We won’t speak of it.
We only talk about it in hushed, reverent tones in our immediate family.
“The thing” is what we call it.
Is “the thing” gone yet?
Has “It” left your home yet?
That is all we will say about “it”.
It had been three months since we had seen them at Christmas, so it was without question that we could not wait to get down there and see them.
The fact that the temperatures were going up as we were traveling down was just a plus.
65 degrees in southern Illinois.
It was 30 degrees from where we had left.
So we were doing good!
We had to drive almost six hours south to get somewhat greener grass.
And yet, we were somehow STILL in the state of Illinois.
We really don’t get excited until we get into Kentucky.
Then I zoned out for two hours….sorry Kentucky….and we were in Tennessee.
In defense of Kentucky and Tennessee this day, it was really crappy and rainy.
And speaking as an Illinoisan, there is no defense of Illinois, so there.
It is six hours of CORN AND FLAT AND NOTHING.
Someone needs to put in a water park down there or something.
When we see these signs, we know we are getting close.
When we see the Tennessee signs, it is exciting!
And very deceiving.
Because my parents live on the border of Tennessee…..on the SOUTHERN border by Georgia.
So we have two and a half solid hours to go.
After we get through Nashville, it is the longest drive EVER to get to there house because you just want to …be ….there…..already.
It has nothing to do with not appreciating the beautiful scenery and having everything to do with just wanting to be with your family at the end of a long damn trip.
This was waiting for us.
My mom made this birthday cake from scratch for Annie’s birthday.
Everything from the icing to the cake was homemade and was amazing.
It was worth the trip….even worth the six hours in Illinois.
You are forgiven Illinois.
Except still do something about breaking up that six hours.
Water park, Disney World of the Midwest, SOMETHING.
On the way down, we always see a sign for the Lodge Outlet in South Pittsburg, TN..
Here’s the thing: I have never owned a cast iron skillet in my life.
Well, my mom and grandma have but in my own cooking life, I have not.
And I am a cook.
I cook six nights per week and I make approximately 75% of most of my meals per week from scratch so, in my head, I reasoned that I deserved to finally own a real iron skillet.
I read all these cool recipes on Pinterest for things that need an iron skillet to put into an oven to bake but I could never make them because alas, no iron skillet for me.
Yes, I could have run to Macy’s or even gone on this thing called the Internet and ordered one.
But I would forget about it until seeing the billboard along the highway.
So we finally went while down there and I got me an iron skillet!
I have yet to use it because Ebola 2015 although I have cooked my meals to health this week but here is the thing: I am a little afraid to use my skillet.
It has instructions!
And like you have to take care of it!
This is NOT the week for me to handle the pretty new skillet that I have waited all of my damn life for!
I don’t want to break it!
So next week when I am better and things are looking rosy and I can feel like life is being less of an a#$hole, I will look my fry pan in the face and we will make friends.
Until then I will fry my eggs in my death pans.
I was so relaxed once I got into the groove at my mom and dads.
It takes me a day.
Once I shake off the Illinois road dust, the soccer schedules, the first-grade homework, THEY ARE IN FIRST GRADE, my husband’s long insane hours, and I get one night in my mom’s house with her home cooking, I am in a zen place again.
Even though I am not back in my childhood home, or even in my childhood hometown, I am with my childhood people surrounded with a few little childhood reminders sprinkled in here and there.
It is good for the soul.
It was also good for the soul to go sit on the porch each midday after my shower for a good half hour and just be.
So with my fuzzy slippers, I would head out with the dog and sit each day and soak in that Tennessee air.
Because where I came from it was snowing.
And 30 degrees.
So I soaked and soaked and soaked.
Lunch with Mamie at where else…Chicken Salad Chick in downtown Chattanooga.
By the way, Annie was sending people back home pictures of her wearing shorts on this day.
Because on this day, Chicago was getting four inches of snow.
Sorry, I didn’t feel bad.
IT FELT SO GOOD TO NOT BE THERE FOR IT FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER.
Our friends Bernie, Rebecca and Kelsey were in Atlanta for spring break.
So they stopped in Chattanooga on their way north to spend a day/night to see all of us.
So, of course, we had to take them to Choo Choo of Death.
OK PLEASE if you work for the board of tourism for Chattanooga, do not email me or sue me, I am aware that is not its real name.
You have no idea how much publicity I have given you in a good way by naming it that.
Trust me, it’s a love pat, not a negative.
Notice the shorts on the people in the picture?
Sorry, just so excited to be wearing shorts in March.
I did not imbibe in the excitement juices of one Choo Choo of Death experience, once was enough for moi.
No, my mama and I sat at the base of the mountain with the sweet security guard as he smiled and quietly giggled under his breath listening to us plan dinner.
Because we were starving.
How long ARE they gonna be up there anyway?
Do you think we should have put those beans in the crockpot?
How long should be put the meatballs in for?
I won’t ever forget sitting there on that beautiful warm day, with my mom, on a bench planning our dinner waiting for them to get down from the mountain.
It was a moment.
I didn’t miss going up there at all.
We went down to Marietta Georgia for the day while there and Miss Mamie’s was a lovely little shop we went into for cupcakes.
Not a huge cupcake person myself but for the name alone, we had to go.
It is this lovely massive little town.
I say massive little town because it has this adorable square but it is a huge town in size outside of the square.
Lots of traffic, houses, stores, neighborhoods, traffic, strip malls, did I mention traffic?
Apparently, metro Atlanta has a traffic “situation”.
This is the third time we have been down there in three years.
Three times and you are out in my little book.
Atlanta, you are fired.
I do love that area so much but I just don’t think I could drive anywhere down there.
I would need to live next door to where I work, eat, sleep and where my kids go to school.
For some reason, I felt impending doom.
Call it mothers intuition but I just felt like we needed to make our way closer to Chicago.
We went into the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum while we were there but we didn’t have time to do the actual museum tour because of IMPENDING DOOM.
We realized we really need to spend an entire weekend in Nashville at some point, not these little stopovers.
We will be back and do that some time but we did get to go into the cool gift shops they have there, there are several and they are amazing.
My favorite was the Hatch Show Print Store which features one of America’s oldest letterpress shops.
They have awesome cool prints that you can buy, we bought the coolest Dolly Parton print from a show she did back when she was just a young one and I plan on framing it and putting it in my family room.
I could have bought every damn thing in this store.
This place was totally worth IMPENDING DOOM and is totally why I want to go back to Nashville for the weekend soon.
Well, that and I am breaking into that records storage to find out which butt cheek the wart is on.
My money is on the right one, just have a feeling.
After the museum, we ate a quick lunch and got back on the road for a long ride home.
We got home at 10:30 at night.
The next morning I woke up, sick.
That mothers intuition thing DOES work.
I don’t remember much about that weekend other than being in and out of consciousness but every time I woke up, this monkey was in a different part of my bed.
It was my daughter’s neck pillow from the car that I was using on the car ride the night before.
I think the monkey is to blame for me getting sick.
Trying to see the silver lining, the Real Housewives of NYC, the OLD SCHOOL version was on all week in the morning so that was getting me through the morning shift of my crap fest.
Til I got a call from the elementary school on day three that my youngest got sick at school, then it all went downhill from there.
And she took control of the television viewing from there forward.