Reflections on a ‘girls weekend’

Published 6:42 pm Friday, July 29, 2011

MOTHER AND DAUGHTERS, Carolyn Iamon, Gail Gnatek and Barbara Koch, enjoying Callaway Gardens together.

FDR’S LITTLE WHITE HOUSE at Warm Springs was a special place to visit.

My family is very scattered and I have spent most of my life far away from other family members. Therefore, the infrequent visits with relatives, especially my children and grandchildren, is something I cherish.

Unfortunately, it seems our entire family only fully assembles now for weddings or funerals. That is why it is such a joy when we have the opportunity to get together with at least a portion of the group—just for the fun of it.

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Six years ago my two daughters and I began what we hoped would become a tradition of spending a girls’ weekend together once a year.

The first year we explored Charleston for a long weekend while celebrating the elder daughter’s birthday. It was great fun! The next year my South Carolina daughter and I drove to Massachusetts to visit at her home on her birthday, making stops along the way to see her brothers’ families.

Then came a five-year hiatus, where one or the other daughter would visit, but we weren’t all together.

This year the three of us met at Callaway Gardens and spent three days exploring and enjoying all the activities it has to offer.

Actually, we were acting as a scouting party to see if it would be a good place for the entire family to get together for a week at some future time.

At the risk of sounding like a Chamber of Commerce brochure, let me say the variety of activities offered for all ages and the lodging options make it ideal for family vacations.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visits to the butterfly garden and the discovery center where we saw the birds of prey show at least two times. The raptors were fascinatingly beautiful and watching them fly from the stage over the heads of the audience to another handler at the top of the auditorium was breathtaking. Being able to view them close-up even more so. So was the FSU circus, which has been a main attraction for many years. These students from FSU do amazing high wire acts with such skill that it is hard to comprehend they are students who master this art as an extra-curricular activity.

A new feature at the gardens this year was the tree-top adventure. Both daughters took on the daunting task of climbing the ropes and navigating the swinging rope bridges in the trees. They returned quite proud of themselves for having conquered their fears and accomplishing the daunting feat.

There are boats and bicycles to rent for the day and swimming pools at all the lodging sites. There is a golf course and many, many walking trails throughout the beautifully landscaped acreage.

We enjoyed the vegetable and flower gardens greatly, produce from which sells at farmers’ market on Friday evenings.

A quiet hour was enjoyed in the stone chapel set in the woods. It was a welcome air-conditioned retreat from the crowds and extreme heat while we listened to an organ concert of patriotic and religious songs and meditated on the beauty of the stained glass windows. How fortunate and blessed we felt to be there together!

The gift shops were all different in the products they had to offer, depending on their locations. We found the products sold to be diversely original and of good quality, although somewhat high priced.

The restaurants of the area offer good food at reasonable prices, and again there is variety in selections.

A side trip on the way home was made to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Little White House in nearby Warm Springs.

This was a real treat for me. I have firm, fond memories of FDR’s days as president. I remember well the day I came home from grade school and heard the news he had died. It seemed like the end of the world to me. He was such a staunch supporter of the people and a strong leader in the face of multiple national problems. He had led the country out of a deep depression and rallied the nation to face up to the terrible enemies of World War II, fighting on two fronts (the European and Pacific) simultaneously.

The Little White House is full of the history and people of those times, including a most touching video production of life in the 1930s and ’40s, especially in the rural areas of the country.

The farm people depicted in north Georgia during those days could easily have been the faces of my own grandparents who lived in northwest Missouri during those years. They worked just as hard under difficult circumstances—no electricity or modern conveniences—with very little to show for their efforts. Once again, we felt blessed just to be where we are today.

We returned to Bainbridge where we continued to enjoy the company of each other, touring Pebble Hill Plantation in Thomasville, scouting out the shops in Havana, finding an old time soda shop in Tallahassee, hitting the sales at Belks in Bainbridge, having lunch locally with the Wednesday Lunch Bunch, and just enjoying being together, recalling old memories and creating new ones. We made beaded bracelets together to act as mementos of our time spent together.

It was hard to see it all end after a week. The let-down is much like the one following Christmas. In a way you are tired and happy to return to the comfort of routine, but sad to let go of the magic. Most of all, you miss the intimate contact and fellowship of the family members. There is something about spending time with “the chosen few” that cannot be duplicated in larger family gatherings.

A brief post-script is in order. For those who remember the columns about the traveling snake, there is a new episode.

It was my intention that the rubber snake go back to Massachusetts in my daughter’s luggage. I carefully sneaked in and placed it there late the night before she left, curling it up under the clothing at the bottom of the bag.

Imagine my surprise the next day, following her departure, when I reached for my checkbook in a pocket of my purse, only to be “snakebit.” She got me again.

I am giving fair warning that she should exercise all caution in the future when opening any packages from Southwest Georgia.