Category Archives: Marriage

Communion at White Sands

Charlotte stands on the dunes at White Sands, arms spread wide, under a fiercely blue sky.

At White Sands National Monument

A few months ago, I was making one of my periodic attempts to get a handle on the mess I had jammed into our basement when Mother went into assisted living. I stumbled across a black and white photograph of my father, young, wildly bearded, blue eyes blazing from a sun crisped face, standing in a vast white landscape. He looked like a Wild West prospector and that might have been close. Daddy was a physicist–a rocket scientist, in truth–and the notation on the back of photo said “White Sands, Summer 1952.”

The picture was taken just weeks before I was born in October and I finally put together some pieces of family lore that previously had not made sense. Why my grandmother had come to stay with my mother in Chapel Hill, NC, during Mother’s pregnancy, but not after. Why my mother once told me a tale about lying prone on an Atlantic beach with a hole scooped out in the sand to cradle me in her belly. She was there with her brother and his wife but never mentioned my father. Why my mother’s boss taught her to drive that summer, even though Mother could barely fit herself under the wheel and stretch her legs to reach the pedals.

Aha. Daddy was off in New Mexico, getting suntanned for the only time in his life, and doing science with the great minds of the Atomic Age. Continue reading

I Loathe Atlanta Traffic

Jones 40-foot motorhome with car and bicycles in tow

All Aboard the Circus Train

I am delighted—and surprised—to report that my husband, Herman, and I are still married and we have safely arrived in Biloxi, Mississippi, the first stay on our planned two-month motorhome trip West.

This is indeed good news, since to get here we had to drive through Atlanta.

I have a long, painful history with Atlanta traffic.

I once dissolved into hysterical tears after riding Interstate 75 in the red leather bucket passenger seat of my mother’s 1972 Chevrolet Camaro. Well, not in the bucket seat, exactly, but with my rear end braced two inches above it, both feet pressed tight against the floorboard and legs locked in a vain attempt to brake and slow down the car.

When I began to sob, my mother decelerated long enough to turn to me and say, “What in the world is wrong with you?” Then she hit the gas and roared up alongside another car whose female driver had cut her off a few minutes earlier—either in panic or self-defense.

Mother cranked down the driver’s side window. Manually. The Camaro didn’t have power-anything except a bucking bronco engine. She held onto the steering wheel with one hand (What? You need two?) stuck her head into the breeze and yelled at the offender, “You little vomit.”

Pulling herself back into the Camaro and gunning even harder, Mother passed on the right, doing at least 80.

When Herman and I came through The Big Peach this week, the traffic was more horrific than ever. The sky had already run out of cats and dogs to rain down on us and was hurling thunderbolts, huge splashing splats of water a bucket at a time, and a plague of frogs. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but only about the frogs.

After forcing us onto a route straight through the city center, the GPS had suddenly gone ambiguous. Even though four out of five lefthand lanes were lit on the display screen, the woman in the box exhorted us to keep right, keep right on I-85 ahead.

“Which way?” Herman cried.

“I don’t know. I don’t know,” I wailed. “It’s so confusing.”

“I don’t’ care,” Herman barked. “Make a decision. We’re a team. I’m driving and you have to make a decision.”

He must have been truly frantic because that’s the first time I’ve heard that. No matter where we go, he has the same standing joke about me and my backseat (or technically, shotgun) driving. Our rig is as long as a transfer truck and completely unwieldy: A forty-foot long one-lane wide motorhome. A car hitched to that, dragging behind. And two bicycles perched on a carrier on the back the car.

Every time people see our circus train, they ask me, “Do you drive it?”

I smile like Mona Lisa and turn to Herman.

“Oh yes,” he says. “We took a 6,000 mile trip a couple of years back and she drove all the way.” He pauses a beat. He has had a lot of practice with this particular routine and his timing is impeccable.

“Really?” his audience says, amazed.

I nod, conspiratorially.

“Oh yes. She drove every mile of the way,” Herman concludes, triumphantly. “I just held the steering wheel.”

Come to think of it, I guess we are a team, after all.

 Did this make you laugh? Make you cry like a little girl in a souped-up Chevy? I’d love your comments and memories below. Want to follow our progress across the country? Use the form at the right to subscribe to the blog. Or click one of the buttons on the right to follow me on Facebook or Twitter.  Thanks for reading!