After a cruise down the Chicago River and several days of driving, I wasn't real interested in who the 'Bachelorette' would pick to be her forever soul mate. Done with a quiet family supper, the other boat riders had opted to watch the telly so I retired to the bedroom I'd be sharing with great-grand Maddie.
She, daughter-in-law Gail, and I had motored northward from Mississippi and Tennessee to spend a couple of days with son Bob, who works in Palatine, a nearby suburb of Chicago.
Since I wasn't quite ready to go beddy-bye, this could be a time to begin working on my next article for the Sun, I thought. During the long drive up to Chicago from Mississippi, I had done some thinking about being a Southerner, and a few of those musings were still on my mind.
Maybe being from our neck of the woods has always been a tad more than the stereotypes that we're often tagged with. We folks from "those old cotton fields back home" seem to live out a way of life mostly fashioned from hard headedness, and we kinda like having things run our way. But maybe coming from the Magnolia State is also being part of and loving a beautiful, yet an imperfect land; her flawed, but for the most part, caring people. Believing, against all odds, that one day it will finally own up to the promises of its own goodness. (Oh Promised Land by James Street from Laurel popped into my head.)
Yawning, I brushed my teeth, stepped into a nightie, pulled out my laptop Fannie Mae and plugged her in. Ready to put ink to page, I pushed the laptop's power button.
Fannie burped. She pouted. She froze.
Frettin' Fannie--she's used to hearing a few dog yelps and being bumped around some, but all those horn honks and grinding brakes on our road trip up may have scared her out of her wits.
"Bless you, old lady," I said. "You may have had a nervous breakdown. We'll find a doctor tomorrow. For now, I'm ready to hit the sack."
"I think I need a day on my own. I have a couple of things that need tending to," I said the next morning as Gail, Bob, and I sat over a cup of coffee.
"What do you have in mind?" my son asked, a suspicious look on his face.
"My laptop's on the blink--I need to get Frettin' Fannie off and running. And since we're right next door to a big city, maybe even do a little high-end shopping. You're working, and Gail's already told me she and Maddie have planned a city walking tour for their day. They asked me, but I declined. Truth to tell, I might slow the young folks down."
"We might need to think about this." Bob leaned forward, splashing a few coffee drops on the table. "My condo's a pretty good ways from downtown Chicago. If you're going off on your own, it wouldn't be a good idea for someone unfamiliar with the territory to catch a bus, a cab or ride the train." He puckered his eyebrows. "There's no telling where you might end up."
Are there unspoken thoughts behind those words? I wondered.
"I'm not exactly country come to town. I don't drive a stick shift pickup and pull a John Deere tractor behind me. Not to worry," I assured him. "I've been to the big city a few times. I know you can't trust everybody and need to watch what you're doing."
"Mom, you have to be careful. We'll Uber you." He pronounced the word Uber as if speaking a foreign language, one his mama probably wouldn’t understand.
"I've been uber-dubered once before, with some of my lady friends."
"Let's get this show on the road? Why don't you call and get her set up with Uber, Gail? And I'll take care of a few other things." Bob stood, cocked his head to one side, and gave his wife a hand wave.
"Maddie and I'll be taking the train. It runs every half hour, so I'll make sure she's picked up and on her way before we leave." Gail opened her cellphone.
"A couple of no-no's." Bob set his coffee cup in the kitchen sink.
"You can't just sling your wallet over one arm like you do back home or leave it in a shopping cart and wander the aisles looking for bargains. You're not dangling that rhinestone covered billfold in front of everybody like a grab bag. You have to think different."
Silence stretched between us; we both had our ears muled back. Bob walked to a hall closet and pulled out a denim backpack.
"We'll start with this." He unhooked my laptop, reached for my jeweled billfold and slid them into a side pocket.
Gail clicked her cellphone shut. "Uber comes in thirty minutes."
Bob's eyes crinkled with amusement as he zipped the backpack shut.
"I remember hearing an old 'welcome to Chicago' joke when I moved up here. A friend of mine who lives here told me this one."
Threading my arms through the backpack, he smiled as he went on.
"A co-worker said to a new employee: 'I've worked in Chicago for almost 10 years. I never had a problem with crime.'"
"What did you do?" the new employee asked.
"I was a tail-gunner on a bread truck," he replied.
"Wha' sa matta' with y'all?" I bit my bottom lip and gave my son a hard look. "I may be from Mississippi, but I didn't just fall off a turnip truck."
Bob tightened the backpack straps. "Enough said."