The first time I heard of “Black Friday” would have been November 23, 1990. Tass was a freshman at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, and we were there for Thanksgiving with her. Thoughts wander, especially when they are memories, and that’s a happy one in the months I was still working through what was for me the almost unbearable grief of her going away to college.
The day before, the three of us’d had Thanksgiving Dinner at a little cafe Tass thought might be open, turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and something green, maybe peas, and doting on my beautiful girl. Pumpkin pie. Memory says we were the only customers.
In August we’d left Tass there in Lynchburg, Virginia at the same college where I’d driven to see her mother (1990 - 1955 =) thirty-five years before, and counting Parents Weekend just three weeks earlier — Parents Weekend the first weekend of November got us out of the nightmare Florida Seafood Festival in 1990, 1991 and 1993, but not 1992 because Tass was at university in England that year — this was now our third of several but never enough drives up to Lynchburg her four years of college.
Our motel was one where we stayed a few times, this would have been the third time. We had a second floor room I think, our back window looking across a shopping mall parking lot. Glancing out before dawn, I, most recently from Apalachicola where the only thing that happened that early in the morning was the roosters finishing crowing all across town, was astonished to see a huge mob of humanity gathered, gathering, and growing, I had no idea why. About the moment the sun came up, the mall doors opened and people were sucked inside as though into a vacuum.
We loved going to Lynchburg during Tassy’s years at R-MWC. Had a favorite little shop close to the college, they sold interesting things and served a nice lunch. I went up to Lynchburg more than Linda, once by bus and once on the train, both stirring other memories. There was the time we both flew up: one evening Tassy’s roommate called to say Tass had fallen from a horse and was in hospital. Frantic, we were at Tallahassee airport before dawn the next morning, flying up to see about her.
Christmas vacation one year, it was that same freshman year, Linda drove me to the bus station in Tallahassee. I took a bus to Atlanta, AmTrak from Atlanta to be roused from my sleep and kicked off the train onto the Lynchburg loading platform, my suitcase spilling out and me half dressed in the freezing dawn, another story I remembered here before. That December, we drove home to Apalachicola in Tass’s car, a low-mileage used Mercedes 300SD I’d bought her when she was a senior at Apalachicola High School. That December, her roommate rode with us to her home, a small town in Georgia. Memories keep popping up, don’t they. For lunch driving down, we stopped somewhere in the Carolinas at a McDonalds. We waited in line to place our order and, seeing me kiss Tass on the cheek yet one more time again, her roommate exclaimed, “Oh, I can’t wait to see my daddy!!” He must have loved her almost as much as I love my girl.