1. I learned that getting there is not half the fun. It’s no fun at all. Because Memphis International is no longer a Delta hub you can’t get a direct flight anywhere! So I was crammed (6.2, 225 pounds) into an express jet that looked, from the big terminal window at least, something like the toy airplanes my kids used to find under our Christmas tree. The seats weren’t big enough to comfortably caress Justin Bieber’s skinny butt, so the hour-and-a-half flight to Charlotte featured all the charm and claustrophobic panic of being dropped off a skyscraper roof enclosed in a MRI machine.
2. Getting to your connecting gate on time is a physical threat to seniors and little children. I’m hauling butt to get to my next gate, even jumping on those walking escalators, while youngsters dart at my feet or stop short just in time to nearly send me hurtling head over ankles over stuffed bags. A silently mouthed curse word escapes into the Holiday ethos. My other primary obstacle is elderly people who hold to a steady, if mind-numbingly slow, pace that again elicits a favorite unspoken cuss word preceding the certain thought, “I’m going to miss my xo#$ing flight.”
3. I learned that driving to the Jersey Shore from Newark International — even when your 81-year-old still very competent Dad who used to land airplanes on aircraft carriers for a living is at the wheel — is a heart-stopping experience. Let me just say the New Jersey Turnpike should require Formula I training to access.
4. I realized that my elderly parents, though slowed physically, are mentally sharp and more loving and patient than ever with their large, four-generation family of sometimes-daffy descendants. I may have to figure out how to bring them to Oxford.
5. After spending only a few days back in Jersey, I know with all my heart that Oxford is where I want to live for the rest of my life. As I walked my parents’ Schnauzer, and braced against the cutting gale blowing hard off the ocean, I thought of how comfortable I’ve become in Oxford. I thought of the beautiful Square lit up for Christmas, my favorite restaurants where people greet you with a warm smile and a top-shelf glass of Bourbon. I thought of the gracious homes along Lamar, the stately structures that grace the Ole Miss campus. I knew for me, there’s a difference between the place I was brought up and the wonderful place I’ve chosen to live on the downhill leg of my life’s journey.
To break it down in simplest terms — for me it’s the difference between rushing and enjoying, grace and gruffness, living and surviving. It’s encapsulated in two words run together with a big smile. Hotty Toddy everybody. On New Year’s Eve, I’ll be right here in Oxford where I belong. Here’s to a wonderful 2014!
Story and photos by Andy Knef, editor of HottyToddy.com. Andy can be reached at Andy.Knef@HottyToddy.com