|Jessie Banks and her dad on the steps leading to the Dunker Church at Antietam.|
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At 9:06 Sunday night, I finally pulled my grimy car into our driveway in the frozen state of Connecticut. A five-day, nine-state journey was over. A weary body rejoiced. Daughter Jessie was successfully delivered to her new home in Nashville, Tenn., where she will begin her first professional job.
My final tally:
Hotel stays: 4.
Towns visited: Many.
Side trips to Civil War sites: 5.
Arguments with daughter: 0. (Stunning!)
Speeding tickets: 0. (Amazing!)
Road miles traveled: 2,200.
But this trip was so much more than miles traveled or number of places visited. I’ll remember it as The Journey of 2,000 Smiles.
|Dad, Elvis and Jessie on Broadway in Nashville.|
As we traveled down I-81 in Virginia, we marveled at the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and in a diner in Harrisonburg, we discussed life. “I feel like I’m finally growing up,” she said. She cried over a text from her mom.
En route from Knoxville to Chattanooga, Jessie dickered on the phone with a rep from an Internet service provider. As she grew frustrated, I restrained my urge to help. She did just fine. “Jessica,” the woman on the other end of the line said, “you’re going to do great.” She smiled and celebrated when the transaction was completed. I did, too. But letting go sure is hard.
Before a meal in a restaurant in Somewhere, USA, we held hands as we prayed for a friend of her friend. God, that was great.
After she picked up her car in Tuscaloosa, where she recently graduated from the U of Alabama, Jessie headed to the city of her dreams. Sheesh, she looked small behind that wheel. When we finally reached Nashville, we reveled in her great, new home. Trying to ignore the cold, we took a selfie with Elvis. And on Broadway that night, we enjoyed drinks and pizza, laughing much of the time.
When we parted the next morning, I cried a river.
|A breathtaking view from Lookout Mountain.|
On a frigid afternoon at Lookout Mountain, a chemistry student from China explained how to use an app to pay for my parking. Imagine that. And later, a biker wearing a sleeveless T-shirt -- imagine that -- and I admired the fabulous view.
On a deep-blue sky afternoon at New Market, Va., a docent kindly waived the battlefield entry fee. Too cold outside, she said with a smile. Later, at Fisher's Hill in Virginia, I climbed the hills, deftly avoiding clumps of cow patties, to see what the soldiers saw there on Sept. 22, 1864. The cows eyed me, warily.
On the long, last leg home, I had plenty of time to think -- about family, about life, about what's most important. Enjoy the journey, I concluded.
Enjoy the journey.