Hayleybell, my baby, our “little red”, as Frank likes to call her, is a freshmen at a school in the beautiful state of North Carolina. This past weekend was Parents’ Weekend. I hadn’t seen her since we dropped her off in August, making the weeks prior to our visit the longest span of time that I’d been separated from my baby girl since the day she was born. Over the years she’s taken a few vacations with her dad’s family or with a friend’s family, but those have never been for more than a week at the most. Our separation has been quite the adjustment for me. Needless to say, I was extremely excited to visit her…so excited in fact, that I needlessly booked the earliest flight last Friday morning, making it necessary for us to leave the house by 4am to head to the airport. Frank wasn’t thrilled. Apparently I’ve since been demoted as the trip planner going forward.
We arrived in North Carolina by about 9am, rented our car and headed to the school. I had my youngest child in my arms by about 10am. What an amazing feeling that was. As we got out of our rental car and started to head towards her dorm, Hayley saw us and started running down the pathway with her arms spread out to hug. The memory of it is making my eyes water as I write this.
One of Hayley’s most wonderful qualities is her loving nature. She gives love to us all so freely, which is one of the reasons why she has her stepfather wrapped around her little finger. Frank has two boys, which for him translates to less hugs. Are all boys this way? I think this is why God gave me girls. I would have definitely embarrassed boys with all of the mommy mauling.
We did all of the typical things that one does at Parents’ Weekend. We toured the buildings that Hayley wanted us to see, met with the teachers that Hayley wanted us to meet with, chatted with parents of the kids whom Hayley hangs out with the most and took Hayley off campus to eat for every meal so that she could have a break from her regular dining hall fare. Oh, we also shopped! Boy did we shop! Who knew that there would be a mall of outlet stores a mere 10 minute drive from her campus!! How fortunate for us…..squeal!
I have some advice based on my shopping experience this past weekend. Before you purchase that new, gorgeous, shiny, sale priced Le Creuset braiser, which you’re sure you can’t live without and which you’re sure won’t be priced as well back home…..think about how you’ll transport said very heavy cast iron pan onto a plane. It was mildly amusing to watch the security check person sitting in his chair, watching for metal items on the conveyor belt, stop the belt and stare…squinting his eyes….and then asking his co-worker to “come and take a look and tell me what you think this is.” I started to sweat as if I were actually doing something wrong instead of just trying to get my new cookware home. Thankfully, the co-worker who was called over was a woman who said, “Looks like a normal pot to me.” The belt then started again and my carry-on suitcase was taken down. I then went to grab it and she informed me that she needed to take a look. Excuse me?
I was still feeling a little nervous and decided to try and have chummy woman talk. I laughed and asked her if she’d like me to tell her what was in the bag. Then I preceded to ask her if she liked cooking with cast iron. She dismissed my attempt to be chummy and told me that she knew what the large item was in my bag , but that it wasn’t why she needed to open my bag. She then preceded to unzip and grab out a rather large bottle of room deodorizer spray. Geez….how embarrassing. I instinctively felt like turning and pointing to my husband to blame him as if traveling with a man necessitates the room spray, but instead decided to just deny that I knew it was in there, grab my bag and scurry away. Frank was pretty amused that he’d put the room spray into my suitcase when it wouldn’t fit into his, knowing that it would get flagged and knowing that I would find this particular item embarrassing. He’s evil that way. It’s ok though, don’t you fret because embarrassing paybacks can be fun. 🙂
Getting back to our actual visit, as you may know, we’re from New Jersey. During our meals and drives in NC, we chatted about some of the differences between our state and a southern state. The very first thing one notices when driving from the airport of a southern state is that there are plenty of places to purchase guns and amo, if that’s your type of thing. Heck, one store had it all, according to it’s billboard, which read “From Brassieres to Chandeliers.” How convenient! We also agreed that the people we met were more cordial. They make eye contact and say hello when walking by on a sidewalk. As you leave the store, they tell you to, “Have a nice day.” When ringing up our purchases or taking our food orders, we were often engaged in conversation and asked details of our visit. I must admit that this friendliness can be a tiny bit unsettling until one realizes that it’s genuine. I hate to say that living in the northeast can make one jaded, but it’s true. The New York stereotype is there for a reason. Of course there are exceptions, because some people are just friendly, no matter where they live. While shopping in one store, we met a couple and their daughter who were from the next town over in New Jersey. We laughed and admitted that we prefer the welcoming nature of the southerners. The husband told me that he ends up feeling guilty when visiting the south. Frank then turned and chimed in with, “And what’s with all of this Have a Nice Day shit?” The salesperson was listening to our conversation and chuckled loudly. On Saturday we took Hayley to a little diner right down the road from her school. We’d heard that the biscuits were great and we needed them. Unfortunately, we soon found out that they’d run out of biscuits. Knowing that my husband will hunt food down when he’s in the mood, I looked over to see his face droop in disappointment. He gathered up the pieces of his broken heart and ordered the toast instead. Later the waitress came over and put her arm around him and asked how he was doing. Frank jokingly replied that he was a little sad because he couldn’t get a biscuit. The waitress then very seriously reached over to the next table for a couple of clean napkins and proceeded to blot the non-existent tears from Frank’s eyes. I ALMOST DIED! That woman was sassy and hilarious and we all started laughing. Frank then accused her of lying about the biscuit situation to which she replied, (in a heavy southern accent), “Well, go ahead and order them and see what you get.” I couldn’t help but wonder if her boisterous laugh and sassy personality, which was full of joy would be so well received up north in a restaurant where everyone is trained to be so….appropriate and professional.
I really must say that our visit on Parents’ Weekend, which ended up feeling like a mini vacation, was just perfect. Our child is happy, challenged and seems to be finding her passion. The warm southern hospitality was simply the gravy on an already tasty biscuit.