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Driving Mama Tis

Updated: Apr 8

Hanging in Asheville with Mama Tis (photo by author’s waitress)

In Week 25 I returned to SC to spend some quality time with Mama Tis.

Since moving to Portugal, I am staying longer when I return to the US to make the most of the expensive airfare. That allows me more time to catch up with friends and family. Most importantly, it gives me more time to spend Driving Mama Tis.

Checking into Hotel Hell

Mama Tis and I love a good road trip so I try to plan one every time I go home. Also, she is so stinking cute I feel she deserves one.

This time, I took her to Harrah’s Casino in Cherokee, one of her favorite spots. She likes to gamble my inheritance away on the penny slots and I head to the cafe to work or the bar to watch sports.

When we arrived, the nonsmoking room we were assigned smelled like a couple of teenagers had snuck some quick smokes while their parents were out of the room. I tried to explain that this would not work to two young girls working on the floor who had seemingly been empowered with a tiny bit of authority. These “Floor Captains” were taking that power out for a spin, pointing authoritatively at the vent just outside the room while explaining to me how vents work. Given that the floor above is a smoking floor, which seemed like something I was supposed to know, I could only expect somewhat of a cigarette smell. I would just have to live with it.

I’m sorry, what did you say?

After telling Mama Tis to sit tight until I returned with the key to our new room, I looked at Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dumber and said that in my years on this earth, which were quite a few more than theirs, there were not a whole lot of things I’d had to live with. This was not going to be one of those things.

Goofing Around (photo by author)

Hotel Hell Policy

As the food at the casino is extremely overpriced and not very good, we usually eat out during the day, bring our leftovers back and stash them in the mini-fridge. For dinner, we supplement the leftovers with some fruit and yogurts we buy at the nearby grocery store. Given that orange peels and dinner scraps don’t age well in a trash can, we like to have the trash removed. Since the pandemic, Harrah’s management is proudly, and unashamedly refusing to send maids into your rooms. Translation: Your stinky trash can pile up and they won’t come as a matter of “hotel policy”.

When I discussed this undesirable policy with management, they generously told me to tie up our trash and put it in the hall and someone would take it away. The next morning, as instructed, we tied up our trash and sat it in the hallway. The maids must have thought it was a bag full of the next pandemic virus as it was still there waiting for us when we returned.

Checking into Hotel Heaven

After that disaster, Mama Tis deserved a nice hotel experience. We headed down the road to Asheville, where we spent two nights in the Haywood Park Hotel. I pulled up in front of the hotel to drop off Mama Tis and our bags while I found a place to park the car.

Suddenly, a young whippersnapper with none of the arrogance of Little Miss Floor Manager, popped up as if out of thin air to help with our bags and park our car. Before I could do much to help, he unloaded all of our things onto a rolling cart and pushed it up to the front desk. After a quick check-in, we were soon in our room. As we checked out our palace, a large suite bigger than my NYC apartment, Mama Tis sighed satisfactorily and said “This is the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in.”

While Mama Tis was getting settled, I headed downstairs and explained to the front desk staff that we’d just had a horrible experience at Harrah’s. I explained I had brought her here as I wanted her to have a nice hotel experience. I’d stayed at the hotel before and always loved my time there.

The staff jumped in to help make our stay memorable. When Mama Tis walked through the lobby, they greeted her, calling her “Mom” and asking how her day was going. One morning it rained and I had mentioned that she usually stays inside as it can be harder to breathe in the damp air. No problem. Here are some credits you can use at the hotel restaurant, on us.

Eating at the Woolworth’s Lunch Counter (photo by author’s new friend)

A Stroll Down Memory Lane

That afternoon, the sun came out and it was time for the big reveal. I chose the Haywood Park Hotel because it is across the street from an old Woolworth’s store turned art gallery that still has a functioning lunch counter. Mama Tis had mentioned she used to go to the Woolworth’s counter in Raleigh during her college years and was often accompanied by her boyfriend prior to dear old Dad. I thought it might be a nice memory to relive. We walked outside around lunchtime and I told her we would be dining at the Woolworth’s lunch counter. She loved the idea.

During that lunch she was taken back to a time in her life she doesn’t think about much anymore. It brought back memories that she might not have shared with me otherwise. I will always treasure that lunch as one of the best times I’ve shared with her.

After lunch, we wandered through the art gallery, admiring the works on display. Many highlighted the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, an area the Tisdale Family frequently spent vacations. My sister and I would beg Papa Tis to stop and let us wade in any stream we saw. I cannot remember many times he denied our requests.

At the back of the gallery, we came across some of the most beautiful photos of the mountains, many showing those little streams in which my sister and I waded. We each picked out one for ourselves and one for my sweet “sister-cousin” who also spent family vacations there.

Enjoy Life While You Can

After this past year, I may need to sleep for a year. It’s been A LOT. But I have to say, I am not regretting making a snap decision to move to a foreign country and start a new life. It’s given me a perspective on other parts of my life and made me appreciate my loved ones more than ever before. I will always cherish the memories Mama Tis and I are making on our trips and the added days I have when visiting home to spend more time with my friends and family.

When Mama Tis told me this was the best vacation she’d ever taken, I thought, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

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