I’ll be honest: a 20 hour trip was not always fun. Day one was monsoon rains so intense I could barely see the taillights of the car in front of me, one of a huge mass of other cars going over 65 MPH in this rain! About 20 miles south of Tallahassee, we were sideswiped by a couple of students wearing headphones, texting, and not wearing shoes. No one was hurt, thank God. It shook my mother up badly and made me want to pull them out of the car and spank them. I wanted to but did not.
The purpose of the trip was not fun either: I discovered the woman who was supposed to assisting and helping my mother was stealing from her bank account and keeping her in the rehab facility to continue to have access to her money. So, down I went to Tampa to take her out of the facility, get her things together and try to pack into a huge SUV, resist body slamming the woman, and then getting the hell out of Dodge. So…it was very trying, hard, painful, and helping my mother deal with all this was beyond hard. But we did it. Mama is now safe with her baby sister in TN and feeling stronger and happier and safer everyday. Mission accomplished.
Along the way, we saw lots of funny, beautiful, odd things. I didn’t get a picture of it but the rest stop in Florida where we took a few minutes break had a huge sign, right beside the handicapped parking signs, pet area sign, and no overnight parking sign, this sign: BEWARE OF POISONOUS SNAKES Yes, really. Needless to say, that was a short stop.
Our halfway point in Tallahassee was uneventful except for the fact we stayed in a motel that catered to construction and contract workers on short term stays in the area. The next morning in the area for the “free hot breakfast” area, were about 30 guys rushing about, fixing their food, slamming it down, and then grabbing wrapped muffins and pieces of fruit to take with them. When several of them realized “ladies” were present, they curtailed their usual morning conversations to simply,Good morning ma’am. Nice sleep ma’am? Can we get something for you ma’am? I was more interested with the conversation that abruptly stopped when we came in that started with “Woohoo, that little redheaded gal was wrapped all around you…”
The “hot” part of the free breakfast consisted of packages of instant oatmeal and grits and individual packages of two pancakes each to microwave. No one ate any oatmeal but mama and I noted the minimum amount of pancakes to nuke, per plate, was a dozen. Eating time was about 90 seconds. They freely added coffee to their thermos bottles and doctored with instant creamer and sugar. Oh yeah, the coffee was instant. Hot water goes over a cartridge consisting of a solid block of instant coffee. Yes, it was horrible. But as the men left, they all wished us a good, happy, safe, blessed day and trip. We told them the same.
several hours later, we crossed into Alabama. Immediately over the border, in the miniscule town of Cottondale, was a place on the right advertising Bait and Tackle, a 13 foot alligator (it was plastic), fresh pecans, pumpkins, and locally made molasses and cane syrup. We couldn’t resist and pulled over. This stop reminded me of why I am proud to be a Southerner.
I helped mama down out of the SUV and helped her into the place. She was still weak and unsteady but wanted to explore. That’s my mama!!! She found some fresh produce for sale and among the items, freshly pulled pods of red and green cayenne peppers. She grabbed a couple of handfuls and when the young man who owns the place asked her what she was going to do with them, she told him she was going to make a quart jar of pepper vinegar to put on her greens when she cooked them. And now, this made me cry but then, kindness does this to me a lot. He picked up another handful of peppers, put them in the bag and told her to take these with his compliments and when she sprinkled that vinegar on her greens, to remember him and to pray for him and his family and he would do the same for her. Oh yeah….what I talk about often – the kindness of un-strangers.
I picked up several pounds of unshelled pecans, a jar of cane syrup and a jar of molasses – made in Cottondale. The young man told us the syrup and molasses was still made by a 9o year old man who raised his own cane and still ground it and cooked the juice to syrup and molasses. Roulaison The season for chopping, grinding, and cooking down. We got to talking about and comparing biscuit recipes and methods. He then said, if you ain’t in a hurry, come on down the street to my house and I’ll fix you both a batch of cat head biscuits to sop up some molasses with. Unfortunately, we needed to make tracks but it was hard to resist.
A young, skeletal, tattooed, pierced biker was in the store buying a bottle of water and a bag of pork rinds. As I started with mama to the vehicle, he set down his purchases, picked her up and then established her in the SUV. He adjusted the pillow behind her, fastened her seat belt, and kissed her on her cheek, put his hand on her forehead in blessing. Came around to my side and said, Safe trip little sister and placed his hand on my forehead as well. I can still feel that warm, calloused hand.
Later into the journey, at one of Alabama’s incredibly clean and well maintained rest stops, the sign that got our attention was: NO WEAPONS BEYOND THIS POINT. Again, really. As I was walking into the place, a truck driver was behind me. He read the notices on the door: NO WEAPONS BEYOND THIS POINT and NO SMOKING. He commented, damn, can’t do nuthin’ anymore….
The rest of the trip was uneventful but long. I’m safe home. Mama is safe in her new home. I was again reminded of how people can rise and the heights of kindness and grace they can attain.