On April 21st, I celebrated my 70th birthday without The Red Man beside me for the first time in fifteen years. Pretty provided champagne and cake that evening at Casa de Canterbury for a few neighbors and friends and it turned into a special night with many nice things said about me that are usually reserved for funerals and memorial services. Red would have been delighted to see several of his faithful followers participating in the evening’s festivities and no doubt would have made his typical disruptive barking antics as he greeted his admirers when they arrived. I missed him and Chelsea – it was entirely too quiet without them – but I enjoyed myself nonetheless. Spike was in his crate to avoid any dangers that crept in with company. You couldn’t be too careful.
Three days later Pretty and I got married in the living room at Casa de Canterbury to repeat vows that we made fifteen years ago to each other when we first got together, but this time the ceremony was performed by our friend Harriet Hancock; and this time the state of South Carolina and its citizens officially recognized our love and family. Our friend Brenda Bowen took pictures for us. It was a very simple precious private time. Although they were no longer with us in the flesh, I was sure the spirits of Smokey Lonesome Ollie, Paw Licker Annie, Tennis Ball Obsessed Chelsea and The Red Man were all in their favorite spots on the floor and sofa and must have been saying Whew! Finally.
The old woman Slow and Pretty on their wedding day
We had planned a road trip to Texas the last week in April so now that trip became our honeymoon! We had a fabulous time while we toured some familiar – and some new – places along the way through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. We had made this 1,000-mile journey countless times during the four years from 2010 – 2014 we were living on Worsham Street , but we always tried to mix new sights along with the old when we traveled. Our honeymoon was no exception.
From the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald home in Montgomery, Alabama to the Helen Keller Ivy Green house in Tuscumbia, Alabama; from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s parsonage in Montgomery, Alabama to the Lemuria Bookstore and Bakery in Jackson, Mississippi; from the Atchafalaya Swamp in Louisiana to the Confederate Memorial in Paris, Texas – we took it all in and then some.
Coming home to the Little Women of Worsham Street and the Fabulous Huss Brothers who are always entertaining was wonderful fun for all of us including Spike who seemed to remember his roots and everyone who loved him. Oscar, Dwight and George are now seven, five and three, respectively, and are growing up too fast. I told them how much I missed them every day and still looked to see if they were walking down Canterbury Road to visit like they used to run down Worsham Street late in the afternoon looking for cookies at our house.
“Miss Sheila,” Oscar said with an earnest sweet smile, “Sometimes I forget to miss you.” Out of the mouths of babes…and into the hearts of old women.
We spent three days on Worsham Street in the middle of our twelve-day trip. We were on-the-go every minute while we were there visiting friends and family and still didn’t get to see many of the folks we wanted to. We will save them for another time and won’t forget to miss them until we see them again.
Our twelfth night was in Tupelo, Mississippi in the land of Elvis Presley and the following day Pretty drove us up and down The Natchez Trace as we wandered on one of those unnecessary adventures when I decided we didn’t need the GPS because I had a map. Never a good plan. We ended up crossing the Tennessee River at least three times more than we should have. The Tennessee River, which was my clue we weren’t on the way to South Carolina.
We left Tupelo at 10 o’clock on Saturday morning and at 11:15 that night we were still in Georgia – between Atlanta and Augusta. Pretty was exhausted from driving all day and to make matters worse had gotten sick from her allergies, but she was determined to be at home in her own bed that night and I was on board. Spike was also sick… of the back seat of the car but remained stoic. He’s a trooper.
Pretty decided she needed a caffeine boost to get her through the final push to Columbia and remembered an exit off I-20 in Madison, Georgia that had a Wendy’s open all night. She wanted chili and iced tea, and I said that seemed like a good idea. I was also running out of steam and conversation and Adele was stressing me out for some reason. It wasn’t how I pictured the last few hours of my honeymoon.
Luckily the Wendy’s drive-thru was open on a Saturday night, and we rolled up to the outside menu to order. The microphone had a lot of static, but Teresa managed to order a small chili and a medium unsweet tea. The voice said something about a total but it was unintelligible. This was not a good sign. Undeterred, Pretty drove forward to the window where a heavy-set baby-faced young man appeared to be struggling with the order. He was maybe twelve years old.
“That was a large chili and small unsweet tea?” he asked.
“No,” Pretty said without her customary smile. “A small chili and medium unsweet tea.”
“Oh, of course, that’s a small chili and large unsweet tea,” he said.
“No,” Pretty said again, this time with her patience obviously being tested, “A small chili and medium unsweet tea.”
“Oh, certainly. A small chili and medium unsweet tea. Would you like cheese with your chili?”
“Yes,” Pretty said – unmistakable displeasure in her voice now.
“That will be six dollars and thirty-seven cents,” the young man said. Pretty gave him her cash card. The young man ran the card and then handed Pretty her bag of food and drink and card.
“Sorry, Ma’am. We’re out of spoons,” he said as he handed Pretty the chili.
Pretty looked at him in disbelief. “What did you say? You’re out of spoons? How can I eat chili without a spoon?”
The young man’s face puckered like he’d tasted sour grapes. “Well, they didn’t order enough spoons for tonight. I told them we needed more spoons, but right now we won’t have any spoons until Monday.”
“No spoons until Monday?” Pretty exclaimed and her voice rose to a dangerous level. She turned toward me.
“Is this some kind of a joke?” I asked in a threatening tone.
“No ma,’am, this isn’t a joke. I’m very sorry.” He looked like he was going to cry.
Pretty handed the bag back to him and said, “I want my money back. You can keep the chili.”
The hapless young fellow rushed off to find his manager. By this time, I had rummaged around in the glove compartment where I keep all Important Things and found a spork or foon or something that could tackle chili and told Pretty she could use it for this emergency. The young man returned with his manager who was older and seemed resigned to pacifying two traveling ladies who were in no mood for food issues.
“I found something I can use, ” Pretty said and the young man quickly gave the bag of food back to her.
“I’m still going to give you your money back because my manager said I can,” the poor young guy said and looked totally mortified.
“Well, thank you very much,” Pretty said and gave him a little wave as she drove off. I glanced back and saw the relieved look on his face.
All’s well that ends well, as The Red Man was fond of saying, and the rest of the drive east to Columbia was smooth sailing. Pretty had her chili (with cheese) and tea, I replaced Adele with Abba and Spike slept soundly in the back seat. The 2,400-mile honeymoon trip came to an end at 1:15 Sunday a.m. in the gravel driveway of Casa de Canterbury, and I think we were all glad to get home safely.
Bless us for a safe trip, as Granny Selma said whenever she made it home from the grocery store or anywhere else, and I understood that kind of gratitude. My family was home. The honeymoon was behind us – but not over, and we had a ton of good memories to add to our collection.
Until next time…
P.S. Thanks to one of the Little women of Worsham Street, Carol Raica, for this sweet collection of cards. She’s been a mentor for me with my love of photography.