Jen Jeffrey: Road Trip With Mama - Part Two

Sunday, March 23, 2014 - by Jen Jeffrey
Jen Jeffrey
Jen Jeffrey

What’s So Scary?

Standing just a few feet away from a moving double decker train is not very scary to me. Crawling on my belly hundreds of feet below the earth in a damp cave is not scary. Being out with wildlife is not scary to me either, so where I left off from my previous article saying I would be doing ‘something scary’ may be something different than you expected. What I was referring to that is scary for me is doing something out of my element.

Being outdoors and exploring is my element. I feel free and as much a part of this world as anyone else.  There is a spiritual connection with the earth, the sky and the waters that I just love, as well as the exhilarating feeling of just being there.

But where I am out of my element (though I am a people-person) is when I attend gatherings or when I am grouped with people I don’t know. This is a little scary to me – especially if I don’t understand everything about it. I’m fine once I am there and I am not afraid to meet and greet, it’s just the apprehension of the time before attending that gets to me. Wondering what I will wear, what is expected of me and to be accepted by others. That aspect of it I never look forward to, but I am always glad after I have done it.

Attending church with Jason was not hard because church is church and, if you have someone to sit with, that makes it better. The other ‘people outings’ I planned for this week was to have lunch with a few friends and then to attend my first Rotary meeting. A small gathering with my old neighbors Betsy and Emily Gore (now Betsy Bond and Emily Kennedy) was planned for Monday. Emily was closer to my oldest sister’s age and Betsy was my middle sister Jill’s best friend.

Mama and Peggy were also going to meet at the same place for lunch and Mama would be seeing old friends she used to play bridge with. The older ladies were already at “Dumplins” restaurant before I arrived to meet with my friends. The name sounds like an old country place that would have fried chicken and of course ‘dumplins’ - somewhere you might wear jeans and a T-shirt… but it wasn’t. Jason told me this place was “La Ti Dah” and they had a variety of good and healthy food.

No problem, I could do ‘la ti dah’ I just needed to make sure I had an outfit that made me feel good. I purchased a beautiful scarf and planned to wear it with a white shirt - I just had to know how to tie the scarf. Before I came to Kentucky, I meant to look online and Google ideas for scarf tying. This was a larger scarf than I was used to wearing and I could even wear it as a wrap. I spent nearly 30 minutes in front of the mirror experimenting with different knots and loops and finally gave up with just a simple one.

Dumplins and Old Friends

Jason asked if I wanted to follow him, but I told him I had my GPS and to go on to work. He decided he would follow me in “just in case”. Well, I drove all the way to town fine, but Samantha (my GPS) has trouble with her left and right, so I was in the right lane to turn, just as she instructed. Of course, Jason got in the left lane and turned into Dumplins and I had to go up and turn around. I am sure men gloat when we women do these things, but Jason is a gracious person and did not do that… at least out loud.

He drove on to work and I went inside. I saw Mama and her group already enjoying lunch so I went to say hello. My friends arrived and it was great seeing them. I was quite small when I saw them last, but the Gore girls were still pretty and so striking. I ordered a beautiful salad with chicken, cranberries and pecans, but the roll that was served with it was deceiving. It looked like something dry you would see packaged in a grocery store, but instead, it was a melt-in-your-mouth-high-calorie ecstasy. 

When you lunch with the girls you do NOT eat bread, but I couldn’t help it. It was so good, I forgot where I was and instead of using my knife to spread my butter, I caught myself dunking a piece in the cup of butter on my saucer. I admit it, I am a butter dunker.

After lunch, Betsy mentioned that she had browsed at the store next door called DK Kelley and wanted to get a jacket she saw on sale. I am not one of those girls who likes to shop, but I enjoyed being with these girls so I followed them into the store and I browsed. I had actually ‘liked’ the Facebook page of this business and had seen some of their clothing in mind that I really liked. There was a white scalloped top that I saw in the photos on Facebook and looked for it. They had one left and it was not my size, so I was through shopping. I never buy something I am not planning on buying or settle for something else if I don’t see what I want.

Betsy got a great jacket that was something I would wear if I were at my comfortable size. Emily found a nice coral blouse that looked darling. We spoke with the owner for a while and talked of a few Murray topics and then I said goodbye to the girls. That wasn’t so painful … I just wish I hadn’t dunked my butter.

The 22 Path

After a nice lunch, I wanted to explore a little, so I didn’t use my GPS. I had no idea where I was going and I happened to go down a long road that just ended and turned into a red clay dirt road. I crossed over a stream and got out to take a picture of the water. My leather loafers were not what I needed to trek this piece of land, but I was in my element and it felt good. After listening to the trickling water, I got back in my Jeep and headed back towards the city. I happened upon Murray State University and my Jeep quickly turned in and found a parking spot right away. It was the day before Spring break and it was nearly empty. God has great timing.

I am a firm believer that the path I follow is never an accident and there is purpose in everything. I got my camera and planned to take a few pictures of the pretty architectural buildings and then go home, but the buildings went on forever and before I knew it, I was on campus and I had this transcendent feeling come over me as I thought about my dad. I was standing in front of the library and I wondered how many times my daddy had walked up those steps with his crutches. I imagined the sight and my eyes filled with tears.

As I took a picture of the statue standing before me, I took another one of the writing beneath it and noticed the year “1922” the year Rainey T. Wells founded MSU. The number 22 is my God-wink number and sometimes I will see a sequence of them over and over in an almost ridiculous way when God wants me to pay attention to something. It was like a magnet was drawing me inside and I slowly walked up the stairs as if daddy were right beside me.

MSU – Walking with Daddy

The place was beautiful and historically preserved. LaDonna Hammontree came out of a room and greeted me and I told her I hoped to find any information on my father that they may have. I knew he taught at Murray High School and I knew he taught at UK in Lexington, but I was not sure if he taught at MSU. She searched her computer and Dieter Ullrich (the special collections librarian) came out and inquired to what we were searching for. He began helping LaDonna search and went to get a book of past faculty. He thumbed through the pages and said, “If your father was anyone of significance, he would be in this book.”

My heart sank. My father was very significant. As I realized Daddy probably didn’t teach at MSU, I knew he attended there and even if while a student, he may not have had significance at the school at that time as far as faculty, he did go on to become quite significant.

My father was a polio survivor stricken with the disease when he was two, yet he played golf, tennis and was an over achiever in anything he did. He even DJ’d at WNBS radio in Murray for years. After we had moved to Lexington, Daddy taught at UK and I vaguely remember pictures and newspaper clippings of him giving speeches. There was a picture of him with the governor and I can’t remember who it was at that time, but I knew he was the governor of Kentucky. I have forgotten about these things I have seen from my trunk of treasures that is packed away in my storage unit. When I move one day, I will be able to get to all that and I can’t wait! That trunk luckily survived a fire I went through in 2004 but it is charred and I planned to find a new trunk. Murray has many stores where I may like to find one.

Yes, my Daddy was significant in life with all his accomplishments and …all that he achieved in spite of his handicap  - that made him even more significant to me. I found a 1957 annual where my father was a senior. I took a picture of it and planned to do more online scouting and I left to go back to Jason’s to do some work.

I knew I would not be 100 percent with my work this week, but I hoped to at least get some writing accomplished. There was just so much to cram into this trip. It was already the middle of the week and, though I was able to unload an interview from my recorder and transcribe it onto a Word document, I still needed to put it together and write it. I planned to spend a few hours Wednesday morning to get that story finished, but Jason called and told me my cousin Rob would only be able to visit with Mama and me that morning. I had to rearrange my schedule and begin that day earlier with Mama. This was the day I planned to take her around and then I was cooking at Peggy’s later.

Memories for Mama

Jason was so good to take off work and drive us around. Mama got to see the gravesites of her parents and siblings and also her daughter who died when she was eight – the sister I never knew. We went through the town of Lynn Grove where mama grew up. She told me of her Uncle Tomas H. Stokes (her mother’s brother) who was a bank president in Murray and the Mayor. I beamed with pride during the whole trip as I dug deep into my roots.

We stopped to see my cousin Rob Morton (who owns Morton Trucking) and he has a lot of the land that Mama was familiar with or grew up on. When he came to the door he teased Mama, “I heard you died” because a month ago, there was another Shirley Morton who passed away that he had seen in the obituaries. Mama assured him it wasn’t her and he said, “Did the devil bring you back?” That got a big laugh from us all.

Mama hugged him as if he were still that mean little boy that used to pull my older sister’s hair when they played. Rob didn’t really remember me when we were little because I was the baby, but I saw him on my last visit to Kentucky and told him I planned to stay in touch.

Rob is an aggravator and Mama told him she remembered a time when we were at a funeral and he had asked to see her diamond ring. When she showed it to him he said, “No, take it off” so she did and he took it from her and put it in his pocket. She said she never thought she would get that ring back! We laughed at that story and then Rob pulled out his pocket knife and pretended to go after Mama’s ring again. It was a good visit.

I am out of time so I will continue the ‘Kentucky trip saga’ in next week’s column and tell where I attended my very first Rotary meeting and toured “Jeffrey Gymnasium.” That was a day I will never forget. It was an emotional week, but we packed a lot in and had a great time. Mama thoroughly enjoyed the whole trip and is glad to be home, but I already miss Kentucky and especially Jason, but he is coming this week to Chatty and we will head to Destin for a little beach getaway weekend.

One thing is certain - I haven’t had writer’s block for my column since I have met Jason. He has made my life so full and is perfect for my explorative nature. I have compiled an album of the whole trip and will shared the link in next week’s article as I finish telling about mine and Mama’s last two days in Kentucky.



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