Many years ago, surely a dozen by now, my husband got the urge to visit his kin in Georgia. It had been many, many years since he had visited and I believe he had a bit of a guilt attack going on. This year he was working a set schedule of working 14 days on and 14 days off in the Gulf of Mexico. Our son was about 3 or 4 years of age and we were ready to show him off to an extended side of the paternal family!
At the time, my husband was a van kind of guy. He had purchased a customized van with the hopes of us using it for family trips while our son was small and our routine for travelling was flexible. Father in law had died several months before and mother in law was hinting heavily about visiting us for the Thanksgiving holiday. Thus, the idea for the road trip to Georgia was born.
We invited mother in law down, purchased the airline ticket for her and she arrived a few days before Thanksgiving Day. We loaded up the van the next day with the four of us and headed off to Georgia. We were living in southern Louisiana and we had not taken this journey to southern Georgia before. The weather was perfect and we were ready for a change of scenery.
My husband and I share a love of sightseeing when we are on a road trip. We will see a road sign that catches our attention and detour off the highway to check things out. We never know what we will see and that's all a part of the fun.
We drove across Lousiana to the coast of Mississippi. My homeland. I had not been there in many years and was truly amazed with how everything had built up there. What was once a long stretch of lonely road with a few houses dotting the landscape was now a busy highway with exits leading to casinos! Progress? I don't know. But it was different. The best part of this leg of our trip was my son's first walk, or in his case, run on the beach! By the time we pulled into a good spot to stretch our legs and enjoy some sunshine on the beach, it was low tide. My husband and son had such fun going way, way out and running back in. My son collected lots of sea shells and saw lots of little critters like crabs and starfish. I like to think this is why he has a love of marine biology today!
Next up the highway was the state of Alabama. Along the way we saw the sign right before Mobile for the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. 'Nuff said. Fortunately mother in law is an adventurous soul, too. This park turned out to be lots bigger and better than we expected to see. We toured the USS Alabama, a grand old veteran battleship of World War II. This battleship is massive and we divided up. My mother in law and I went at our own pace, asking questions of the volunteer hosts and my husband and son went off on their merry way. Next to the USS Alabama is a submarine, the USS Drum. I passed on this opportunity to go into a submarine as I am a bit too claustrophobic for that! My husband and son had fun, though. There are lots of military vehicles and aircraft around the grounds. So many things to see all the while trying to remember we should get back on the road.
We stopped at a restaurant for some good old Southern barbeque. Every southerner knows this is pork barbeque! Texas barbeque is beef, southern barbeque is pork. I love it all. This little roadside cafe filled the bill. We ate like truck drivers and experienced our first taste of fried pickles. Fried pickles! Sliced dill pickles deep fried in a light batter. Now that is one delicious treat. We bought several jars of goodies put up by the owner's wife. Yummy stuff.
We arrived in Georgia, ready for a rest. We stayed at the home of Aunt Dottie. She wasn't technically my husband's aunt, but in the South, cherished adults are honored with the title of aunt or uncle. She was really a second cousin of mother in law's by marriage. Aunt Dottie was quite a character. She had only recently moved back to her hometown and was adjusting to widowhood and retirement. For many years she had been station manager for the public television station in Jackson, Mississippi. She and Uncle John did not have any children so her career was her life. She was a gracious hostess and loved having people in her house.
As with any family vacation, there is the one major mishap that seals the trip's memory in our brains. This trip has the memory of my son falling out of the van in Aunt Dottie's driveway and conking his head hard enough for all of us to fight hysteria. I was out of the van on the way into the house and my husband was helping our son down the two steps out of the van. Or so I thought. He turned his head just long enough for our son to take matters into his own hands and the next thing we hear is a shrill cry out from the boy. He had quite a goose egg on his forehead but thankfully no concussion. This kind of excitement I can live without.
Being the outsider at big family gatherings is not my favorite way to go, but it worked out well. Lots of uncles, aunts and cousins to meet and try to remember their names! My mother in law loved being home and showing us around the town. This is a town that is very small and rural. The town is known for its crops of sweet onions and pecans. We brought lots of those home, too.
This trip turned out to be especially good for my mother in law. Ever since that year she has made it a point to go down there every year to share one of the holidays with her family in her hometown.
Nice how that worked out.