The only part of the ride from South Norfolk to Belhaven that scared me was the long bridge that stretched over the Albemarle Sound. I was five. I was sitting in the passenger seat of Aunt Gladys’ pink Studebaker. There were no seat belts. The front of my new short set was covered with icing from Krispy Kreme donuts. The short set still had its original store crinkles. Aunt Gladys had bought it for me that morning at Robert Halls. She wanted me to have something nice to wear on the trip to see Grandmamma and Granddaddy. As we rode along we sang…”I must take a trip to California and leave my poor sweetheart alone…..Let me go. Let me go. Let me go, Lover….. Lambsy dotes and dosey dots and little lambsy divies…” When we got to the canal with the lily pads, Aunt Gladys got stopped the car and we got out to sit for a while by the side of the canal.
“Can you get me a one of those?” I asked pointing to a lily pad about 10 feet from the shore.
Aunt Gladys never said no to me. She took off her Trotters and waded out and picked the water lily for me. I held it in my lap as we continued our ride to Belhaven. The short set was now wet and sugar coated.
“If you’re a guy that’s got a gal in each and every port. If you’ve broken every rule of love that life has always wrought. If you’ve caused as many heartaches as ripples in a stream. Well brother here’s the only way that you can be redeemed. CROSS OVER THE BRIDGE. CROSS OVER THE BRIDGE….”
That was the song we sang as we drove over the Sound Bridge. I was awake and holding on to the armrest. My eyes watching the road ahead. I had the window rolled down so I could swim out if the car went over the railing. Aunt Gladys looked calm. She kept singing and told me to sing too. “….Change your reckless ways of living. Cross over the Bridge….leave your pickle pads behind you.” That’s what I said instead of “fickle paths”. It always made Aunt Gladys laugh.
We got over the bridge without incident. Next stop White’s BBQ in Hertford. There were two barbeque joints in Hertford. They sat across the highway from each other. We always stopped at White’s…even if it was on the wrong side of the road. And we always got the same thing: barbeque pork sandwich with coleslaw and a Dr. Pepper. We ate in the Studebaker because Aunt Gladys didn’t like the cigarette smoke inside. Now there was barbeque on the wet, sugar dusted short set. But Aunt Gladys didn’t fuss. There was another short set ready for me to put on. It was neatly folded in her red-plaid zipped overnight case that sat on the back seat.