and tiring ride to Chicago.
Now, being a pastor's kid meant Saturday drives home from vacation were a regular occurrence. Deano needed to get home for church or heads would roll (not true, but it probably helped him maintain steady employment). There was one thing all of us kids dreaded on these rides home: Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion. At 5 p.m. on the dot, Adventures in Odyssey would be ejected ("Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80995 or in Canada write to us at Box 9800 Vancouver, B.C., B6B4G3, and don't forget to ask how you can get a copy of today's episode, "Waylaid in the Windy City"), and we would tune in the local public radio station for the familiar opening, "I hear that old piano...".
This tradition continued as I progressed from the blue vinyl backwards-facing bench seats of the Buick station wagon, through the beige foldout bench seat/futon of the conversion van (even had a TV in that one!), and into the removable bench seats of the Pontiac TransSport minivan that I ended up taking to college my senior year. This show was harder to get rid of than the in-laws. The worst part was that when the signal began to fade, my dad had to only press seek, usually only once, and it would return crystal clear and in full force. Public radio is everywhere!
However, a strange thing began to happen in my late high school years. Though I would pretend to hate that tell-tale voice and his stupid stories, I would occasionally fight back a smile at the corny jokes he made. Soon, I even stopped complaining when we would turn it on, but I wouldn't give any positive affirmation to my parents; I didn't want it to go to their heads. Finally, when I left for college and separated from my parents, I felt like I could finally proudly proclaim my affection for the show. I became an avid listener and surprised my parents with my insistence on our next car ride that we listen.
Now, whenever 5 p.m. hits on a Saturday night, the calm and drawn-out voice of Garrison Keillor combined with the musical acts, poetry readings, and storytelling is a welcome respite from my busy schedule as I let the nostalgia of childhood and Minnesota wash over me.
For instance, today I was barely making it on my drive; I thought I might need to stop for a nap or hit the caffeine harder (despite already drinking an energy drink two hours earlier). However, once 5 p.m. hit and PHC was on the air, I barely noticed my fatigue and glided home without the slightest problem. So, that's the story of how Prairie Home Companion became one of my favorite traveling companions.