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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Journey to Florida

For several years we had been looking forward to the day my sister Carol would receive her Doctorate in English from Pensacola Christian College. She actually finished the work the end of last summer but graduation ceremonies are not held until May. As the time drew nearer we began making plans to travel to the graduation with my sister, Betty Ann, and her husband. We mapped out a route that took us to Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, and back home to Pennsylvania, visiting friends and relatives along the way.

Our first stop was near Waynesboro, Georgia, where Betty Ann's daughter, Karen, is teaching school this year. We got there Saturday evening and were there until Monday morning. Karen lives with a widow lady. We stayed there two nights. We went to the Waynsboro Mennonite Church on Sunday morning. They had a potluck meal for dinner which was cooked and served by the men. The majority of the dishes were meat, but it was all very well done. I can't quite imagine the men in our church cooking a meal like that.

After a good Southern breakfast Monday morning, May 7, we headed down to Dublin, Georgia, where we had made plans to visit Jerry and Rhoda Martin. Leroy worked with Jerry at Shank Door back in the 70s, until he moved south. They served us a big dinner and took us around their neighborhood. We could not stay long because my cousin, Evelyn Dick, was expecting us for supper in Albany, Georgia. She had another big meal prepared for us. Three big meals in one day! She had invited her friends, Gilbert and Marilyn Harris, for supper too. We had a good time renewing our acquaintance.

Evelyn provided beds for us for the night and on Tuesday morning, May 8, we headed for Pensacola. Carol had rehersal Tuesday and discovered then she was supposed to wear all black. She had black shoes along but nothing else that color. So she borrowed a pair of nylons from Betty Ann and we made a quick shopping trip to the Goodwill Store where Carol bought a black T-shirt and skirt. Then we went out to Pensacola Beach for the afternoon. They have beautiful white sand there. We crossed a bridge that had been destroyed in Hurricane Katrina and also saw a lot of rebuilding being done along the beach. During the summers Carol was in Pensacola to study, she learned to know Daniel and Debbie Carpenter. They had invited all of us to stay with them when we came for the graduation. We had supper at their house Tuesday evening and slept there two nights.

Graduation was at 9:30 on Wednesday morning, May 9. Carol had gotten tickets for us for some of the best seats in the house. The ceremonies were dignified and impressive. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures. There were around 700 graduates but only five of them received Doctorates. They were the first to come in but the last to receive their diplomas. The Vice-President of the college introduced each one and placed the hood on his/her shoulders. Carol's tassel and hood are blue, which is the color for Doctor of English. As she stood there in her black cap and gown, receiving the honors she deserves, I got a little emotional. We sure are proud of her! But I knew something most of the crowd did not know; she was wearing Goodwill clothes under that high-class gown.
We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.

After graduation we went to the Naval Air Museum at Pensacola. We saw the Imax film on Hurricane Katrina and toured the museum. Then we headed back to the Carpenters for another supper and night in their home.

On Thursday morning we headed north toward Kentucky where we had made plans to visit Paul and Elizabeth Brubaker. They live at Scottsville, a little south of Bowling Green. We got there about 4:30 Central time, but since they do not observe DST it was only 3:30 to them. Elizabeth is one of my mother's cousins. They are a very conservative branch of Old Order Mennonites. All of their work is done by hand or horsepower; no engines of any kind. Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway) they have no electric or telephones either. Elizabeth cooked a delicious supper for us on her wood burning stove. The meal began with homemade bread and homemade butter and ended with tapioca pudding and jell-o. We visted the Brubakers before and I knew what to expect, but after the elegant ceremonies the day before the abrupt change was almost culture shock. Elizabeth had told her four married children that live nearby and other people in their church that we were coming. The first visitors arrived about an hour after we did. There was a steady stream of visitors the rest of the afternoon and evening. It was very interesting but I'm sure I will not remember all of the names and faces. Paul and Elizabeth have eleven married children living in Kentucky, Missouri, and Belize. At the moment they have 99 grandchildren but they will soon top 100. This is Elizabeth's kitchen.

We realized we need to get an early start on Friday morning, May 11, because we had a 12-hour drive home and would lose two hours to boot. It was a little after 7 a.m. when we left the Brubakers, but that was actually 8 according to DST. And we lost another hour when we returned to the Eastern time zone. It was a long haul, so we each took a turn driving. There was a mighty cheer when we finally crossed the Pennsylvania line! We finally got to our house at 11:15 p.m.

The last place we made a pit stop I smelled the wonderful aroma of Penn's Woods. That is one of the things I noticed the south is lacking. The pine trees in Georgia and palms of Florida just do not have the smell of our hardwoods. Another difference is the grass. The grass in the south is more coarse and not as velvety soft as here in the north. We traveled over 2000 miles in the past week. Thanks to the friends (some which we had never met before) and relatives we visited along the way, it was not an expensive trip. We bought only three meals on the trip and did not need a motel any of the six nights. But after all that was said and done, the place where we started and came back to still looks the best to me! Maybe one of the reasons we need to travel once in awhile is to help us appreciate what we have at home every day.

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