You Know When It’s Time
I’m getting used to the empty nest — sort of. After all, it has been a decade since my youngest spent the summer at home. I’m becoming comfortable with my own routine, my own life without children at home. Even so, I don’t always like it. Sometimes I wish I could turn back time, just for a little while.
I go through my days with my husband and my dog. I visit my parents several times a week. I do things with my friends.
But, there is a point, an almost imperceptible point, when I just need to see my kids. I always know when “it’s time”.
That time came last week. I made a solo trip to visit my daughter and her husband in Birmingham, about a ten hour drive away.
I could have flown — it’s just an hour flight from the airport we fly from to Birmingham. With the difference in time zones, you actually get there about the same time you leave. It’s not a bad flight and I’ve done it dozens of times.
I decided on a road trip for several reasons. The thought of flying during the current spike in COVID influenced my decision. My daughter had left a couple of boxes of things from a recent trip to Florida and I needed to get them back to her. I hadn’t been on a road trip by myself in such a long time. I hungered for a day alone with my thoughts, driving the familiar roads that would take me to my girl.
The first weekend of college football seemed like the best time to go. My husband would be watching the games, our dog keeping him company. He wouldn’t miss me too much.
I left early on a Friday morning with a bit of trepidation. I felt a little “travel rusty”. Would I be able to handle this solo trip? What if I had car trouble? What if the weather turned nasty? What if I got sick on the way? My desire to see my girl was stronger than my fear of the “what ifs” so off I went.
I experienced my first incidence of road rage before I even got out of town. A guy honked his horn and shook his fist at me when I drifted too close to him. I guess he didn’t notice the huge semi-truck that turned right into my lane.
You know that Beatles song, The Long and Winding Road? Between my hometown and the interstate highway I needed to get to, was a long and boring road. Once I got to the interstate, I traveled north for about four hours. Interstates are kind of boring too. They basically look the same just about anywhere you travel.
About sixty miles north of the Florida/Georgia State line, I exited the fast pace of the race track, I mean interstate, and headed northwest through rich Georgia farmland. The unending row of billboards was replaced by a more bucolic tableau — vast fields of soy beans, serene groves of pecan trees, a couple of peach orchards and cornfields turned brown, the ears of corn harvested. Quaint farmhouses and old barns dotted the landscape. Cows and tractors were more prevalent than cars. Although I have never lived in Georgia, it always feels a little like home since it’s the place of my ancestry.
As I drove further north, the farmland of south Georgia gave way to the rolling hills of Alabama. It was such a pretty drive and I remembered earlier trips. It was like seeing an old friend again.
As I got closer to Birmingham, the anticipation was building. A steep hill, a slight curve to the right, then back to the left and up another rise. I knew what was coming. At the crest of the hill, in the distance — Birmingham, The Magic City.
Birmingham, Alabama was nicknamed The Magic City in the late 1800’s due to the rapid increase in population and the boom in the steel and iron industries. But, for me, it’s magic because it’s where my girl lives.
Visiting The Magic City
We spent four fun-filled days catching up. We ate at neighborhood restaurants, went to a Farmers Market, shopped our favorite local shops, watched movies and television shows. I got to go to my favorite spot in Birmingham, Continental Bakery, twice. My daughter introduced me to her favorite bookstore. We did all the things we love to do together.
I was honored to be my daughter and son-in-law’s first official house guest. I enjoyed the cozy guest room they had recently fixed up in their new home. The antics of their two cats kept me entertained.
After a fun weekend, it was back to work for the two of them. That was fine because I was able to visit with a dear friend who I had not seen in over two years. She is one of those friends who you just pick up with where you left off, no matter how long it has been. We enjoyed our time together.
My trip home was delayed a day by the remnants of hurricane Ida coming through Alabama. It was not the best conditions for a long drive. I found it ironic being a Florida girl delayed by a hurricane in Alabama. I didn’t mind though, it gave me more time with my girl, more time with my friend and another delicious dinner.
It’s Good To Be Back Home Again
The trip home was much like the trip up — rolling hills, farmland, interstate, boring road. I did stop at a cool produce stand in Georgia at about the half-way point for a picnic that I enjoyed with a barn cat.
I’ve been home a few days. My dog was very happy to see me, my husband too. I proved to myself that I can make the drive to Birmingham on my own. I’ve added more memories to my memory bank. I’m good for a while now. But, at some point, in the months to come, I know it will be time again. That’s part of the life of the empty nest mom.
How about you? Have you ever taken a long road trip on your own? Do you enjoy traveling alone? I’d love to hear.