May 12, 2013

  • Catching Up

    I actually took my computer on my trip, thinking that I might post updates on our adventures. Ha! That was a hilarious miscalculation. I never even had a chance to take the computer out of its case.

    Lina and I left here right about 6:00 a.m. on Thursday. We stopped briefly for breakfast and then kept going because we wanted to be in Memphis as soon as possible. I have a cousin who lives in Memphis. I had not seen my cousin Mark since 1987. I had never met his wife or his four children. So, since it was just Lina and me and there was no urgent need to arrive in Nashville early, I had arranged to stop and see my cousin and his family.

    We misunderstood our directions the first time and ended up crossing the Mississippi three times in quick succession, but eventually we found the right house. I have a wonderful family. We were greeted with enthusiasm and we had a lovely visit with Mark and his wife Teresa before heading on down the road toward Nashville.

    My aunt and uncle were off celebrating their granddaughter’s birthday, so Lina and I stopped for supper near their house. Then my aunt texted me that she had left the house unlocked for us, so we went on up to their place and Mary soon joined us there. It was Mary’s first time to see Lina since her return from Zambia.

    We had a lovely visit with my aunt and uncle that evening before Mary went back to her apartment. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “the hostess with the mostest,” I’m pretty sure it was coined to describe my aunt. We had a guest room with every comfort and were showered with little kindnesses throughout our stay.

    Friday morning we were up early again after a restless night. My aunt had breakfast ready for us and even had snacks for us to take to the graduation. We had arranged to pick up Mary in a parking lot near Vanderbilt so she could show us where to park for graduation. Of course, the closer we got to Vanderbilt, the more congested the traffic became. Hundreds of formally dressed pedestrians were threading their way through the cars in an effort to get to graduation on foot. We crawled past Vanderbilt at a slug-like speed and failed to find Mary. It was 8:10 and graduation started at 9:00.

    Eventually we realized we had gone too far and I called Mary. She had us turn around (much, much harder than it sounds) and we began heading back the other way at a speed of about one inch per minute. By the time we finally found Mary, it was 9:00 and the parking garage was full.

    Lina dropped us off in front of the gym and went to find alternate parking while Mary and I made our way to “section F.”  Section F was apparently the only section that still had any seats left in that 15,000 seat arena. It was kind of overwhelming to be in a building that size and that full of people, although I have to admit there were plenty of interesting sights, including a lady in a lovely dressy outfit and high heels, who had both sides of her head shaved and a towering Mohawk sprouting from the middle of her head.

    Mary and I felt so relieved to find some empty bleachers until we sat down and realized that the reason the seats were empty was that they were right behind the stage (which was screened off) and also behind the gigantic scoreboard, which effectively blocked our view of the jumbotron which would have been the only way for us to view the festivities.

    So, we made the best of it. If Mary sat on the very end of the bleacher, she could see about a third of the screen. Sitting next to her, I could see only a narrow strip. In contrast to LeTourneau’s graduation, which is dignified and solemn, Vanderbilt’s ceremony was barely contained chaos. Nobody made even the slightest effort to be quiet. Everybody was talking. People came in and out constantly. Some returned with food and drink. Lina never joined us at all. She watched the whole thing from overflow seating.

    After the first hour, Mary told me that she had come up with a new definition of “love.” We did get to see Jordan for a split second when he crossed the screen. He graduated summa cum laude with a double major in math and computer science. For an old lady, the hard backless wooden bleacher was excruciatingly uncomfortable. I could barely hobble away after three and a half hours when the cannons finally shot out some metallic streamers and the mortarboards went flying into the air.

    We found Lina eventually and then made our way to the building where we were to meet up with Jordan and his family. I finally got to meet Jordan’s stepmother. We were all herded down to a distant lawn where we were to be treated to strawberries and champagne. Mary and Jordan and his brother and wife got separated from the rest of us and it was impossible to find them among the thousands of bodies crammed into what is normally a rather spacious lawn.

    We finally reached the strawberry shrine–a huge canvas pavilion with crystal chandeliers and tables piled high with strawberries. The tables’ corners were adorned with silver urns of powdered sugar. I know there was champagne somewhere, but we never saw it because we got tired of the noise and the endless crush of humanity so we picked our way through the crowd and walked back to the building we had started from. The younger folks met us there and we were treated to a very Southern lunch–chicken, rice, black beans, greens, and cornbread.

    After that, Jordan and his family had places to go, so Mary and Lina and I went to see Mary’s apartment (and to let Lina change into jeans) before taking off for Centennial Park so that I could fulfill my decades-long dream of seeing the Nashville Parthenon, having seen the original on the Acropolis back in 1970. It was very imposing and I really regretted not taking my camera. I got a few shots on my phone, but it’s not the same!

    We finished up the afternoon by hanging out at one of Mary’s favorite coffee shops while we drank our hot drinks (a very peppery chai for me). We dropped Mary back at her apartment and then returned to my aunt’s house, where we had a few minutes to rest before Mary returned in Jordan’s car and we sat down to a sumptuous dinner. It was so enjoyable just to visit together and tell family stories. I adore my family.

    Mary eventually left to pack and Lina and I tried to get a good night’s sleep before the long drive home.

    My aunt had a wonderful hearty breakfast for us in the morning and then Jordan brought Mary and before we knew it we were saying goodbye to my aunt and uncle and Jordan and we three girls were headed out of Nashville. There had been some talk of going to see Graceland when we got to Memphis–just to say we had. Well, we couldn’t afford the tour, and when we got there we realized that we couldn’t even afford to park there!

    So we just drove past the mansion with its tacky pink gates and then stopped at a souvenir shop where Lina bought some postcards and a refrigerator magnet. The rest of the day was long but I was just so happy to be with my two girls on a road trip. We had supper at a restaurant in Texarkana where we were waited on by an adorably sweet and respectful young man who also happened to be very heavily tattooed. When we left, he called “God bless!” after us.

    After supper we followed signs to the right highway but soon realized we were going north instead of south, and after several attempts to return to our planned course we just gave up and came home through Louisiana. We didn’t make it home until 11:40 p.m.!

Comments (1)

  • Ahh, good times with family!!  Nothing can compare.  After our little bitty graduation ceremony on Friday, I can visualize the far grander scale of your event and envy you not a whit.  I know just the kind of seats you’re talking about, too… ugh!  Happy you were able to spend quality time with your relatives though, and that all arrived home safe. :)

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