“Pardon Me, Boys, Is This the Chattanooga Choo Choo?”

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Ray and I headed out on Thursday for our last convention of the 2014 convention season. Notgrass Company has been coming to this curriculum fair for fifteen years. I think that I have been there myself fourteen of them. We love the CSTHEA (that’s Chattanooga-Southeast Tennessee Home Education Association) Curriculum Fair. Other homeschool companies love it, too. For all of us, the convention season is either finishing up this weekend or definitely slowing down. It’s a nice time to say, “See you next year,” before we all go home for the fall and winter.

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Little, Clara, and her mama sit on the floor in the back of our booth
at the Chattanooga curriculum fair three years ago. Tiny Clara is wearing her yellow kimono that Mary Evelyn made to surprise Notty and Little at Clara’s first convention. If you look closely, you can see the blue Notgrass Company logo that Mary Evelyn embroidered on the front.

Ray and I already enjoyed coming to Chattanooga long before we became curriculum writers. I started coming when I was a girl. Barns with roofs telling us to “See Rock City” were scattered over the countryside. Like people from many states, we obeyed and saw Rock City.

Forty years ago this summer my parents took my brother and me on one last vacation as a family before Ray and I got married the following December. Ray and I had already chosen the Chattanooga Choo Choo for our honeymoon destination. Though I had been to Chattanooga, I had not been to the newly-restored train station that had been dubbed the Chattanooga Choo Choo. Back then our friends took honeymoon trips to places that were close enough to home that we kept our destination a secret lest any of our friends decided to show up for mischief.

You can imagine my surprise when Mother and Daddy pulled up at the Choo Choo for us to spend one of the nights of our vacation. This was a very special thing for them to do. My family had camped in our Volkswagen bus and in a tent many times and also stayed in some not-so-fancy motels. This was the only time I remember Mother and Daddy choosing a very nice hotel. I kept mine and Ray’s secret and had fun with my family.

For many years we made trips to Chattanooga to spend time with Ray’s brother and his family, first from Mississippi, then from Illinois, and finally from Middle Tennessee. Ray and I also returned to Chattanooga sometimes to celebrate our anniversary.

We are Anglophiles since Ray’s mother was English. One of our favorite Chattanooga treats is go to the English Rose Tea Room. In recent years we have also discovered Chattanooga’s beautiful carousel with hand-carved animals and the play fountain in Coolidge Park.

Because of our quest to get our children to all of the lower 48 states, we didn’t make annual trips to the same mountain cabin or the same beach as many families do, though I think that is a wonderful way to make family memories, too. Now that I think of it though, perhaps Chattanooga is a bit like that for us. It’s a place that we enjoy going to again and again. Back when we did our “Walk Through Tennessee History in Story and Song” programs, one my favorite songs we performed was “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” I’m grateful for these family memories.

I was talking to a friend on Wednesday. This year she has a senior son, a little girl who has just passed from the toddler stage to the little girl stage, and two daughters in between. We talked about the very different stages of homeschooling motherhood she is experiencing. The thought made me nostalgic. I would love to be starting to homeschool all over again with a kindergartener.

As you make plans for the fall, I encourage you to make many plans for being together–Mom and the kids; Mom, Dad, and the kids; Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, aunts, uncles, and cousins. While many people worry about homeschooled children not having enough time with friends, I watch homeschooling trends and worry about homeschooled children not having enough time with their families!

Cherish every moment “when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 11:19) and when you go to the park or the amusement park or Grandma and Grandpa’s house or the museum or the lake or the beach or Washington, D.C. or Gettysburg or Florida or Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon.

On the night before Jesus died for us, He was with His apostles in the upper room. In John 17, He talked to them about His return home to be with His Father. During the evening, he prayed:

Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am. 
John 17:24

Jesus wanted to be with His Father and He wanted His followers to be with Him. Cherish your opportunity this year to be with those you love.


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