Last week, at the beginning of the week, my boss told me that he had decided that he would be able to give Jimmy and me the following week off! He had told us before that we would not have any time off this year, so this was a welcome surprise. He had mentioned that it may be a possibility, but nothing had been set or promised, so we couldn't make any plans or reservations to go anywhere or do anything until he finally gave us the green light.
I was so excited! We quickly decided that we would take the trip to Perry, Georgia, to see my dad's family there. I have not been there for about 6 years,since my grandfather passed away, and Jimmy and the little guys have not ever been! Elizabeth has been able to go just about every year with my parents, but it has never worked out that we could all go together as a family and take that long road trip to get there.
But finally, Jimmy and I decided (ok, it was mostly me) that this was the year. My grandmother, Lulu, is not getting any younger, and as it turns out, she is suffering from dementia and unfortunately couldn't recognize me or Elizabeth, and won't remember the little guys or Jimmy, but at least we went and get to see my Aunt Jeanie, and my cousins Emily, Sam and their dad, Bill.
But I think that I am getting ahead of myself a little here.
Let me set the stage for you:
Neither my grandmother nor my aunt can hear much at all, so all the communication between me and my aunt concerning our plans to visit took place on facebook, mostly through my cousin Emily's account. I think that it was on Thursday or Friday (the day we left) that I actually was able to confirm that the 5 of us would be arriving on their doorstep on Saturday afternoon.
Gabriel is 18 months old, and is not a very good car rider, (but it turns out that he actually did quite well) and Jo is 4 and sometimes gets carsick (as we soon found out). I am 4 months pregnant, and Jimmy doesn't drive, so I was the only one behind the wheel. We have a 90-something rusty blue van that holds 8 passengers, but that doesn't have any cargo space, as well as no AC and the radio doesn't really work so well, either. Halfway through the trip Jimmy's window started to stick either half-way up or half-way down, whichever way you DIDN'T want it to be.
And it the van doesn't lock.
I mean, it DOES lock, but then it very well may STAY that way, so we don't try it...anymore.
But...I have a great mechanic who came the day before we were due to leave to give it a good once over and said that although it's not a beauty, it is running fine and should make the trip with no problem.
And that's the part that matters, right?
After taking stock of what we wanted to take on a week long trip and how much space we had in the car, we pared our stuff down to what we NEEDED to take for a week long trip and decided that in an effort to give the kids the most space to conserve their and our sanity, we would fold down the middle seat and put all 3 kids along the back row:
For some reason, I don't have a picture of this, but in front of the kids is the folded down seat with our camp box, a big blue wooden box that opens in the front and holds camping stuff (or snacks in this case!) and has been with us everywhere we go. That meant that when we needed a road snack, Liz only had to reach up, open the box and they could take their pick. It also held other important stuff like first aid, card games and stuff like that. We had gotten a smaller cooler that fit right between our seats in the front for water and fruit. That way, Elizabeth didn't have to unbuckle and reach behind the seat to get stuff.
Fortunately, those smiling faces soon turned into this:
Anyway, I think that the one that was most excited to start this trip was me.
I remember when I was little and my mom and dad would take me and my brother and my sister to spend the summer months in Pinehurst, GA with Lulu and Daddy Bill, my dad's parents. We would get up at 5 in the morning and huddle into the van and haul on down there. We used to make the trip...all 11+ hours of driving...in one day.
I was thinking about that and about how we had decided to not make the trip in one day but rather to stop on the way and stay at a hotel in Florence, which is a little past halfway.
What is it that makes us more chicken than my parents were?
First of all, I don't know at what age we started making that trip, but the earliest age that I remember was when I was about 5 pr 6, which would have made my brother about 8 or 9 and my sister 11 or12. That is a big difference than riding with a toddler and a preschooler! Also, I remember that as soon as we got on the highway, my sister and brother stretched out on the bench seats, and I took my pillow and blanket and hunkered down in the step-well of the van! No car seats or seatbelts for us! I can't imagine Gabriel sitting in his carseat for 11+ hours straight!
There may be others of you out there who would have saved the $50 for a hotel room and pushed right on through, but you are far braver than I, and my hat's off to you!
Anyway, riding down there was an amazing trip for me. I was so excited! Heart pounding seeing familiar landmarks...Richmond, South of the Border and the Savannah River! I always used to love to see the rivers and marshes that we passed over and to see the little dirt roads that go along the highway. I loved to then, and still do. I wonder at the town names. Who settled here first? Where did that name come from? Why is this overpass called Dry Bread Road? What was it like to pioneer here?
What were the Native Americans like?
I am fascinated by that history. I don't want to get into the politics of it, but no matter what you think of it, it is the history of our country...both good and bad, it is what built us.
I feel my roots on this trip to GA. I feel the blood of my father pulsing through me. He grew up here among the gnats and the pine trees and the sand and biting ants. He rode his horse and went to school and made friends here.
He passed the same slave shacks that we do on this trip down to see my family, only when he passed them as a boy, they were not so old and run down. Were they still occupied?
How did that shape him? How does that shape me? How am I letting this shape our children?
What does my dad feel when he travels these roads to see his mother who barely recognizes him and is in the constant care of his sister, who's health is not all that good, either.
My dad is from here, now. Washington, DC...VA...Alexandria.
And so am I. And so are we.
And to drive down these 2 lane roads and stir up the dust on these dirt roads takes me to another time.
It is slower here. I'm not talking about Atlanta. I don't know much about that.
I'm talking about Perry. I'm talking about Pinehurst. Can you even find it on the map? It's there. I promise.
Things move slower here. People drive slower, talk slower and seem to savor slowly the life that they have been given. I seriously felt that I was going from 95 to 20, not only in highway numbers, but in life's speed limit.
I understand that it is not all like that. That I am visiting my family, who is older and set and never lived much in the big city and probably never will.
But I remember the easy life of staying with my grandparents. Lulu in the kitchen all day cooking up absolutely delicious meals. The cousins coming over to spend the day with us.
The 'beauty res,t' as my Daddy Bill used to call it, after lunch.
Daddy Bill would take us fishing off a pier that went out over a lake. But this wasn't just a pier. It had been hog styes. So, there were places on the pier that we were not allowed to walk because it was rotten and would fall through.
But we still used it.
It wasn't cordoned off with no trespassing/danger tape across it. We used it because it was there and we were there and by golly we wanted to fish.
So we did and then we would take the fish back to the house and clip them to a board hanging from a tree out in the backyard and my Daddy Bill would scale them and pass them to Lulu who would fry them up.
There were no limits on how many fish we could catch. There were no warning about pollution and don't eat these fish.
We fished. We caught. We ate.
It was sweet.
So I traveled down this road into those memories knowing that it is different now.
Someone else owns the house in Pinehurst, and my Daddy Bill has passed away. Lulu won't be cooking anymore, and my cousins have their own kids and don't fish anymore.
So I pass over the Savannah River and I dip into these rich memories and I wonder...
How can I pass this on to my kids? How do I show them the simple pleasures in life?
And I realize that I can't.
I am from the city. I am their mother. I can't do for them what a Daddy Bill can do, and unfortunately, Elizabeth is the only one who can remember him, and that from pictures.
Jimmy and I have to work on making our own types of memories for them. And they will be different, but they will still be good...at least that is what we are hoping!
And it's not about going to fancy places or traveling the world...although that would be nice, to me it's about sharing my childhood with them in the small snippets that I can and spending time with them doing sharing new adventures as a family.
So, we rented a tape of the Brer Rabbit stories from the library, and listened to some of them on the way down. It took a few tries, though, because they were taped in the original dialect and that voice seemed to scare Gabriel at first, but then he got used to it and Jo really enjoyed them.
Then we stopped at the museum, which was always a great landmark for me when we would travel to Pinehurst.
I think he is not what Jo was expecting. I think that she really wanted to see the REAL wily old rabbit, but I doubt she'll forget him at least for a while!
And after traveling down 95 and turning onto 20 in Florence, we finally arrived in Perry.
Jo and Gabriel did a wonderful job with Lulu and her not child proof house, and Lulu loved to see the little kids, too.