Me and mine usually hang around the house when it gets close to Christmas. We have been known to take in a bowl game or two after the holidays, but we like to be next to kith and kin in the weeks leading up to the season of the Nativity.
One year, however, I got a wild hair and decided it would be fun to light a shuck and head out of town exactly a week before Christmas Day. I don't really know what got into me, but it wound up being the trip of a lifetime. New Orleans was the destination and 1982 was the year. I remember every detail like it was last week.
It was about nine o'clock at night before I got under way. I was driving a brand new midnight blue Chevrolet Monte Carlo -- with T-tops. That was some ride, let me tell you. Dec. 18 -- that's today, isn't it? -- came on a Saturday that year. It was a right cold day, if I recall, and I had a whole trailer full of company that weekend.
That's right. In 1982 I lived in a single-wide trailer at what had once been the Yellow River Drag Strip. Larry Allen was staying with me -- and his little brother, Patrick. So was Ken Cooper and his beautiful bride, Beth. Beth was the only one of us that had good sense. Ken and Patrick are, tragically, long dead. Larry is a Catholic priest. We've lost touch. Beth lives in Hahira and is not affiliated in any way with the Grand Mystic Royal Order of the Nobles of the Ali Baba Temple of the Shrine.
Google "Ray Stevens" if you are unfamiliar with that last reference.
There was a big party at the Baptist church that night, which is why my departure was delayed. My lovely wife Lisa accompanied me on my journey, but I don't think her mama and them were too thrilled about it. She was a pretty young thing back then -- barely older than our youngest child, Jenna -- and not even out of college yet. I'm not sure how I'd feel about Jenna running off to New Orleans with some male Cretan at Christmastime.
I think I will find out in about a week, however, and will let you know. Her boyfriend's family lives near the Crescent City and I have a sneaking suspicion that she plans to spend part of her semester break with them.
But that's another story for another day. We were talking about the first and only time I went away before the holidays. Lisa and I made it as far as Auburn, Ala., before we decided to stop at a Wendy's for a bite to eat. We had just left a party at the church -- and there was food there. I think they had cheese straws and nuts and little paper cups full of mints and a couple of pretty decent cakes, but we didn't eat much and were hungry.
Auburn had beaten Boston College in the Tangerine Bowl that night and the students were rolling Toomer's Corner. Here it is, 29 years later, and I don't know who is in worse shape -- me or those trees.
Needless to say, we didn't make it all the way to New Orleans that night. We stopped around midnight at the Holiday Inn in Montgomery, Ala., and spent our first night as man and wife in the city that some call the "Cradle of the Confederacy," although I think Rosa Parks probably had more impact on history, in the long run, than Jefferson Davis. The city has monuments to both -- and Hank Williams is buried there.
The only sights we took in that night, however, were those within the confines of what passed for the bridal suite at the Montgomery Holidome. That is correct. It was our wedding night.
The rest of our week was quite eventful. We stayed in the French Quarter and ate at all the fine restaurants. We strolled along the banks of the Mississippi and rode on a riverboat and a streetcar and a horse-drawn carriage -- before leaving our $12,000 automobile and coming home in a multi-million dollar airplane.
We spent the first three nights of our vacation in a $69 a night hotel room and the last in a $1,000 a night hospital room, before coming home for emergency surgery (mine) on our first Christmas Eve together.
Yes, when Lisa stood at the altar and said "I do" 29 years ago today she promised to take me for "richer or for poorer, for better or worse, in sickness and in health." She wasn't just whistling "Dixie."
We won't be going anywhere this Christmas, either -- except back and forth to the radiology clinic every day -- but next year, the good Lord willing, y'all might be reading about another trip of a lifetime on the Sunday before Christmas.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.