Around this time every year, I can’t help but notice a date on the calendar that stands out. August 8. 8/8. It’s a day that makes me think about the passage of time, as it has for the past thirty years.
Do the math, and you’ll realize that 8/8, 30 years ago, was 8/8/88. And as it turned out, I was spending the night in a Super 8 motel. I was 13, and we were on our way back home from one of our marathon road trips, where we endured thousands of miles in a station wagon in a matter of days. On that particular trip, we covered the Pacific coast, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore and Mount St. Helens. On 8/8/88, we were in Mount Vernon, Illinois.
This is what that Super 8 looked like, three decades ago. And this…
… is what it looked like in 2016, courtesy of Google Street View. I know it’s the same place, because of that ugly 3-legged gas-station sign across the street.
Another sign, the one for the motel, had been programmed to read: “8/8/88 IS SUPER 8 DAY!”
I can remember looking out the room window, around twilight, and reading that message. And I think I rolled my eyes.
We turned on the TV and switched to CNN. I remember a feature story about all of those 8’s in the date. They went around New York and talked to people with some connection to the number 8, for example, someone who lived at 88 8th Avenue or 8th Street, if I remember correctly.
That story ended with “I’m so-and-so reporter, and we’ll do this again on 9/9/99.”
It was such a mind-blowing concept. That date was 11 years, a month and a day away. Surely that day would never come.
I guess it was the first time I had really thought about the passage of time, and what a year, or ten, or eleven means. Where would I be in 11 years? What would my life look like?
Three decades later, 8/8/88 is tossed into the back of my mind, sharing space as ancient history. But it’s not gone. It hasn’t vanished along with the other mundane days of that year. 8/8/88 and the other days of that vacation are still alive.
That’s what travel does. It changes our attitudes and shapes our lives. And it adds color to a memory that would otherwise be faded and grey, or have vanished altogether.
If we hadn’t gone on that vacation, and hadn’t stayed in the Super 8 Motel in Mount Vernon, Illinois, 8/8/88 would just be another day lost to time. Even though it was 30 years ago, I’m glad it’s still around.