Traditionally my family gathers at my house on the weekend before Labor Day to have a picnic. In 1991 we had a line of three Port-a-Cribs sitting rail to rail on the patio! In them were Nathaniel DeJarnatt Partee (son of Al) age 12 months; Robert Padgett Partee II (son of Robert) age 6 months; and last and pretty much least was Jo Ellen Thompson (daughter of Peggy Jo) age 4 months.
This spring all three of these “babies” graduated from high school, ready to begin a new phase of their almost adult lives. Nate graduated from Brentwood High School and will be headed for Ohio to attend The College of Wooster. He plans to enter some phase of the ministry. Robert, a Lewis County High School graduate, has been admitted to the pre-med program at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Jo, formerly known as Jo Ellen, and an alumna of Wilson Central High School, will begin her education in engineering at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville.
I trekked around from county to county to attend the graduation events that thankfully were scheduled for three different days. It reminded me of the times over the past 18 years or so that I had made the same trek to bring them to my house to visit. Usually Nate and Robert came at the same time.
Two places we always visited were the Nashville Children’s Theater and the Adventure Science Center. I think live theater is wonderful. I wanted them all to experience it and the Nashville group is one of the best in the nation. The Science Center is a place to run and play and discover. Sometimes we took a picnic lunch and ate in the lunchroom that looks out over the skyline of Nashville.
As they got older they loved to bring their skateboards – I have a really long paved driveway that sort of slopes downward and you can build up speed. Nate and Robert were seeing who could go the fastest and the farthest when Nate took a spill. Later that evening he complained a bit and wanted an ibuprophen and ice for his arm. He never mentioned it again. Some days later his mother called to inform me they had just discovered that Nate’s wrist was broken!!! Oh my!
Jo, being the only girl of this trio, would sometimes come and play for a while but generally spent a weekend by herself or with her older sister Rachel. When the three of them were around 6, I invited them over one afternoon. For some reason, small children loved to play in the dirt and the rocks out here. I have pictures of them all hunkered down earnestly putting dirt in containers and collecting rocks.
When they were young my paved driveway served as the site of Big Wheel races. I had a fleet of 10 at one time – seven regular sized ones and three smaller ones. Untold numbers of races were run with them. Another favorite thing to do was to draw pictures on the driveway with sidewalk chalk. They invented a game where they rode a Big Wheel and dragged a piece of chalk behind them to see who could make the longest line. That sure ate up the chalk.
Once I laid them down on the driveway with their arms and legs spread out and drew around them with the chalk. Chalk angels, I guess. I took them all, one at a time, to The Hermitage to participate in the summer education programs that included archaeology, hoping, of course, that they might learn a bit of history along the way.
Santa brought a large Pirate Ship to my front yard for them one Christmas. It had a big red bow on it and a tag that named all 12 grandchildren. That was good for climbing, swinging, sliding, jumping – and dangling. Luckily no one broke any limbs on that but it surely wasn’t for the lack of trying.
Well those are the days gone by. As they grew older, other pursuits kept them busy – schools and jobs and ball games and other entertainments played with your thumbs took over from the races and the dirt and the rocks and the sidewalk chalk. Now Nate and Rob and Jo are embarking on an adventure on their own. I wish them much happiness.
Margaret Partee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.