Now and again a perfect day comes along. It may not be out of the ordinary, and yet it is remarkable and leaves you smiling each time you remember it. I had such a day a few Saturdays ago. It was almost spiritual in both its simplicity and grandeur.
I rode to Austin, Texas with my eldest daughter. Earlier there had been raging thunderstorms, but somehow the sky cleared and the roads dried just in time for our departure from Houston. We talked, really talked, the entire way. I realized that it had been a very long time since we had been alone together for such an extended period and it was great just to be free to babble on and on about this and that and nothing. The drive seemed to go by in a flash before we drove into my grandson’s apartment complex where we would stay the night.
We stowed away our bags and headed to a Mexican restaurant that has been a legend in Austin for over seventy years. It’s said that there was a time when the beloved University of Texas football coach, Darrell Royal, was a regular customer. The parking lot was packed with cars and the line just to reserve a table snaked out of the door. There was a lively joyfulness in the air that made me smile as I engaged in my favorite hobby of people watching. Somehow nobody appeared to be annoyed at the long wait. Instead we joked and introduced ourselves to pass the time until our table was ready and we enjoyed a delightful meal as while soaking in the jovial atmosphere.
The following morning came the main event, another grandson’s final cross country race of the year. It was a chilly day and there was a strong breeze that sent our hair flying and made our faces red. It bode well as the first hint of fall. I knew that my grandson preferred running in cooler temperatures, so I suspected that he would do well, which he did. In fact he made the trek over a hilly course over three minutes faster than his previously best time. He was overjoyed and so were we.
At a picnic later we basked in the sun and enjoyed a visit with my grandson’s coach who applauded him for his improvement while checking to see how he felt about his efforts. I liked her style and saw that she was genuinely concerned about each of her athletes and their development. Their wellbeing seemed more important to her than the fact that they had all done quite well in the race. it was nice to witness her methodologies and to know that my grandson was in good hands but all too soon it was time to go. We hugged my grandson and wished him well in the rest of his semester as he promised to be home for Thanksgiving.
On the way back to Houston we stopped along the banks of the Brazos River, among a grove of trees near a spot where a famous heart surgeon had once spent weekends away from the stresses of saving lives. The sky had become a bit overcast and it should have made me feel dreary, but instead I felt a kind of spiritual calm. I thought about all of the people who might have passed along the banks of this old river and it somehow reminded me of the mix of all of the emotions that they might have experienced on their own journeys. The quiet was healing to my heart that too often worries more than it should. Little wonder that the good doctor who saved so many lives enjoyed stopping here for respite whenever he was able.
Suddenly my daughter suggested that we end our little trip with dinner at Cracker Barrel, my mother’s favorite place to eat. Somehow we both thought of her. She was after all represented in half of the name I had given my little girl so long before. As we sat munching on the country inspired food much like my grandmother used to make, We spoke of the Fridays when my mother would delight in the place like a child at an amusement park.
In honor of my mama we shopped for Christmas gifts in the already brightly decorated front of the store. We found gifts for friends and neighbors and joked about how my mother always insisted that we choose some candy to take home whenever we came here. I thought of the retirement gift my mama had left for me when she died only the day after I had turned in my keys for my last full time job. She had left a package that contained trinkets from Cracker Barrel that sent lovely messages to me about how much she loved me.
I still treasure the memories of time with my mother just as I felt the same kind of joy just being alone with my daughter, doing a little bit of nothing other than being together without having to busy ourselves with other concerns. It was therapy in a homespun kind of way, nothing to boast about, but more meaningful and memorable than a grand caravan to exotic places. Sometimes the best times are the ones that are the most ordinary. As I think on our little trip I realize how truly extraordinary it was.