August 1975: Driving south to North Carolina with my mom, my girlfriend (now my wife), and my baby brother. Destination: Davidson College and the start of football camp. There's a lump in my throat as, for the first time, I'm leaving my hometown of Magnolia and starting a new adventure, lured by the opportunity to play college football and continue my education. Two years later, my middle brother will join me at Davidson.
Fast-forward 40 years, and we were making the same August trip again, something I had thought about for years. I wanted to take my mom, now 82, back to Davidson to retrace our steps.
As we left Jersey and drove south, we passed through many of my favorite stomping grounds, which my wife and I still visit today. We passed our hiking places on the Appalachian Trail, like Harper's Ferry, Snickers Gap, and the Grayson Highlands. We also had taken our four children to several spots; family vacations to the Shenandoah Valley, Skyline Drive, and the Blue Ridge Parkway always brought back fond memories.
As we drove, I let my wife and mom carry the conversation. They reminisced about the many travels to home and away games. I still have a hard time comprehending that "home games" were more than 550 miles away. The trips they shared.
My mom had been excited about going when I told her my plans. As we got close to Davidson, the anticipation increased, and after about nine hours, the shore of Lake Norman and the campus were within reach, as welcoming as ever. Over the next several days, we visited some of her favorite places: a walk down Main Street, lunch at the M&M Soda Shoppe, a drive through Mooresville to see whether What-A-Burger was still there (it was), and a quiet afternoon at the Lake Campus.
We found plenty of time to roam the Davidson campus. Mom was in her glory. She revisited the guest house, several class buildings, the new field house, and, of course, the stadium. She and my wife found their seats from long ago and sat there for a bit, soaking in the warmth of a Carolina summer sun. Mom also got a chance to meet with the football and basketball coaches. In typical mom fashion, she gave her words of wisdom and imparted some advice about their coming seasons.
Last stop: the basketball court. Mom got the ball, dribbled a bit, and made a shot. She exclaimed, "I just made a shot at the same basket Steph Curry did!"
The drive home lent a whole new perspective to the trip. I realized the last time I was in a car with my mom and wife going to Davidson was in August 1975. My trips to games were either on a plane or a bus. The stories they told and the laughter exchanged had occurred in my absence. While I was thoroughly entertained and joined in the frivolity, I was a newcomer to the events of yesteryear.
As I sat down for Thanksgiving dinner, I surveyed the room, and the Davidson trip popped into my mind. At the table, Mom was surrounded by friends and family. She has five children, 14 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, and more on the way. This proud Collingswood High School graduate, Class of 1951, has been a rock of strength and support for everyone in our family. My next thought was, "When am I taking Mom back to Davidson?"
Michael Sheridan writes from Magnolia, Camden County.
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