Ma Jewel and the Long Road

I think it is dangerous to romanticize the lives of those who have passed on, but at the same time it is such a gift to fall into the soft comfort of memories that remain of a life well spent. Today is the ninth anniversary of saying goodbye to a woman I strive to emulate.

This morning I am reminded of the October of my Junior year of college. I lived about thirty miles away from my Ma Jewel and she was interested in going for a drive to see the foliage with a destination of eating at the Lodge on Monteagle. I could only go on Sunday afternoon, so after church I drove to Shelbyville, picked her up and off we went. I believed we would go by highway, arriving in Monteagle with time to spare for lunch. This was not what Ma Jewel had in mind. She was in the mood for a long drive and boy, did she get her wish. We traveled the curvy backroads of Middle Tennessee admiring the autumn splendor that lined the two lane road for hours.

My stomach had the painful empty sensation that seems to only happen on Sunday afternoon and the longevity of this trip was adding to my discomfort. Why is it that after feasting on the word at Sunday morning church, I find that I am starving? But, I digress. I began to think I misunderstood her and we were going to Chattanooga or that maybe she had no idea where we were and was too embarrassed to let me know. But, finally we arrived just in time for dinner at the lodge.

We ate our money’s worth of southern comfort food and headed back to Shelbyville. I cut through Tullahoma and as I was cresting the ridge of the highway, blue lights flew on.

“Oh, Sara” she said, pronouncing the first a with a long vowel sound,” what are we going to do?”

“Well, I guess we are going to pull over and get a ticket.”

The young officer came to the window peeked in seeing me and my grandmother, who must have had a look of panic, and smiled. He reminded me that the speed limit dropped several times along this particular corridor and let me go with a, “ Slow down and be safe.” I was ever so grateful for Ma Jewel being there, I imagine it was her cuteness that got me out of that ticket.

We finally arrived at her home and she offered her usual, “Won’t you come in?”

I didn’t. In my youth I was ready to move on quickly to the next thing. Looking back now I see the whole day was a lesson in slowing down. She, in her wisdom, was trying to get me to stop and enjoy the day. I just kept barreling through it.

How I would love to drive her on a slow, long trip to see the foliage. I understand so much better, if not completely, the value of the long road. I am so grateful she planted the seed, even if it took a couple decades to germinate.

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