Back On The Island

Crawford Street/Thanksgiving Morning

I left via the Cottonwood Road and continued to Malone, then took State Road 2 east to the Georgia line, turning south on River Road, so named for it follows the west bank of the Chattahoochee. After passing through Sneads, I got onto I-10 just before it crossed the Apalachicola River. The first part of the drive was paced, meandering, I stopped to make a photo; I slowed to look at past century main street buildings now deserted.

But then I got to I-10.

It was as if I were a little twig floating down a small twisting creek, meandering through small, slow pools, but always moving forward, down stream to the river. The river was I-10. Its current was swift, the space between its banks broad, and the debris that floated on its surface of various sizes, shapes and colors. Into its main stream I swirled and for the next three hours flowed at the steady speed of 81 miles per hour. For the final leg of the trip I returned to a meandering creek. I threw myself into another smaller stream by traveling down US-17 through Green Cove Springs, over the Mighty St. Johns River and then on to St. Augustine.

The quick trip takes a little less than five hours; today mine took six and a half and I am better for it.

The near 72 hours in Dothan were not near enough, and yet were full; no minute was wasted. Aside from the time spent with the traditional Thanksgiving rituals of cooking and feasting, there was continual giving of thanks.

The Kelley-Williamson Family is rich in its heritage and strong of character, and I never grow tired of hearing its stories. Some are near legendary bordering on myth because of the amazing characters, others are like parables for their casts are mortal men and women learning great lessons. Each story through, no matter the moral or the outcome, is more interesting to me than any literature because each is filled with my family. Those stories are filled with those who are me.

Some stories I know well and hear many times and enjoy the retelling; others are told to me for the first time; still others delve into the who behind each and every what, giving me insight into another time, another culture, and yet are familiar because the characters have my name; they are my tribe.

When I hear the stories of the late 19th century and early 20th century agriculture culture of Southeast Alabama, of the development of Dothan as a commercial center, of the slow pace of the life, of the hard times of every household, of the tragedies overcome by the victories in spirit, and when I hear the names of these pioneers, the Kelleys, Mullins, Williamsons, and Burdeshaws, it seems as if that world is my own Old Country from which my parents emigrated, not by steam ship over an ocean, but by love of each other and shared hard work over time.

It is where I came from and I am proud of it all and want to know it all.

Perhaps I feel if I know all that was before me I will better know me, but mostly I think I embrace it because it is my story. It is not written down; it is not public. It is oral, and depends on the retelling by one generation to the next.

When I got back on the island, I spent the first few hours sitting on my porch, enjoying the cool air of the November Florida dusk, allowing the words and images of the recent days to wash over me. There were no particular thoughts; no time spent recounting specific moments or conversations. There was simply a need to stave off the reentry for a few more minutes, and to relish the time spent touching my parents, touching my past, reacquainting myself with myself, of giving thanks.

Bear Branches in the Backwater of Lake Seminole


Hard to believe it's as warm in Florida as here

I really have no idea what I am doing, but I am game to try to figure it out and am happy to have a venue where we all can contribute and catch up in our own time. Boy, that was a long runon sentence. . . Grammer and Math were never my best subjects. So if this works the way I think it does, you may all see this entry when you sign up.

Happy Thanksgiving. Will I be the only Williamson working that day?

Over the River and Through the Woods

It was 44 degrees this morning on Anastasia Island, the coldest yet of the season. Tonight is to be a little colder, maybe in the high 30's with possibility of wind and rain. It all makes for the continuation of autumn and the coming of winter, still a month away.

Hannah and I will leave tomorrow about an hour ahead of the 6:56am sunrise. We'll stop in Tallahassee to pick up Max and then arrive in Dothan midday. I am considering departing the interstate in Tallahassee and driving US-90 to Marianna, then back on the usual route. Max and Hannah have never been through Mt. Pleasant, Chattahoochee, Sneads, or Grand Ridge. It will be a part of Florida they can add to their experience and to their life experiences they will be able to say "Yeah, I spent some time in Chattahoochee."

With the commencement of the bookend holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, there is the start of reminisces of holiday's past. Only natural. Unavoidable.

I don't ever remember traveling back to Dothan for the holiday, or traveling at all really, except when I left home and would return, as
I am doing tomorrow.

One Thanksgiving in part
icular comes to mind as regards the whole family: 1973, when Ronald brought Travis to Madison to meet the family for the first time.

Another one comes to mind for my branch of the tree: 1996 with a trip to Long Island, spending a couple of days in NYC and witnessing the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, and then trekking to western New Jersey to visit Lauren's dad. Photo on the left is the mad-dash from the parade to Penn Station to return to Long Island. The photo on the right is from the day after Thanksgiving at Sargentsville Bridge over the Wickecheoke Creek, the only 19th century wooden covered bridge in the state.

The temperature has dropped to 47 degrees after a high today of 50 degrees. The wind is picking up out of the northeast and a roaring fire of coastal oak burns hot in the fireplace as darkness moves over the island. It will be a cozy night before traveling tomorrow, over the river and through the woods.


The mad-dash from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to Penn Station for the return to Long Island, 1996 .


The day after Thanksgiving, 1996, at Sargentsville Bridge over the Wickecheoke Creek, the only 19th century wooden covered bridge in the state.


backyard hammock

The cat that walked through the backyard looked almost like a Florida panther. Even though he was grey with black calico patterns and not sandy brown, he was lean, very alert but continually distracted in an investigative way, and although big for a yard cat, he was very small for a panther.

He stopped under the porch window and only then heard the tapping of the laptop's keys. He first just looked at me passively, but then began to stare with preciseness, considering his reaction to his discovery. Suddenly he scampered, first in a slow trot but then into a full run, retreating under the saw palmetto and through the hole in the fence he'd used to enter the once again quiet backyard hammock.