“Please vacate the coach, folks. We’ll be staying here about an hour for supper.”
Bobbi Jo wanted to sleep but she knew this stop was also a routine clean-out and gas-up for the lumbering bus. She made this trip once a year on Mother’s Day weekend. It took that long to save up to travel the 487 miles to visit her Momma.
The familiar hissing air sound of the door opening was her signal to find her shoes and get ready to disembark.
“Watch your step, please.” The uniformed driver held out his hand to steady each one as they made a beeline for the station café.
Bobbi Jo filed into the depot behind an elderly gentleman with a cane, a plain looking teenage girl, a jolly middle-aged woman wearing a pink jogging suit and several soldiers. The interesting cast of characters changed with each stop. Watching them was fascinating and gave her much food for thought, especially about her parent’s sad predicament.
She sat on a stool at the counter and ate a mouth-watering cheeseburger; then lingered over the one drink she and Momma shared when they used to have heart to heart talks: a tall glass of sweet iced tea. It gave her some strange kind of comfort.
Bobbi Jo expected to reach her destination in time for the annual picnic for mothers. She looked forward to spending the whole day with Bonnie, her beautiful momma. She planned to be heading back home by the end of the day.
The original traveling group returned to the bus and in a matter of minutes Bobbi Jo fell asleep. Rest is the one thing she needed to face the harsh reality she met once a year. With the whole seat to herself, she curled up like a kitten full of milk and did not open her eyes until the sun came up.
She did not hear the old gentleman’s soft snore, the teenager’s music seeping out around the earphones plastered to her head, the low conversation of the young military fellows, nor the clicking of busy knitting needles in the chubby hands of the pink jogging suit lady.
Sunday morning when Bobbi Jo laid eyes on Bonnie, she was shocked at how much her mother had aged in one year. The woman was thin and had a gray pallor. She seemed short of breath. They found two chairs under a huge umbrella-like shade tree and between sips of sweet iced tea in paper cups talked non-stop.
“There is so much I need to tell you, BJ.”
“Oh Momma, you don’t look well at all. Is something wrong with you?”
“Yes, Sweetie, but that’s not what I want to talk about. You must listen because I don’t have much time.”
Bonnie stood up and paced for a few seconds. She sat down abruptly and took Bobbi Jo’s warm hands in her cold ones. Tears were threatening to escape but she was able to hold them in check. She took one more sip of tea before plunging in.
“Honey, I met some really good folks. They talked to me about God. You know how at Christmas we hear about the Virgin Mother Mary and her baby son Jesus who was born in that manger?”
Bobbi Jo just stared, trying to comprehend.
Bonnie continued, “Oh darling girl, it’s all true. I’ve been reading this Bible they gave me. That born again stuff is REAL, and now I am.”
The mother was excited; the daughter merely bewildered.
“You are WHAT, Momma?”
“Born again. Not my body, but my spirit. Now I know I’ll be going to Heaven and that the Lord has forgiven me for that awful thing I did, even though Cyrus Wayne is really the one who pulled the trigger."
That was the last time Bobbi Jo saw Bonnie on this earth. She did not miss those long trips but she did find out why Momma was so happy before she died in the North Central Women’s Correctional Facility.
Now Bobbi Jo visits other mothers in prison who are a lot closer to home. She tells them about the best kind of freedom that has a price, but Jesus has paid it.
“Your body may be incarcerated, sisters,” she preaches, “ but your spirit can be set free for all time.”
Every Mother’s Day she is the main speaker for an organization she founded in Bonnie's memory . She calls it LIFE TERMS. She makes sure they always serve iced tea in paper cups.
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