Coming Back to the Promised Land

We just had a trip, not exactly from hell, but it was not a sublime experience.

Yet we made it. My sister and i talked into the wee dark of the morning, solved damn near every problem in the world, and i should follow her to bed.

But i am compelled to make some comments first.

Our transfer flight from Dallas to Nashville was delayed. We had a shuttle reserved to ride to Chattanooga to meet my sister and our arrival time made making that shuttle unlikely. The next shuttle was two hours later. Maureen contacted the shuttle company, unnamed because of my desire not to denigrate the shuttle service or get any of their employees in trouble. The dispatcher told her unequivocally no, the shuttle couldn’t wait past it’s departure time.

We landed with less than 15 minutes to the shuttle departure. i told Maureen and Sarah to wait inside the security area while i went to the shuttle area. There were no food services outside the gate area. i headed for the shuttle, found it, and spoke to the driver. He agreed to wait 15 minutes to see if our luggage arrived at the baggage area. It did, and we made the shuttle. He had waited about 15 minutes, but with the Nashville commuter traffic, the 15 minutes didn’t matter.

As we drove out of Murfreesboro where we had another stop and toward Tullahoma, Maureen thanked me for talking the driver into waiting. i said it wasn’t difficult. i know Tennessee people and although the dispatcher was obligated to follow the rules and hold to the schedule, the driver, face-to-face would be a nice person and make every attempt to help out his passengers.

After we went over Monteagle mountain and were running along I-24 with the mountain soaring up on my side of the van, i looked through the fogged window. There on the side of the mountain was a clapboarded house. It appeared to have no more than two or three rooms. Smoke was rising from the chimney. There in the small, front window was a Christmas tree, lit with multi-colored light.

i tried to imagine the family there, maybe a couple with two or three children, trying to eke out a living, maybe the man going into town working at a labor job while working his plots in the side of the mountain. i thought of them clothed in flannel on Christmas eve, hanging the stockings over the fireplace, the children with wide eyes looking anxiously out the window.

Perhaps there was a wreath on the door; minimal decorations compared to the big houses in town: meager but enough. Presents also limited but again enough. i thought of the children waking on Christmas day and rushing into the room with the fireplace and the tree, finding the gifts Santa left by the hearth along with a note thanking them for the milk and cookies put out the night before on a small table nearby.

It is a wonderful season, and there is no place that captures the spirit like the shuttle driver and the family in the modest house on the side of the mountain.

After all, this is Tennessee.


Merry Christmas in all of its glorious meaning.

The hearth at the Duff’s home, Signal Mountain, Tennessee.

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