It's a mamieAfter several days of travel, they finally reached their destination, Colorado Springs, Colorado. They were all in awe of the beauty of the US Air Force Academy. It was magnificent (at least to visitors) with The Rocky Mountains and Pike’s Peak as it’s backdrop. It was Parents Weekend and they had not seen their son, Ed, since he had boarded a plane for Beast Summer. He had made it through but was still a  freshman or“Dooley” as the upper class men called them.
Their son, Ed, was eager to get away from the place as soon as possible but like a dutiful son, he gave them the grand tour. He introduced them to his roommate. The first words Jack heard from Ed’s roommate’s mouth were, “I don’t know what I plan to major in sir. I came here to fly jets and for no other reason. I love that sense of speed, don’t you sir? I can endure all that other crap if I can fly.”
Another freshman was standing with them.
“How about you?” Jack asked.
“I don’t know, sir, I think I am quitting today.”
Ed said, “Don’t pay any attention to him, Dad. He has been quitting every day since we got here”
(Four years later as they walked to Ed’s graduation ceremony, they saw this young man walking with his parents to the stadium. He yelled, “Hey Knox, I’m quitting today, how about you?”
“Yes sir, I’m getting out of this place too.”)
“Those boys are high rollers. It is good for Ed to be around them,” Jack announced to Annie. She was indignant, and let him know in no uncertain terms that it was good for them to be around her Ed who was a pretty high roller himself.
They attended the last parade of the weekend and watched with pride as their son marched through the tunnel that read Bring Me Men.
The band was playing The Stars and Stripes Forever.  Annie felt chills go up her spine. She felt tremendous pride in her country and in her son. As the American flag waved in the breeze, hundreds of young men and women marching in step with their dress uniforms on, forming a pattern on the parade ground. She had a big lump in her throat. Ed was a part of that and so are we she thought. She noticed a slight moistness in her husband’s eye as he looked for their son in the crowd of men and women on the field.  He was well pleased with his son and his choice  to be a part of this.
After they had eaten lunch with the corps and their son, they escorted him to his barracks for a last goodbye. The upperclassmen were hanging from the windows yelling, “Tell your Mommie goodbye.” Some of them had rigged up loud speakers. “I’m leaving on a jet plane” was playing in the background. It could be heard clear up to Pike’s Peak.  Dooleys with darting eyes that contained fear of the unknown scurried into the barracks while Moms tried to hold back their tears and Dads puffed out their chests with pride.
Jack and Annie drove away with a great sense of satisfaction as well as a slight sense of sadness. Ed had become a man that  summer, one that they knew could handle anything that was thrown at him.
“Annie, this is the first time we have traveled alone in many a year,” Jack said.
“I hope you are going to take it easy and stop to see a few sights along the way.”
“You just let me know where you want to stop and I’ll be at your service, Miss Annie.”
“Okay”, she said. “We need to get off at exit 17 A. I’m giving you plenty of time so you won’t miss the exit.  Jack, Jack, you just missed our exit. I swear you did that on purpose.”
That was just the beginning. They managed to stop and see every pro football stadium and every baseball park along the way. So far, he had not missed any of those exits.
They arrived in Abilene, Kansas. For miles there were signs everywhere along the highway: Eisenhower slept here; Ike ate here; Ike had his shoes shined here; see Eisenhower’s boyhood home. If it could be done, Eisenhower had certainly done it there. Jack would never have pulled off at the exit that led to Eisenhower’s homestead but his gas gauge was sitting below empty. He had no choice. Annie had gotten very excited thinking she was finally going to get to see something that interested her. That was not his plan. She had been dying to see some sites, any sites but he  would not stop not even to go to the bathroom.
She jumped out of the car and scurried to the ladies room. As she opened the door, the stench was so bad that she covered her nose with her hand. She barely got a glance of the toilet that was filled to the brim with poop and toilet paper threatening to overflow. It was not a sight that she wanted to behold. She got out of there as fast as humanly possible. She got back into the car before he had even gotten the nozzle into the gas tank. She had fire in her eyes.
“What’s the matter, Annie?”
“Just get us out of here and stop at the next restroom you see. Now, Jack!”
He asked no more questions but did as she commanded, a little relieved that he had gotten out of the Eisenhower homestead tour.
“You okay Annie?”
“That last place YOU stopped, Mamie Eisenhower had pooped there and it had been left on display. Heaven only knows how long it had been there, probably since the last time Mamie paid a visit. Worse thing I’ve ever seen in a public restroom.”
He stifled a chuckle, but from that day forward, any dirty restroom that anyone in their family encountered  was called “A Mamie”.
Jack did not laugh, he didn’t dare. But every time he made a bathroom stop he would ask, “Do you want me to check it for you and make sure it’s not a Mamie?” She tried to hold it back but could not help but laugh.
When she asked to see the Arch in St Louis, he did not hesitate to exit when she told him. After several hours of being jammed up in traffic, they finally reached the famous Arch.  Jack had shown immeasurable patience by not opening his mouth once.
Annie disgustingly said, “This is what I endured all that traffic for, spent all those hours waiting for? Jack, why didn’t you tell me. You could’ve said, Annie, it is not worth seeing, but no, the one thing you stop for is not worth seeing.”
She never asked to see another thing the rest of the way home.
Jack would say, “Annie do you want to stop here?”
“No,” She would then spell it out, “N-O, Is that emphatic enough for you? All I want to see is a sign that says welcome to Pennsylvania.”
They never drove to the USAFA again. They went many times after that but they flew and enjoyed no stopping along the way.
However, every so often when any of their family encounters “A Mamie” in their travels, it always brings a smile to their faces as they imagine Annie in Abilene, Kansas.

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