“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

Parenting Grandparents: The Runaway Grandma

Last weekend I ran away from home.

As I was running away in the car – a really good place to let your mind wander – I remembered how my brother as an elementary school kid ran away a lot. One of my junior high friends ran away to my house regularly. She lived around the corner, maybe a total of six houses away. I guess the streets were much safer in those days, but safe or no, I wasn’t the runaway type. I’d much rather walk or be driven to a friend’s house to spend the night.

Our granddaughter Joanna Leigh runs away. If I fuss at her in a serious way or tell her absolutely “NO” about something, she says, “I’m leaving.”

She prisses away, gets on her pink trike, and goes maybe a fourth of the way up the driveway. She comes back and says, “I went to the store. I’m going back to the store.”

I say, “Well, drive safely and come back soon.”

But even a grandma can run away.

A bit different from the strict definition of running away, I knew in advance where I wanted to go, so I called and made reservations: the Marriott Shoals.

_DSC3210 We had been there before and I knew it would be the medicine I needed to restore and rejuvenate. It sits peacefully on the Tennessee River in the Muscle Shoals/Florence area in northwest Alabama.

Except when the children are all having fun in the pool area, it’s quiet. Someone would wait on me and I wouldn’t have to cook or do dishes. I could read and sleep like a mummy.

Wilson Dam, Tennessee River, from the Marriott Shoals

The Tennessee River and Wilson Dam, from the 5th floor balcony of the Marriott Shoals

Sure enough, I got stuff stashed in the room and headed for the whirlpool. Right before I nearly went to sleep and drowned in the warm water, I knew this runaway would do the trick. It did.


Joanna Leigh in the hot tub on a trip to the Marriott Shoals

I am not shy about saying that raising a three-year-old, on a day-to-day basis, when it’s not a visit but for keeps, is exhausting at my age. Even though I have help from my husband and from Martha, whom I depend on a great deal, it’s shared help, not running away.

The moral of this vignette is that you’ve got to know when it’s really time to run away.


So, back to the Marriott Shoals. It’s a very kid-friendly place. In addition to the fun pool area, with slides, bridges, corners to swim around, fountains to run through, you can take the kids down the walkway toward the river to River Heritage Water Park and playground.



View to the River Heritage Water Park, from the Marriott Shoals balcony

Walkway to the River Heritage Water Park at the Marriott Shoals

The grounds are well kept, so there’s lots of running and playing. Watching the kids having so much fun, I knew I’d bring Joanna Leigh back again on my next runaway.

The Marriott Shoals also has another feature, which in my opinion is merely an aside but is critical to tons of people who visit from everywhere to take advantage of it: GOLF. Yawn, I’d rather read a book, but. . . . It’s part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.

The 11-site Trail winds its way through the state from Huntsville, to Birmingham, to Auburn, to Dothan, to Mobile, almost like following Alabama’s river systems. The RTJ hotels also showcase Alabama artists on their walls, rather than the usual generic junk hung over beds and desks in a room.


Alabama White Camellia, Nall

Artists include Nall, whose haunting and lovely pieces hung in my room, folk artists Charlie Lucas and Jimmie Lee Sudduth, sculptor Bruce Larsen, photographer Chip Cooper, and many others. (For a look at Chip Cooper's photographs of Charlie Lucas's works, see the October 29, 2009, post here.

The last night I was there I had curled up around my Quesadilla, beer, and Hummingbird cake for dessert on the hotel patio. Suddenly it seemed like the bell had rung on the golf course; it was dark, after all. Golfers descended onto the patio talking about their game, their game the next day, mother balls (?????) that were well marked, mulligans, and handicaps.

All I could think was how happy I was not to be exerting myself on some 8,000-foot golf course named the “Fighting Joe.” No way.

The next day I had to leave. I made it home in time to go to a meeting and pick up Joanna Leigh. That night she came down with fever. She complained about a sore throat. Oooops, strep, I’ll wager.

Sure enough. It’s one of those times you think you’re being picked on, that you’re being paid back for running away.

Was it worth it anyway? Oh, yehhh. When it’s time to run away, JUST DO IT.

Drive safely and maybe come back soon.


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