Dear old Thomas Wolfe may have been right when he wrote, “You can’t go home again” back in the 1940s.
Or maybe he just lived in an area much like the one I grew up near, that had gone from a charming, eclectic college town to a bustling metropolitan city with new roads and different exits.
OK, maybe saying Athens is a bustling metro area is pushing it, but when your biggest traffic jam involves a cow and some bossy strutting chickens, anything with more than two lanes seems metropolitan. It’s just a lot different than what I have been acclimated to the last several years.
“Do you know where this is?” Lamar will ask me anytime we are homeward bound to see Mama.
“Of course I do,” is my reply.
He will pause and study me for a moment.
“Do you know how to get there?”
“I just said I did.”
“No, you said you know where it is. Where it is and how to get there are two different things.”
Said the man who thinks Mapquest is out to get him lost on purpose.
This conversation arose Thanksgiving morning as we were preparing to go to Mama’s. I wasn’t quite sure how to get to the place to pick up the dinner and was trying to figure it out.
But, I wasn’t going to tell Lamar that. Surely I could figure it out.
Just in case, I called and got directions. But what the woman told me confused the dressing out of me.
“I take Timothy Road?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said. “To Epps Bridge.”
“Is this down there near St. Mary’s and where the old Trump’s used to be?” One of my proms was at Trump’s. Or was it a debutante ball? I couldn’t remember – it was getting as foggy as me remembering where roads were.
“I don’t know about that,” the lady said.
“I turn between the Taco Bell and the liquor store, right? Like I am heading to the old dollar movie theater?”
The lady sighed. “I am going to tell you one more time,” she had already told me twice. “You turn right on Timothy Road, at the light at Publix.”
We left early and were making good time. I felt about 99.99 percent sure I could get us to our destination without any complications or without letting on that I was not real sure where we were going.
And we did. We got there just fine. It was when I decided to take navigation into my own hands.
“I think if we turn out of the parking lot and keep going, we will hit a road near Mama’s and will get there quicker.”
Lamar eyed me. He was getting hungry and wasn’t entirely sure he believed me. “You know how to get there from here?”
More of the stankeye look. “How come a few minutes ago, you were all ‘Oh, I have never seen this before,’ and “this wasn’t here?”
“Well, I am pretty sure this will take us into Oconee County and I can find Mama’s road. It will save us about 20 minutes.”
Lamar knew how famous I was for my shortcuts. Once, when I was taking Cole to see Mama, I took a ‘shortcut.’ Two hours later and a trip through Gwinnett County and a few drive-thru’s, my little fried chickentarian and I finally arrived.
“You know what’s the quickest way somewhere?” Lamar asked.
“A straight line?”
“Nope, the one you know.”
But, it was Thanksgiving and he didn’t want to fuss, so he turned right out of that parking lot and away we went.
And lost we got.
“Where are we?” he asked.
I wasn’t sure. Why did we just cross into Barrow County? That was on the other side…
“You don’t know do you?”
“I think if we go a little bit further…”
Lamar shook his head. “No, we are turning around. We could have been there by now.” And eating turkey. I was hungry, too. Why did he put the food in the trunk? How am I supposed to eat a bite if it’s in the trunk?
We turned around and came up on another road pointing towards Bogart. “You know Bogart, don’t you?”
I said I did, but apparently, I don’t.
It hadn’t changed much but I didn’t remember anything. We came to the red light – probably still the only red light in Bogart. I didn’t know which way to turn. Lamar went right and pulled into a gas station to ask directions.
Yes, that’s right – a man stopped to ask directions. You make those gender sacrifices when you are married to me.
Thankfully, the man he asked was able to tell us which way to go and a few moments later, we were at that Pepsi plant, turning onto 78.
Mama was worried. I had told her we would be there in 15 minutes; that was 30 minutes before. “We are so lost, so lost,” I texted back.
When we finally arrived, Mama wanted to know how in the world we got so turned around. Or, more specifically, how does one get lost in Bogart?
“I don’t even know how I ended up in Bogart,” I said. “We were on one side of Athens, over there going towards downtown and I ended up in Bogart – how did that even happen?”
“Did you go over a bridge?” Mama asked. “Or cross 78 and not realize it?”
“No, Mama, I didn’t do any of that. There was stuff I have never seen, there’s stores, roads even – they have moved roads. I don’t remember Timothy or Epps Bridge being there. They have just moved the roads.” I was so confused my brain hurt. And I sorely wished I had gotten that chocolate pecan pie after all.
“Well, you know what I think happened?” Mama began, patting my shoulder. “You just don’t come home enough to know what’s changed and what hasn’t. If you came home more, you wouldn’t be so lost.”
And maybe she meant that in more ways than one.