The 1978 convertible Cadillac soars down the freeway like a fat cigar boat on still water. Mom, in the front passenger seat, wraps a floral silk scarf around her long wavy red hair. She knots it tightly under her chin; the tail end flaps in the wind and gently laps at her cheek and neck. Dad with one arm out the window smoothly glides the vehicle with his fat right palm planted squarely at noon on the steering wheel. His hand waves left and right as he maneuvers the giant car over the uneven terrain. In the back seat, my younger brother and I bounce back and forth taking turns at the window seat behind my dad. Our older sister’s position at the window behind mom is non-negotiable. She staked her claim early on and based on her sour mood we won’t even consider trying for her seat for the next thousand miles, at least.
In the distance, a storm rolls across the eastern plain toward the highway. The road goes straight as far as we can see, merging with the horizon at some distant location. At just the right angle, the afternoon sun creates the beginnings of a rainbow in the distance. The colorful arch appears to terminate just ahead on the road we’re on.
From the back seat Junior notices the rainbow and screams out, “Dad the end of the rainbow – it’s on the road just ahead!”
I chime in, “Dad lets go get that treasure!”
Mom, always game to play along says, “What do you think kids, want to go find some gold?”
Junior and I jump up and down, cheering in agreement. We tentatively wait for buy-in from our big sister. Her silence is deafening, and the disgust with our excitement emanating off of that corner of the car is palpable. She didn’t want to come on this stupid vacation, let alone chase rainbows. She and mom fought for hours before we even got in the car. At first, she pleaded, made promises, begged to stay home, then when none of her usual tricks worked she raged. She yelled out about how her freedom was being taken away, that she has no trust, no future, no friends, and no life. She stares toward the west and rolls her eyes with a deep sigh. My older sister’s teen angst is in full bloom in the summer of 1979.
Junior always able to sway her mood, wraps his tiny hands around her balled-up fist, blinks his eyes, opens them wide and nods his head and whispers: “Please it’ll be fun”. She pulls her hand away and playfully pushes him on the head so that he dramatically falls back onto the seat next to me.
“Don’t be a spaz, of course I want the gold,” she says trying not to smile. All of the tension dissipates, and we’re all a family again on an adventure.
Dad turns around makes eye contact with each one of us, his soft handlebar mustache wisps playfully against his high cheekbones. “Ok then, we’re all in. We’re off on the greatest adventure of our lives.” He always said that whether we were going to the grocery store or the dump.
Suddenly we are the only car on the road. The sky is a mix of golden sunshine on the right and dark grey on the left, both warm and cold at the same time. The atmosphere takes on a strange stillness in spite of dad stepping full force on the gas pedal. Momentum and movement slow down, and as the car bounces over small bumps in the road we temporarily become suspended in space. I imagine us all hovering above our seats due to some gravitational/centrifugal force created by the road, the speed, the sky, and the rainbow’s elfin magic.
Sailing down the highway time strangely stands still. Our forward movement on the straight roadway that stretches infinitely toward the horizon creates the illusion of the horizon, the road and the rainbow all receding at the same speed of the car. After ten minutes of going eighty miles per hour, we are no closer to the end of the rainbow than before. As we fly over the deserted plain, the rainbow slightly disappears, then comes back into view. We keep on our quest until the storm starts to cross the freeway. My dad slows the car, turns to us and asks if we want to continue and risk getting wet or stop and put the top up, but risk losing the rainbow.
Junior is the first to shout out: “Keep going.”
We all chime in: “Yes, keep going.”
Again he steps on the gas. The storm moves over the freeway engulfing us inside the eerie grey squall. We lose sight of the rainbow as we pass through the storm. Our faces wet with warm summer rain, we come out the other side of a dark cloud bank to a rainbow-free bright blue summer sky. We scream with joy and exhilaration, giggling as dad slows the caddy to a reasonable pace. Even my sister smiles as she lets the wind dry her face. She seems to have momentarily forgotten her anger.
On our quest for the pot of gold at the end of that rainbow, we found the real treasure in the journey trying to get there.
Me at 15, Colorado Mountains