Category Archives: travel

Journey With Two Mothers

When we left Habersham County, Georgia, in our beige 1985 Buick that beautiful October Sunday in 1990, we carried precious cargo: both our mothers. We were bound for Niagara Falls, a veterinary convention in Rochester, New York, and for New England and the rocky coast of Maine. My mother was 86 and dependent on a walker. Charles’s mom was only 65 but had a bad knee and was expecting to have a complete knee replacement after that trip.

Mama Graham (Elizabeth) had dreamed of going to Niagara Falls. My mother (Eula) had a great longing to visit the rocky coast of Maine. We had proposed the trip almost a year ahead so they could anticipate and plan.

As it turned out, Eula had a very bad fall the January before our trip. She crushed a vertebrae which put her into severe pain and a lengthy hospitalization. She de-scribed her pain as “worse than birthing any of her eleven babies.” I realized she wouldn’t be able to travel, that we would all just be thankful if she could walk again and put on her big signature Saturday morning breakfasts. But one day as I leaned over her to adjust her pillow she whispered, “I have to get well so I can go on that trip.”

And get well she did, though she never was able to do without her walker.

Our mothers each chose a side of the Buick’s rear seat, made their “nest” as Elizabeth described it, and declared that would be their place from then on. When we tried to switch around and give them each turns in the front for a better view, they held tight to their places. We worked out a system for getting in the best handicapped, or at least possible, bathrooms–meaning, Charles would park temporarily while I ran in and scoped the place. If I gave a thumbs-up we’d begin unloading the walker and, in some instances, my mother’s toilet seat extender (in a bag!). Remember, handicap facilities were not a given in those days. All up the eastern seaboard, we found McDonald’s to be our winner. They had the best restrooms!

Charles and I had experienced Niagara Falls’ greatness two years before this. But seeing it through our mothers’ eyes was even more awesome. Charles rented a wheelchair for Eula and we walked down toward the overlook. I had a sudden overwhelming fear that Charles was going to lose control of the wheelchair and my mother would go flying off the cliff. But my mother had no such fear. She and Elizabeth were spellbound and not just because of the tremendous roar. They were taking in everything in total awe. It was late afternoon. There were rainbows. It was stunning, incredible, so beautiful. It was, to me, like heaven, simply unbelievable. Could we possibly be actually sharing this experience with our mothers? It was one of those moments when you almost hold your breath for fear you’ll wake and find it was only a dream.

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Charles with our two mothers at Niagara

 

I saw a hotel over on the Canadian side right by the Falls, a brand new nine or ten story ho0tel with windows overlooking the Falls. Charles and I decided we would see if there were a room for us in that hotel. Miracles had already happened, maybe this one too. The clerk at the desk said yes and we took it! I will never forget our thrill when we walked in that generous room and discovered the view overlooking the Falls from a bay window with seats. Three of us went to dinner. My mother said please to let her stay in that window absorbing the view and writing cards to all her other children. She’d be happy with whatever take-out we brought her.

The moon was full that night. We could hardly make ourselves go to bed!

Contrary to the planning of the rest of our journey, we did have a room reserved at the convention hotel in Rochester. Our room was on the mezzanine level which meant we could walk out our door into a beautiful courtyard on the fifth floor. There were fountains and flower gardens and nice benches here and there. We three girls thoroughly enjoyed that place while Charles went to his meetings and seminars.

Ours was the last car on the ferry across Lake Champlain. Charles, Elizabeth, and I went up on deck but Eula happily stayed with the car and, because of our being last on, she could see out.

Riding through Vermont and New Hampshire in the autumn, we were in a constant state of celebration. Every turn in the road brought a new aaah or oooh. It was so much fun just seeing everything together. Even the signs were an adventure, especially when we realized we were passing an entrance to the Appalachian Trail. We had to stop and take pictures there and think about the southern end of the trail near home in Georgia.

The little coastal town of Bar Harbor, Maine, was cozy and bustling just as you’d expect it to be on an autumn morning in the fog. Charles chatted with locals outside while we girls shopped for souvenirs. He learned that we were seeing Bar Harbor at its most normal, fogged in!

In spite of the fog, we drove up the winding, steep road to the top of Cadillac Mountain. We’d talked about this adventure all the way from Georgia. Wouldn’t the sun come out and burn away the fog? It didn’t. We could barely see to park.

Back on the coast, Charles drove along slowly to let us see what we could. We looked for a place where Eula could see the waves crashing into the rocks. The rest of us walked down a steep path to see a Devil’s Cauldron, the water crashing in and shooting up spouts of white foam. Mamma said she could hear it and that was good enough.

Charles was determined we would see the view from Cadillac Mountain. So after lunch in a little seaside “cup up” spot, we climbed the mountain again, this time hoping so hard we could see out. A light rain had started falling. Maybe it would wash the fog away!

Again, no view. Nothing except fog so thick we felt smothered by it.

We left Bar Harbor area midafternoon and drove south along the coast. Suddenly the sun burst free of the clouds and we could see! Our mothers were like little girls in their glee. We drove around a point and could see President H.W.Bush’s home across the sound. We were at Kennebunkport. We took pictures and lingered there on the rocky coast of Maine.

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Eula and Brenda at Kennebunkport

 

One of the highlights of our visit to Maine for Charles and me was eating lobster at a lobster pound. Not so for our mothers. They had clam chowder and looked at us as if we were murderers for eating poor lobsters dropped alive into boiling water.

On the way home we visited Washington for one day, Charles and his mother sightseeing, Mamma and I enjoying time with my niece. We drove through Amish Pennsylvania and then down to North Carolina where we spent our last night out with my sister. Mamma stayed there with her while the three of us headed for South Georgia.

This journey was a time to treasure in our hearts and remember fondly as we pay tribute to our dear mothers on every day, but especially on Mother’s Day.

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Caribbean Contemplations

Here on our porch in South Georgia with birds singing and the nearest seashore more than two hours away, it’s hard to believe we actually sailed across the Caribbean last week. But memories are lingering of a wide blue sea that stretched to the sky with no shoreline in sight, no tall buildings, no sailboats, most of the time not even a bird. The night sky was black, pricked with stars. We were lulled to sleep by the gentle, yet constant roll and throb of the ship making its way across the undulating waves.

Our ship was the Miracle, a vessel of the Carnival line. We were traveling from Port Tampa Bay to Grand Cayman Island to Roatan Isle in Honduras’s Mahogany Bay to Belize and, finally, Cozumel Island on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. And then back to Tampa Bay!

Life on the ship was like no other experience. We had been on a couple of cruises before but each one is so different. With 2,300 passengers aboard, it seemed like a small town afloat. Nine hundred employees were constantly serving us in dining areas, in staterooms, on decks and giving us talented entertainment each night. We found ourselves in a fairyland. Everywhere we went these beautiful people from the Philippines, from India, from Indonesia and France and England knew our names and greeted us like well loved friends.

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Charles on our balcony

 

Our stateroom was very pleasant and comfortable and even had a balcony. We often sat there to read or just talk and watch the waves. One day, far out at sea, I saw a small white bird flying. I tried to point him out to Charles who convinced me it couldn’t be a bird. Okay, we both have cataracts so I suppose we can see things that aren’t there, as well as missing things that are. But then I spied the little bird again, flying close above the whitecaps. I was really worried about that bird. Where would it ever rest? Why was it all alone? Charles sized up the situation thus: “He’ll be a nice bite for some hungry fish.”

Whole days at sea were fun. There was a wonderful sea day brunch in the main dining room. There was time to visit the library, the chapel, the putt-putt golf course, walk the decks in a strong wind, warm up at the coffee shop, study pictures in the art gallery and still have time for sitting on the balcony and even taking a nap. We also enjoyed conversations with many people, some gospel conversations, as we call them. We had prayed ahead of time for opportunities to share news of our Savior, and God opened many windows.

The excursions we chose were not at all what our children and grandchildren would have gone for. We didn’t go snorkeling or scuba diving though Belize and Cozumel are famous for their beautiful coral reefs. We didn’t choose to swim with the dolphins. My granddaughter says, “What’s wrong with you? I would have loved that!” “I don’t swim that well,” I told her to which she said, “But the dolphins would carry you.” “Yes, but where?” I asked her. We didn’t go zip lining as we knew our son would do. In fact, a couple of ladies our age were going zip lining for the first time ever. But we chose activities that wouldn’t throw us into having back surgery. We did mind expanding treks through the forest and along the seashore, took opportunities to study plants of the islands and see the beautiful birds. And we did have adventures!

In Grand Cayman we climbed down into a semi-submarine to visit a coral reef. We could view coral like an undersea garden–fantastic formations in wonderful colors, tunnels, mountains, groves of soft and hard coral with fish enjoying every twist and turn. The fish came right to our windows. We saw two old shipwrecks also. Later, on Grand Cayman I held a plate-size young sea turtle at the turtle center.

Our bus waddled through a narrow street of one tiny village in Honduras where people in tattered clothes smiled expectantly only inches away. We wandered with our guide in the Cerambula Gardens smelling allspice and cinnamon leaves, identi-fying a royal palm, and tasting fresh fruit. Our bus climbed high on rough roads till we could see far out, the blue waters of the Caribbean framed by mahogany trees, flowering ginger and other lush growth. We arrived at a small chocolate factory where the delightful scents almost overpowered us.

In Belize we rode with four others on a high powered air boat. We skimmed across a shallow lake at a hair pulling high speed, then stopped suddenly in a tunnel of mysterious, non-negotiable swamp growth where our very funny guide helped us identify some of the birds.

We both have chosen our excursion to Mayan ruins outside of Cozumel as our favorite. We had an excellent guide who lectured us most interestingly on the forty minute ride from the city to the ruins, as well as throughout our discovery of this 1,000 year old religious compound. Jorge, our guide, is himself 50% Mayan, his mother being full Mayan, his father Mexican. He is passionate about letting visitors know all they can about his people. For instance, the ruins are called Tulum, so named by a man from New Jersey. Tulum, he said, means “stinky place.” But Jorge says the Mayans call it Zommer (hope I got that right, Jorge!) which means sunrise. This is the first place in Mexico to receive the sunrise each day.

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Brenda and Charles hiking a cliff trailĀ at Mayan ruins

 

We sat with the same folks each night in the formal dining room. It was fun getting to know Jay and Winnie Luckett from North Carolina and Edward and Madeline Noriega from Tampa. We all six enjoyed talking with our servers each night as we tried to choose the best appetizers and entrees–and desserts! The atmosphere was always charged with holiday spirit as we shared what we had done that day and what the next plan included. We shared pictures of our families on the last night and exchanged e-mails like happy campers.

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Our new friends the Lucketts to our right and the Noriegas to our left

 

The morning we approached Tampa coming back, I awoke to different sounds, ship whistles, a train in the distance, and, yes, water lapping the shore. Water lapping the shore was such a sweet and comfortable sound like Grandma sipping tea. I sat up quickly to look out. Sure enough, lights glistened on the shoreline. We stood on our balcony watching the drama of our ship’s docking.

Contemplations of the Caribbean–a thousand different shades of green and blue water, bright flowers, lovely dark faces, nimble fingers weaving palm fronds into baskets, sounds of music and dancing, throb and lull of the ship as it carried us safely through the nights, strangers who quickly became friends…..

My summary: God is good all the time and everywhere. In the words of Robert Louis Stevenson (but not as a requiem!) “Home is the sailor home from the sea, and the hunter home from the hill.”

 

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