Today, on my way home after walking at the track, “The Good Stuff” sung by Kenny Chesney came on my Pandora station.

I could say that I’d never heard it before, but that would be wrong because I’ve heard it many times.

I mean, I’ll listen to Chris Tomlin and Third Day, but, if I’m being honest… I like beach music, and I cannot lie.

Jimmy Buffett, Bob Marley, Jack Johnson. And Kenny Chesney.

One of the only concerts I’ve ever been to was a Kenny Chesney concert. I still have the blue and green sandals that my sister helped me choose to go with my concert outfit. I call them my “Kenny Chesney” shoes.

Kenny Chesney gets me. He’s my songster soul mate. (And, yes, I’ve told Jason that, and he’s okay with it. He agrees. He likes Kenny Chesney too.)   Kenny just knows what it’s like to grow up in the south, in East Tennessee, and come to the realization that, as much as Tennessee is your home and in your blood, maybe so too is #saltlife.

With lyrics like “I can feel the sting of summer on my skin,” how can you not? I’m right there with him, “…holding my shoes in my hand because I like to feel the sand beneath my feet.”

And Kenny and I… we’ve had church together in my van too.

Not with songs like “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” because, while catchy, no. But other songs… like “It’s That Time of Day” (my funeral song, by the way) or “Sing ‘Em Good, My Friend” which we heard for the first time driving home after my sister-in-law’s funeral and which will forever be my song for brother-in-law and sister-in-law. Anyway, there’ll be days where I’ll hear one of his songs played, and, right there, I’ll find myself in my own little moment with God

Which brings me to “The Good Stuff” which was written by Tim Collins and Craig Wiseman. For those of you who haven’t had heard it, the lyric are as follows:

Well, me and my lady had our first big fight,

So I drove around ’til I saw the neon light,

At a corner bar, and it just seemed right,

So I pulled up.

Not a soul around but the old barkeep,

Down at the end and looking half asleep,

But he walked up and said, “What’ll it be?”

I said, “The good stuff.”

He didn’t reach around for the whiskey;

He didn’t pour me a beer.

His blue eyes kinda went misty,

He said, “You can’t find that here.”

‘Cause it’s the first long kiss on a second date.

Momma’s all worried when you get home late,

And droppin’ the ring in the spaghetti plate,

‘Cause your hands are shakin’ so much.

And it’s the way that she looks with the rice in her hair,

Eatin’ burnt suppers the whole first year,

And askin’ for seconds to keep her from tearin’ up…

Yeah, man, that’s the good stuff.”

He grabbed a carton of milk and he poured a glass.

I smiled and said, “I’ll have some of that.”

We sat there and talked as an hour passed,

Like old friends.

I saw a black and white picture, and he caught my stare;

It was a pretty girl with bouffant hair.

He said, “That’s my Bonnie,

Taken ’bout a year after we wed.”

He said, “Spent five years in the bottle,

When the cancer took her from me.

But I’ve been sober three years now,

‘Cause the one thing stronger than the whiskey –”

“Was the sight of her holdin’ my baby girl,

The way she adored that string of pearls,

I gave her the day that our youngest boy, Earl,

Married his high school love.

And it’s a new tee-shirt saying, ‘I’m a Grandpa,’

Being right there as our time got small,

And holdin’ her hand, when the Good Lord called her up…

Yeah, man, that’s the good stuff.”

He said, “When you get home, she’ll start to cry.

When she says, ‘I’m sorry,’ say, ‘So am I.’

And look into those eyes, so deep in love, And drink it up…

‘Cause that’s the good stuff.”

That’s the good stuff.

And, no, this isn’t about drinking. Or an argument with my husband.   But, like any good country song, it is about a pickup truck. And moments. Just like Kenny Chesney’s song.

I’ve always associated “The Good Stuff” with my grandfather. My Paw Paw. Paw Paw was a simple, quiet man, but he lived life. Life isn’t always pretty or easy, but life is beautiful. Even in the small things. There are so many memories of Paw Paw that I cherish, and one thing I’ll always remember is how he took care of my grandmother after her “time got small,” the way he drove an hour each way every day to visit her in the nursing home, and how he was with her until the very end.

That’s the good stuff.

But, today, while the song played, I noticed there was a pickup truck in front of me. A young man was driving the truck, and sitting in the middle of the bench seat was a young woman.   And, as Kenny sang about “the first long kiss on a second date,” she tilted her face up to him, and he leaned down and kissed her. He smiled down at her. Then she put her head on his shoulder.

 That’s the good stuff.

And, just like the old barkeep in the song, my blue eyes got misty.

February 8, 1992, was mine and Jason’s first date. We were both in our freshman year of college, and, while we had gone out a couple of times in high school, we both count February 8th as our first official “date” or the date where we both realized this was Something.

As we were leaving the theater that evening and getting into his truck, he said to me, “You know, it’s proper etiquette for the girl to sit in the middle of the seat.”

Jason had a fire engine red 1979 Ford truck.

Among other things, Paw Paw instilled in me three things: Braves Baseball, watermelon on the 4th of July, and Chevrolet.  So I’m a born and raised Chevy girl.   But I was okay with Jason’s Ford. (And, so was Paw Paw probably.)

And, from that night forward, I sat in the middle of the seat…

I still remember the sound of the door creaking and squeaking when Jason would open it… the old gasoline smell… the way the radio sounded kinda static-y.

It was a loud truck, and, on date nights, my dad would sit in the living room while I was getting ready in my bedroom. As soon as Jason would make the turn onto our road, Dad would hear the rumble and say, “Are you ready? He’s almost here.”

And off we’d go, riding together down so many roads…

I’d sit in that old truck tucked in right beside Jason… he’d drive with one hand and the other arm would rest behind me on the back of the seat when he wasn’t shifting gears. I’d look up at him, and he’d grin back at me.

And I remember those first kisses and all the butterflies that would dance in my stomach.

On Father’s Day 1993, I had been out of town with my family for vacation, and I hadn’t seen Jason for entire week… Imagine! It felt like we were two long-lost loves.  That Sunday, he joined my family at my grandparents’ house. I can still recall what I was wearing that day – a long, straight flowery skirt with a slit (of which Jason was a fan), a pink knit top, and white sandals. I rushed out the door to meet him, and he picked me and whirled me round and round. Then we got in his truck and drove to visit my other grandfather who lived about 30 minutes away… Driving down the highway with the windows down and the radio up, my hair blowing all around and the two of us laughing freely into the wind… the whole long road stretching out before us.

That’s the good stuff.

We were married in April 1995. And, like the twisty roads we drove, there have been ups and downs… new jobs, new houses, new babies… hard times, easy times, sad times, happy times… and we’ve lived every moment… the laughter, the tears… every moment growing us… Together.

That’s the good stuff.

Just the other evening, we were in the grocery store, and, as we were walking down an aisle, I giggled and pointed at a box of Hamburger Helper.

Remember when we used to buy these?” I asked him.

And thought we were eating well!” he laughed in return.

One evening right after we were married, I made spaghetti and couldn’t figure out why it was so greasy. Turned out, I had neglected to drain the hamburger meat. But Jason just smiled and asked for seconds.

So many moments…

Like our first summer vacation together when we were so excited because if you leaned your head just so out the hotel room window you could see a little glimpse of the ocean.

Or the day I came home from work and found a hole in the bathroom wall through which I could see straight down into our garage and Jason standing in the bathtub with a sheepish grin on his face

Like the Father’s Day I surprised Jason with a “Father’s Day” card to tell him I was pregnant after a couple of years of thinking that maybe we couldn’t have children.

Or the time we decided to make empanadas for dinner, and we ended up using every single pot and pan we owned.

Like the time Jason picked up our younger son Who. Would. Not. Sleep. and held him up like baby Simba in “The Lion King” and proceeded to sing “It’s The Circle of Life” at two o’clock in the morning.

Or when we stopped at Sewanee State Park on our way home from Florida and, while our kids skipped in front of us, we walked hand-in-hand together under the Spanish Moss cascading off the Live Oaks.  We talked and talked and, there, beside the Sewanee River, made the decision to homeschool.

Like the evening we grilled hotdogs and roasted marshmallows on our back deck with our kids. We were laughing and telling jokes, and Jason caught my eye and winked because he knew exactly what I was feeling.

Staying up all night making matching t-shirts for a family vacation to Disney World… working together on school projects and VBS projects… holidays… game nights… rainy mornings… sunny pool afternoons… all night TV show marathons… road trips… picnics… birthday parties… impromptu dance parties in the kitchen… the “I love yous” and the “I love you mores”…

That’s the good stuff.

Yes, there’s been bad stuff too… We’ve held hands in hospital corridors, counted pennies only to still come up short, made mistakes, waited anxiously for test results, been unsure about the future, stood together by coffins of our loved ones… but we’ve shared each other’s tears, and we’ve held each other up. Our hearts have whispered prayers for which we didn’t have words. But, even in the bad, there’s been beauty.

It’s been real.

And, good or bad, real life is not lived in the big stand-out scenes. Real life is lived in all the thousand little every day moments that are here and gone before you know it.

So, today, I sat behind a young couple in a pickup truck.

I wanted to tell them, “Drink it up. That’s the good stuff.”

I wanted to tell them “One day, you’ll have traded in the truck for a mini-van. And you’ll cruise down the road together with your children. But it’ll still be good. Actually, it’ll be even better.”

And the years will fly by so fast you won’t even realize it until one day you’re sitting behind another young couple in a pickup truck…

But the thing is you won’t know where the years will take you. You can’t know all the twists and turns of life’s road.

When Jason and I were young and giddy with new love cruising down the road in his pickup truck, we didn’t know.

And, today, as I looked at the starry-eyed girl in the truck, I wanted to tell her, “You have no idea what’s coming.”

I was once her.

And I didn’t know. I couldn’t have known. I thought I knew exactly where my life was going. I thought I knew what love was. I thought then that life was good and that it couldn’t get any better. But I didn’t know… I didn’t know how beautiful life could get, how scary, how crazy, how lovely, how ugly, how wonderful… I didn’t know how high I would rise and how hard I could crash. I didn’t know who I’d be 20 years down the road, how I’d change… the ups and downs, the people and places… and how all these little moments would combine together to make up my life…

And, that, in all those little moments, I’d find the good stuff.

But God knew. And still knows. He knows my yesterdays, my todays, and my tomorrows.

He’s written my story. Every little moment.

As Jason and I drove down the road, carefree, in his truck, God knew exactly where we were going then. He knows where we’re going now.   Because He’s got us.

When the kids were little, at bedtime, we used to sing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” to them… “He’s got the momma and the daddy in His hands… He’s got the brother and the sister… He’s got the little bitty baby in His hands….”

He holds me in the palm of His hand. He holds Jason and me and our family. Together.

He’s written our story. Every little moment.

And He makes all things good and tells me, “Drink it up, Wendy.”

‘Cause that’s the good stuff.

“For I know the thoughts I think toward you, saith the Lord…” Jeremiah 29:11


About wendytate

Wife to a wonderful man, homeschooling mom to 3 great kids, a sentimental romantic, & a Proverbs 31 wannabe. I procrastinate with flair, I'm proud to be southern, & I love anything beachy! My motto: Make good memories. My husband's motto for me: If it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing. Blessed. Forgiven. Loved. Grateful.
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2 Responses to

  1. Rebekah says:

    So glad you’re back!!! Great story.

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