Apparently the entire world isn't as dependent on internet access as my husband and I are; we are staying at a beautiful state park just outside of San Antonio and their wifi is as elusive as a cold breeze. So I abandoned my husband and 4 children for a coffeeshop 7 miles down the road so I could get this remaining countdown in your greedy paws; enjoy!
Day 6- Lunch at Amelia’s Tea Room- Each time I visit my sister-in-law, Kim, we always set aside at least one afternoon to have a “girls only lunch”. Really, it’s just our way of saying, “We need 2 solid hours without children so we can finish at least one conversation and eat one meal without interruption”. Our husbands consent (sometimes grudgingly) and we escape without good-bye kisses or details of our location; we like the feeling of just evaporating. The other requirement of our lunch is that it can’t happen at a chain restaurant. We want quaintness, complete with stained cardstock menus and Mom and Pop manning the kitchen. This visit, Amelia’s Tea Room and Bakery in Spring Hill met our criteria. Honestly, the homemade bread and chicken salad were spectacular, but I really reveled in just having time to savor every morsel, to laugh, and to breath deep with Kim and my mom (she was in town, too, and she’s a girl so she got to come along, too--hurray!).
Day 7- Killer Tribes Conference- Take two parents who have been traveling with their lovely but lively 4 children for almost two months in an old tour bus named “Willie” and give them a night at a hotel, alone, and a day full of intellectually stimulating conversation, great storytelling, and hot-when-you-eat-it food, and you probably have the two happiest people on planet earth. We thoroughly enjoyed this conference: the inspiring speakers that we heard and wonderful fellow writers that we met. Was this homeschooling, stay-at-home mother a little out of her league? Absolutely. On a typical day, I have a sum total of 3 intellectual conversations. Here is an example of one:
“Mom, do I need to capitalize the word ‘nugget’?”
“Remember, honey, ‘nugget’ isn’t a proper noun, so, no, you wouldn’t capitalize it.”
(Giggling) “But what if it’s a person’s name. You know, like ‘Hi, I’m Nugget.’”
“Well, I guess in that case, yes, you would capitalize it.”
Clearly I was in no condition to be discussing the cultivation of online community, marketing in the digital world, and clarifying one’s platform. By the end of the conference, my brain felt like a pair of anemic legs after running a marathon. But it was a good tired; we’re ready to sign up for next year.
Day 8- Willie Wonka with Ryan- The last night at my brother’s house, all the kids grabbed their assorted blankets and pillows, and piled into the living room for one final movie night. We didn’t have an agenda, just figured we’d find something on t.v. that would put the kids to sleep and semi-entertain the adults. Lo and behold, we stumbled upon the opening credits and eerily cheerful music of "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory". The decision was made. The kids seemingly overlooked the disheveled appearances of the actors (honestly, were they all systematically man-handled before filming) and the pathetic special effects (come on, 70’s Hollywood, my two-year old could create a more convincing Everlasting Gobstopper machine with a cardboard box, a bed sheet, and a pogo stick). Meanwhile, we adults reminisced about our first experiences with Willie Wonka. I, to this day, am extraordinarily disturbed by the oompah loompahs; my children are far braver than I am; the orange faces and green hair didn’t bother them in the slightest. But I loved that night, sitting beside my big brother, surrounded by our separate broods of children, sharing stories of growing up, and watching the cycle continue in the small bodies curled in our laps.
Day 9- The Drive to Memphis- Since this journey began, my official title has been “co-pilot”. I perch in the bouncy, barbershop-esque chair beside Shawn and watch the radiating blue dot that represents us on my IPhone map app, relaying to Shawn when to turn right, which exit to take, how many hours are left till we put Willie to bed for the night. And occasionally, I do a really poor job at my post. That happened on our drive to Memphis. A simple right turn would have put us on Interstate 40, humming along at a plucky 70 miles per hour towards Memphis. But I said “left”. Thankfully, in return for the additional hour on our trip, we got some visually delicious views of the hilly country in Southwestern Tennessee: two-business towns snuggled in yellow-flowered valleys and cavernous rock quarries yawning between green groves of trees. Some mistakes are worth making.
Day 10- Houston’s with Nancy- I think I’ve finally resigned myself to the fact that I will go up a pants size during the course of this trip. I think I’m okay with that, but the jury’s still out. I bring up that point only because the gastronomically perfect meal I shared with my dear friend Nancy played a large role in my expanding waistline. Our “estrogen lunch” had all the makings of a memorable meal: deep and transparent conversation punctuated by the best veggie burger and ahi tuna salad I’ve ever tasted. Sure, you’re thinking “Veggie burger and salad. Come on. You’re exaggerating the weight gain a little bit, aren’t you?” Indeed, no. We also polished off a plate of chips, queso, and guacamole and shoehorned in a dish of apple cobbler and strawberry shortcake: epic eating for two hand-over-heart foodies. Nancy, again, my deepest gratitude for your hospitality and friendship; we created a memory I will always cherish!
And, there, my friends, is my experience of Tennessee in ten experiences. Thanks for journeying along with me, and please, please, please add your Tennessee favorites in the comments below!!!