It hadn’t been seventeen years since I ventured to an unknown city, but emerging from tight pandemic protocols felt significant in the way that the emergence on the East Coast in recent days of billions of periodic Cicadas must seem otherworldly.
The crowd of travelers overwhelmed me; the puddle-jumper jet flight felt like an amusement park ride; my first time at the small Southern airport closest to my destination smacked of adventure.
I was thrilled to be seeing our oldest son Jesse after so many months. It was the longest I have been separated from any of my grown kids, and to say that I felt whole once I climbed into his car would not be an overstatement.
Trips usually don’t floor me the way this one did, though my emotions also overtook me when I reunited in March with our youngest son, Tyler, too. Both of my sons traveled alone to pick me up since, they explained, I was sure to cry.
Of course they were right.
Jesse registered me at The Kimpton Cardinal Hotel in the iconic RJ Reynold’s building, the inspiration for The Empire State Building. Among many interesting facts about this setting, I found it most charming that every year, The Empire State Building sends a Father’s Day card to The Cardinal Hotel.
References to the second largest US tobacco company were plentiful throughout the property. Gold tobacco leaves adorned the lobby ceiling. The throw pillow in my room featured a tobacco beetle motif. But it was only when gazing out my window at the looming RJ Reynolds logo smoke stack that I connected two popular cigarette brands with the town I was in: Winston-Salem.
We ate fried oysters, fried green tomatoes and she-crab soup. We visited historic Old Salem, and wandered the campus of Wake Forest University. We bought an art block out of a repurposed cigarette machine.
Four days of just being together.
It was grand. (c)