Thursday, October 30, 2008
I told some it was either brave or crazy.
For weeks we had known Emma was going to Harding University in Searcy, Ark., for Bison Daze, a weekend designed for high school students who are considering Harding.
She had traveled the route many times, as a passenger.
This time she wanted to drive herself in her Blazer.
“Through Memphis,” was my immediate response. “Across the big bridge.”
The first plan was to make a practice run with Pam or I aboard the vehicle, too.
Our hectic schedule, I guess, prevented that.
We decided to let Andy accompany her. He could stay with a friend there. Then she wouldn’t have to make the three-hour trip alone.
Then we planned for her just to follow us Thursday evening until we got them across the Mississippi River bridge on I-55.
But as a typical 17-year-old would, she kept begging to just do it – without parental guidance.
We gave in. They left about 7 p.m. after Andy’s basketball practice, and it was still raining.
It was the longest hour ever. Pam and I were nervous, to say the least.
“Call us when you get across the bridge,” we told Andy.
A little more than an hour had passed and no call. So Pam called.
“We’re already off the interstate, going toward Wynne,” Andy said.
Our heartbeat rates went back toward normal.
Then when we finally got the call that they were on the Harding campus in Searcy, we could go to bed and get a good night’s rest.
I have to tell you, letting Emma drive through Memphis for the first time was tough, really tough. But like some told me, “You’ve got to do it sooner or later.”
And when I start thinking back, I don’t recall anyone accompanying me on my first drive to Birmingham, Ala., or Tuscaloosa or Florence, some of my most challenging destinations as a young driver. I just tackled it.
But those thoughts still didn’t make it any easier when it involved my daughter.
She had actually driven to Tuscaloosa the weekend before for a high school day, taking advantage of two free tickets to the Alabama versus Ole Miss football game. She was accompanied by family friend Libby Boone.
And Libby gave us a good report on Emma’s driving in game-day traffic. So that did ease our minds a bit about the next weekend’s drive to Searcy.
Sunday, the rest of the family, along with good friend and photographer Ronnie Day, drove to Arkansas, too. Our destination was Camp Tahkodah, in Floral and about 45 minutes from Harding, where Emma and Andy were going to meet us. The summer camp, which Emma has attended for eight years, was her top choice for a location to make her senior environmental photos.
The weather was perfect and the beauty of the mountains and the leaves changing colors were spectacular.
I joke with Ronnie a lot about the large number of sports photos he takes and then I have to look through every one one of them and select the best. This time I did not care how many pictures he took.
We went from the swinging bridge across the river, to the levee, to the porch swing, to the rocks along the riverside and to various other spots on camp property.
But we saved the best for last.
Rather than walk, I drove Emma’s four-wheel drive vehicle up the mountain with all on board and then we walked a short trail to the bluff.
It was perhaps the most breathtaking place I’d ever been. It was the beauty of God’s creation at its best. The background for the photos was awesome.
It was one of those experiences that made all the world’s problems seem ridiculous.
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