The plan started to take form after sitting quietly at dawn for several days listing “things I said I wanted to do when I grew up” and “things I like”. In our family we are big list people, a trait we learned from my father. At the time of his death, we found a list of all the books he had ever read and I was able to compare it against my list of all the books I had ever read.
List making in general has gotten a bad rap over the last 10 years. List makers have been accused of being tactical thinkers while non-list makers are said to be strategic thinker. Only strategic thinkers are said to have the “right stuff” to be leaders of industry so thousands of CEO wannabes shunned their Franklin Day Planners as they worked to appear more strategic. For a short time I went underground and secretly kept a list on my computer that I could email to my iPhone. Today I proudly proclaim I am a list maker who as long as I can remember to check my list is highly organized and can systematically accomplish my strategic goals!
But I digress; the plan took form over only a couple of days. It was time for a road trip to see family and friends with the ultimate destination being Alamance County North Carolina. Why did I want to end up in Alamance County North Carolina? I want to write a book. The seed of the story I want to tell comes from an episode from my father’s childhood. My objective was to stay at the farmhouse on Granny’s farm where my father lived as a young boy and write the book.
I decided to pick-up I-95 beyond Yonkers and head south. I would stop in DC to visit friends, Savannah, Jacksonville, Lehigh and Charlotte to visit family before heading to the farmhouse to write. I was also going to work against type; I was going to stop when I wanted to stop, eat when I wanted to eat, actually stop to take roadside pictures and generally enjoy the journey. I would not try to beat my best time ever on the drive between New York and Jacksonville.
As I reached the DC Metro area I was struck by the amount of activity and energy everywhere. New construction along I-495, road improvement at I-395 and I-495 and the Dulles Corridor Metrorail project is under way creating a sense of prosperity for the region. Forbes.com reported New York City and Washington, DC housing prices were on the rise. It did occur to me that Wall Street and the Federal government created the crisis that cripples many communities today but they don’t seem to be suffering the consequences of their actions.
My trip continued south with a brief stop at South of the Border to take pictures. SOB, located on the North Carolina and South Carolina “border”, is what my mother would call a Tourist Trap. But to a kid it’s fun painted neon. For hundreds of miles brightly painted billboards build anticipation with corny copy such as
Pedro’s Fireworks, (does your?)
You never sausage such a place (You’re always a wiener at Pedro’s!).
You know you have arrived when you see the 165-foot Sombrero Tower.
I asked a native New Yorker what was the difference between Coney Island and South of the Border and his response was that Coney Island had class. My first visit to Coney Island was on a brutally hot summer day and candidly; it did not feel much different than being at SOB on a brutally hot fall day. Coney Island was developed to be a major resort and amusement park where New Yorkers would come to play while South of the Border was built to be a Tourist Oasis, a pit stop for Snow Birds heading south and North Carolinian who wanted a beer. They both showcase iconic images of the business aspirations of the past.
My next stop was Savannah, Georgia to visit with my nephew and his wife. Savannah is a your quintessential southern town. Southern live oak trees draped with Spanish moss shade civil war cemeteries, and old antebellum homes. Unlike Atlanta and Columbia, General Sherman spared Savannah during his March to the Sea so touring Savannah is like taking a step back in time.
Today Savannah’s genteel Southern past is jexu positioned against the creative energy generated by SCAD The University for Creative Careers. My nephew is a student at SCAD; he is studying to be a graphic novelist. Together we walked the streets of Savannah as he proudly pointed out SCAD buildings and projects. According to Savannahnow.com, in 1978 SCAD established itself “in Savannah’s declining historic district” and over the next 32 years “bought up the priced-to-move schoolhouses, vacant homes and dilapidated office buildings that were rotting away downtown and developed its campus.”
You can see SCAD’s thumb print everywhere. Like Columbia University in New York City, the college is interwoven with the city. SCAD’s Jen Library on Broughton Street was formerly the Mass Brothers department store and down the block is a three-story art supply store that caters to students and the general public. Tattooed and pierced cyclists weave through traffic on the main thoroughfare.
My nephew and I had an opportunity to eat at his favorite breakfast place and spend some time talking. I am hopeful when I talk to my children and niece and nephews. They are excited about life but at the same time they are realist. They want to build something whether it is a career, a family or a life. The children of the Baby Boomers are the children of divorce and for many, the lesson they took away from watching their parents was to choose wisely and commit. To quote the Ed Harris character from the movie Apollo 13, “failure is not an option”.
Our discussion jumps for current events to family to dreams for the future. My nephew is clear about the choices he is making and what he wants for the future. His energy is buoyant and positive.
As I reflect upon our conversation, I see that his clarity is age related not generational. All my friends are struggling with making decisions for aging parents, transitioning out of high-powered jobs into a more “meaningful life” or reinventing their small business into sustainable entities that will support employees for the long-term. In other words every decision feels like it must be researched, pondered and weighed in order to come up with the “right” answer. My nephew and his wife have not yet reached the age where every choice feels so critical.
From Savannah I drove to Jacksonville to spend time with my grandchildren. I am blessed to have 5 grandchildren, 3 boys and 2 girls. The 3 boys and one girl are my son and daughter-in-law’s children and my daughter and her husband are the parents to the youngest granddaughter. I was surprised at how much I love them particularly after the reaction I had to learning that I was going to be a grandmother for the first time.
I turned 50, learned I was going to be a grandmother and received my first invitation to join AARP all in the same week. I could not even say the “G” word for about two weeks...it took four more months before I could utter the number 50. It sure challenges the perceptions of your own image when your children have children. Today I proudly claim the title Grandmother though my grandchildren call me “The Mayor”.
The Mayor was a title that my daughter gave me. Actually what she said was I could be called the Grand Meré, which is French for Grandmother. I did not hear the Grand part and thought she said I could be called The Mayor. I was ecstatic. I explained that in fact this was perfect because when my grandchildren got older they would tell their friends they were going to go to the Mayor’s house for lunch and their friends would say, I did not know you were related to the Mayor. I laughed heartily as I envisioned this future exchange.
Fast forward 7 years to where my number 1 grandson is answering the question posed to him by first grade teachers, what is the name of and where does your father’s mother live? The teacher asked the question three times, getting the same answer each time before finally writing down, The Mayor of New York City.
After several delightful days with my grandchildren, I traveled to my sister’s home in Lehigh Acres, Florida. As I was crafting my time-out, I was thunderstruck by the realization I had never visited my sister’s home. While we talk on the phone daily, even several times a day and see each other at least once a year at the “family home” in Jacksonville, I had not been to South Florida in 14 years. Needless to say, that became a key destination for me on my journey.