A couple of weeks ago, I was channel surfing, and I came across the movie, A Trip to Bountiful starring the accomplished Cicely Tyson. She made the movie in 2014 at the age of 88 and she played a woman who escapes her relatives and takes a Greyhound bus back to her hometown of Bountiful, Texas. She felt that she had to go back to her roots so that she could begin to accept her current life while living in the home of her adult son (Blair Underwood) and his not-too-kind wife. (Vanessa Williams)
The movie touched me on so many levels and I have now seen it over and over, whenever Grio TV replays this highly artistic piece. Cicely Tyson (Mrs. Watts) smiles and feels her freedom as she hangs her head out of the bus window after sneaking away from her son and his wife. She meets a young married woman (Keke Palmer) and they talk about their lives, and air out their personal concerns.
It made me think of the many Greyhound bus trips I took to see my older sister in Evansville, Indiana. During the 80’s, I traveled there from Memphis to also air out my concerns. It is my father’s hometown and that is where he always went to get away from it all. Whenever I called her long after his passing, she simply said, “Come and unravel your thoughts.” We called her Tiny and sometimes, she had to get up at 2:30 in the morning to pick me up at the bus station. That is the way it works when going to those small towns in the wee hours of the morning, as the movie also highlighted.
Those trips allowed me to think, see middle America and to meet several interesting and memorable people, just like Cicely Tyson met Keke Palmer. I often had funny stories to share with Tiny once I arrived at her home. Once, a woman was telling the bus driver how she had been trying to help her sister and how her sister did not appreciate her efforts. He said emphatically, “Then, go home!” She said that she was on her way home. I never forgot that short but powerful lesson. Know when to leave, period.
Another time, I was going to see Tiny but this time, it was in the 90’s and I was leaving from the south suburbs of Chicago. A woman was loud and out of control before the bus even left the station. The driver walked back towards her, and she shouted, “Don’t start in on me.” We were all very quiet and the next thing we knew, we saw her and her traveling companion deboarding the bus. Another passenger turned and said, “He could not drive with all that going on.” We all nodded in agreement, as the then serene bus pulled out towards the highway.
I truly related to Cicely Tyson’s sense of freedom as she took flight from her troubles though she knew that it was only for a short period of time. During that time, she was able to breathe and flap her wings for a few moments until she could remember who she really was and what her life had been up to that point. Those Greyhound bus trips allowed me to also breathe, think and listen to multiple stories from other travelers.
I had highly skilled drivers who treated their buses like ponies on a racetrack; I had talkative drivers and quiet drivers and even a couple of sick drivers who had us all wondering if we would make it. Somehow, we always did make it to our destinations. The Hound (as we affectionately call Greyhound) can still get people to locations that airplanes and trains do not go. Trailways, its competitor, is now extinct and fell by the wayside, but Greyhound remains. It truly is one of small-town America’s national treasures!
June 4, 2022