I mentioned on Instagram this weekend that I am one of those “weird” parents that get sad this time of year.
I miss my kids when they go back to school.
Yes, I know, it’s nice to get a break and all but in the summer we aren’t as scheduled or all over the place.
Random sleepovers happen.
We can eat dinner at 3 if we want.
We stay up late.
I love having them home in the summer.
So seeing the backpacks lined up, the school supplies in the bags waiting to be used, the new clothes hanging in the closet for the first day makes me sad.
On Friday night, I was all alone, and I watched Rhoda, ate salt and vinegar chips and a glass of wine and sobbed.
WHERRRRRE IS THEIR CHILDHOOOOOD GOIIIINGGGG??
On a side note: I may or may not have been premenstrual.
I need to be on medication when they leave for college.
I realized how far away they live from me when I had to drive it this past week.
11 hours of driving, by the way.
Seven of which were in Illinois.
That’s a whole lot of Illinois.
It’s very easy on the eyes down there.
The entire state from border to border on highway 24 is eye candy for people who don’t live in pretty areas.
Mountains, green hills, rocky plateaus…I didn’t even see a plateau, I just made that up.
But you get where I am coming from.
It’s pretty darn exceptional.
No wonder those country artists write such damn pleasant songs.
They are happy.
Because they have pretty rocky plateaus to look at.
The incline railway.
Aka- choo-choo of death.
I really need to work for the Chattanooga tourism board.
Not gonna lie, I had a hard time with this.
Going up the hill was actually harder on me than going down the hill.
Especially at the top.
Because you are almost facing directly down the mountain when you get up there.
But you get a reward when you get there: you are still alive.
See that parking lot down there to the right?
That’s where we had to go.
I didn’t take this picture, by the way.
My adopted daughter for the week, Hailey, took it.
Because, you know, scary choo-choo.
The above was the incline we were on while waiting to go down the mountain.
I took this picture while I buried my head in my mom’s shirt.
Those are two of “my girls” ahead of us.
Looking all nonchalant.
Meanwhile, I was looking for a barf bag.
When I could open my eyes at all.
On the way to the Smoky Mountains, we all got a little slap-happy in the van.
So we started adding “Y’all” to everything we said.
And really, it just makes everything happier.
Case in point:
I got diarrhea, Y’all!
It even makes diarrhea sound friendly!
I love the South.
Pretty rocks in the Smoky Mountains, Y’all!
My favorite stop off in the mountains.
The Ocoee River.
Where the 1996 Olympic rafting event was held.
They diverted the river this day.
So that’s why you see more rock than water.
The woman who worked at the visitor center said they use these as “swimming holes” during the week.
She had me at the “swimming hole”.
Bear-proof garbage can.
Rafts heading down the road.
We didn’t eat here, but I kind of wish we did.
Instead, we ate up there.
Where the bathrooms were in Georgia and the rest of the joint was in Tennessee.
Shout out to the staff here who made us feel like family.
In fact, it divided the town.
AND McCaysville, Georgia.
Sitting on my parents’ screen porch.
Eating a peach.
It just doesn’t get better.
I got to walk across the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga, Y’all!!
The Delta Queen on the Tennessee River.
It doesn’t get much more South than that.
Hip Frazier Avenue in Chattanooga was the bomb.
Chickamauga Battlefield over the Georgia border was amazing AND I got to spend a few hours alone with my mom and dad, so that made it even more amazing.
How can something so beautiful have such a violent past?
I would have ripped that sign down if no one was looking.
I love signs.
And signs about peaches.
Pretzels the size of your face.
They didn’t market them this way.
I think they should.
Let me set up the next picture.
My mom and I wore matching outfits on our last day there, completely by accident.
But we wanted a pic of us together in our “matching outfits” because 1) we never get a pic of us together and B) uh hello, “matching outfits”.
So we were at this restaurant we like in downtown Chattanooga and posed in front of it:
The sign says BIG IS BETTER.
And we are standing under it.
I like to think my Gramma in Heaven was chuckling a little at that karmic product placement.
Oh, and by the way, I am literally saying to my dad, “did you take it vertically so we can see our “matching outfits” as he took the picture.
You cannot make our life up.
Rita’s Ice in downtown Chattanooga.
We had this for lunch one day.
And we helped the girl behind the counter with the spider problem at her apartment.
Did you know that at the Chattanooga Choo Choo you can actually stay the night in a real train car??
This is a hotel.
NO, YOU GET OUT.
Last night’s tradition.
Ballatore on the porch.
In our “matching outfits”.
This trip solidified how much I love the South, the people, the beauty.
I can’t wait to go back.
It also solidified how dearly I miss my parents.
We left at five in the morning to drive home.
In the dark curves of the mountain roads, with Carrie Underwood playing softly in the background and the girls quietly sleeping, I vowed, with tears in my eyes, that I would be back for good someday.
“‘Til I see you again. This is not where it ends. I will carry you with me. “Til, I see you again.”