“Did you make good time?”

I remember this question every time we arrived at Granny’s house on E. Montclair or at Uncle Allen’s farm on Augusta Road or coming up the steps at Ninovan to see Mama Lil and Pop outside of Ware Shoals. The trek from Orangeburg always took around two and a half hours up Interstate 26 in South Carolina.

We made those trips for Christmas, Thanksgiving or whatever reason we needed to go. Nothing about the car rides were joyous but I learned to tolerate them as long as Granny had the bucket filled with almond Hershey bars or Aunt Nancee was offering spaghetti because it was Saturday or there were curious bottles to espy in Mama Lil’s cellar and merchandise to explore in Pop’s general store. I did learn “good time” meant the trip from Orangeburg to Greenville was much shorter than the one from Greenville to Orangeburg as it seemed to me we made that upcountry trip more times than those Greenville folk made it to the sandhills.

I’m sure there were a few “Are we there yets?” over the years but isn’t that when one learns it’s better not to test another’s patience, especially a Mother expected to be disciplined enough as a child to milk goats? This always gave her the upper hand because she knew we had it easy by comparison.

Well, silence and boredom drive necessity and I learned to mark the trip by the signs and landmarks along the way. Mile-markers can give a youngster a bit of hope and it’s better than looking at a watch or picking at your sister who was just as joyless on the ride. I knew when I saw the sign for Gray Court we were on the last leg and when we reached Simpsonville we were practically there. Wade Hampton Blvd. meant we were almost in the living room. A turn up the driveway, a couple of steps, a squeeze from Granny with a slap on the back and straight to the Hershey bars I went. Forget politeness.

Emerging from the stale air of those car rides, a realization formed in me one day I would be free to say no to those trips, a destination on my horizon promising as much or more than those Hershey bars. But the repeated trips did hone a sense of timing in me to know when the journey was about to end. To this day I believe it a sin to be late for anything.

The shepherds and wise men must have traded a few “Are we there yets” on their way to see the babe in the manger. Excited anticipation will do that to you and they were going for a reason more substantial than Hershey bars.

Now, aren’t we all going to Bethlehem?

Are we there yet?

Did you make good time?

“Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem…” (Luke 2:4, NKJV).

Deck Cheatham has been a golf professional for more than 40 years. He lives with his family in Dalton. Contact him at pgadeacon@gmail.com.

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