It Was Memorial…
By Beverly Hicks Burch
Before the ravages of ill health wrapped its icy fingers around my body and started wrecking havoc, one thing I really enjoyed doing on a more routine basis was travel. I still enjoy traveling, I just don’t do it as often. I have to pace myself when I travel now and sometimes there is a price to pay for the fun and adventure. I may have a bad flare up and I may have to be confined to the bed for a few days…but, I consider it an even payoff.
I’ve often thought of words to describe myself. Mom used one once that surprised me. In January 1988, my paternal grandmother, Versie Allman Hicks died. Mamaw was one of a kind. She had been born in Cherokee Co., NC and it was said her heritage was mostly Native American…Cherokee. She certainly looked the part. Mamaw had long jet black hair that at age 85, when she died was just beginning to become salt and pepper. Her features looked like classical “Indian”. Her three boys lovingly called their mom “squaw”…and they inherited her black hair.
In doing family research and genealogy, I have learned Versie also had a good dose of Irish and German thrown in…the names Allman, Whitner and Killian are in her ancestry. I tell you that to let you know she was as thick-headed as a pine knot…that’s East Tennessean or mountain for hard-headed and/or stubborn. Her boys had their favorite Versie stories…she never quite believed a washing machine really got clothes as clean as taking them down to the local creek…she’d rake leaves in high heels…she hated to fly, so she’d take the bus from Maryville, TN to Birmingham, AL and it would take HOURS twice or more than it would to drive the distance. Daddy would brew a pot of coffee and Mamaw would bring out her jar of instant (JFG if I remember correctly) and put about three spoonfuls in a cup of freshly brewed coffee. Daddy always said she liked her coffee strong enough to stand a spoon up in it, shellac wood with it or grow hair on your chest with it. I guess you can call that multi-purpose coffee.
I tell you all of that as background. When Versie died, she died during one of the worst snow and ice storms in the South in a LONG time. She was not leaving this world quietly or without aplomb and notice.
My dad was still a project manager in engineering then, and was on the job site in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. When he got word that she wasn’t doing well and the end was near, he tried to fly from Florida to Knoxville, but the weather was so bad in the South he couldn’t get a flight. He eventually got a flight to Knoxville…via Philadelphia! He was separated from his luggage in the process.
Well, of course, those of us on the home front in Birmingham were going to get there to support him! Here’s how it is with Southern women…we love and support our husbands and usually we’re Daddy’s girls. (Yeah, I own up to that one.) So, we loaded up the van. It was me, Gomez (the ex), my son, my mother and my youngest sister who is disabled, and we headed out for East Tennessee…at the speed of about 15 mph. We were literally driving on what seemed like a glacier…a sheet of ice. I was a nervous wreck because there were accidents everywhere…and cars and trucks off the road. I was sitting in the back of the van, mumbling and I was saying something like, “This is just like Versie, dieing during one of the worst storms of the decade. I sure hope we don’t end up as blood spots on the road under a big truck…”
My mom (who would walk on hot coals for my dad, as I would Tall & Handsome) said, “Bev, I thought this would be nothing to you. You’re so adventurous.” Huh?
“Why do you say that, Momma?”
“Because you like to travel.”
“But, Mom, that’s different than dieing as a blood spots a glacier!”
Ok, maybe she didn’t say the silly girl part…but, she did say the adventurous part…because I like to travel. I had never thought of it that way.
I have seen some pretty neat and amazing things…things off the beaten path…those are the kinds of things I like to see. Gomez had a knack for getting lost in every ghetto in any city we went to…hopefully, I’ll be spared that now. That got scary a few times…
Carlsbad Caverns were magnificent and one place in New Mexico I’ve been that hubby hasn’t been…imagine that, he’s a native New Mexican! I’ll never forget my trip to Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Tall and Handsome treated me to VIP treatment at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta…a lifelong dream. I saw so many beautiful wonders on that trip…the gold of the aspens and cottonwoods in the Jimez Mountains on the way to Santa Fe. The wonderful food and the magic of getting engaged in the land of enchantment…
One goal I’ve had is to visit all 50 states and as much of Canada as I can. I’m about eight or nine states short of that goal, and I’ve seen Ontario, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Quebec in Canada. One area I fell in love with is New England.
During Memorial Day weekend 1989, I had a uniquely special, uniquely American and uniquely Norman Rockwell experience. My family had been staying in Rumford, Maine. The ex was on a job assignment. I had decided the weekend would be a good time to take a little trip and explore, so I planned a trip to Cape Cod. It wasn’t a long drive from where we were staying at the time.
We headed out that weekend, driving from Maine to Massachusetts. After we drove through Boston, I suggested we get off the interstate and drive the rest of the way up the scenic route to the Cape. Little did I realize that one suggestion would indelibly mark a living color Norman Rockwell postcard scene in my memory for the rest of my life.
The route up the coast is peppered with quaint little New England towns. Most of them are several hundred years old and many of them are centered around a rotary…that’s a type of traffic configuration that’s confusing a best and bizarre at least. (A historical note here: on a tour in Washington DC, the tour guide mentioned the traffic rotary and said they were designed to confuse troops and troop movement! Ooo-Kay!) One little town on the Mass. Coast is Plymouth…yes that Plymouth…and I did get to see Plymouth Rock.
As we came to one little town, there was a hold up. Of course Gomez grumbled…he was never one to stop and smell the roses. This hold up couldn’t be avoided, and I’m glad it couldn’t. We were in a little New England town (I don’t even remember the name) and they were having their annual Memorial Day celebration. There were high school bands, the Shriners, and the Vets…proud old gents, mostly World War II veterans decked out in uniforms and there was red, white and blue everywhere. American flags fluttered in the warm May air. It felt like if I would have turned around I would have seen Norman Rockwell at his easel, painting the whole scene for the rest of the world to see. I felt privileged to have been able to have witnessed such a pure example of Americana…and I was truly proud to be an American that afternoon.
We went on to Cape Cod that weekend. I visited lighthouses…one of my passions, explored a cranberry bog, tasted cranberry chutney, experienced the beaches of the Cape and learned a little bit of the history of the Cape, and one of my favorite pictures of my son and I together was taken that weekend on the Cape. All in all…it was Memorial…
© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.