On Monday morning, my husband and I picked up a rental car and made the long trek to Memphis. We've done a fair amount of traveling globally, but have seen very little of the U.S. together, so when we get a chance to detour into other states, we do. First up was crossing the Mississippi River to Arkansas. There wasn't much to see, other than this greyhound racing facility. No dogs in sight, however.
On our way to our hotel, we stopped by IKEA, because I had never been in one. What an odd place. They have all these strange vignettes set up to show their items being lived with. Somehow it all just made me twitchy. That night we met up with my older son and his girlfriend, and all 7 parents (4 parents, 3 stepparents). This is the first time I've eaten inside a restaurant since the pandemic began. The wouldn't let us push our tables together, so we got two close to each other and my son and his girlfriend kept switching back and forth. I really enjoyed getting to know her parents, who are all very friendly and funny.
The next morning we drove down to Olive Branch, Mississippi to add another state. This one had a lovely park, so it was more worth the trip.
We walked on the trail for a little while before heading back to town.
Mask up y'all! Memphis is doing a MUCH better job of insisting everyone continue to mask than our hometown is.
We walked around Beale Street for a little while, although it was too early for music.
However, you could buy pretty much anything with a music theme. If, say, for some insane reason you felt like you needed a guitar toilet seat they had you covered. Still, none of all that was why we were there.
We were there for this - the graduation ceremony for the 2021 class of new optometrists.
The graduates were in chairs at a distance and all wore matching masks, and families were spread out through the big arena. But that did not stop me from crying. Several times.
I fully admit, it was a thrill to hear my son announced as a doctor.
And I cried again when his girlfriend was.
Afterwards, there was the usual round of picture taking, including this one with my son and his best buddies. I know they will miss each other.
I was able to grab my son for a quick photo before he went off for a celebratory drink with his friends.
My husband and I walked back down Beale Street to a bar behind a preserved facade from an old railway station.
This place is famous for its goats. Apparently people used to feed them beer until PETA stepped in and made sure they were being treated better. Now they live in a little fenced in area, protected from drunken idiots.
We sat in the outdoor area and had a pint while we waited for that evening's party.
On the way back to the car, I ran across the street while my law-abiding husband waited for the light to change. We headed over to a house rented by the parents of one of my son's girlfriend's roommates. Between parents, a couple of siblings, and the four graduates there were 20 people in attendance. All, thankfully, fully vaccinated. It was a little surreal to be socializing inside and without masks.
I'm grateful the vaccines were available in time for this to happen. Finally, hugs all around and we headed home. I'm so proud of my son and his girlfriend - it's been a long four years and a lot of hard work. But they did it, and now they can turn their attention to the next phase of their lives.