If you’ve driven Interstate 24, near Paducah, Ky., you might have noticed the sign for Patti’s 1880’s Settlement. We’ve seen it time and again en route to Mom and Dad’s condo in Florida.

For years, I’ve bugged my trusty chauffeur to head for Patti’s, a restaurant my parents, snowbirds escaping Missouri’s chill and gray, never missed on their way south.

My driving machine of a husband usually makes it home from Hutchinson Island in one day, about a 20-hour trip, but last week we spent the night with friends in Greenville, S.C. The next day we only had a 12-hour drive home and just enough time to lunch at Patti’s.

The last time we were there our daughters were little ones, as were my sister and brother’s kids. Dad and Mom took us all to Kentucky Lake for a vacation.

Other than our marvelous supper at Patti’s, my clearest memory is of a bad spill my sister Jackie took when she neglected to let go of the ski rope and took water into a place where there’s not supposed to be lake water. We still laugh about that, and Boo Boo Pie, a specialty at Patti’s that the kids thought was funny when pronounced in a Southern accent.

Spark and I recalled the good times as he drove along — I’m sure that’s one of the reasons he agreed to pull off — that and the double-thick pork chop Patti’s is known for.

“We have one hour, exactly,” he said, reminding me he had to get back for a meeting. It was Thursday and neither of us thought the restaurant would be busy. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Everyone and his cousin twice removed, was at the settlement, which now comprises Patti’s, another restaurant named Bill’s, gift shops, gardens and more.

There were busloads of people there, and all the ladies looked like they’d been to the same beauty shop. They wore identical black, sturdy shoes and spoke with a drawl. One eyed my flip-flops like I was an island native with a bone in my nose, and even made a comment to her buddy behind her hand, a senior sharing a knotty pine bench with her.

Spark and I jostled our way to the reservation desk where a gentleman in a bow tie told us there was an hour wait for a table. “How about carryout,” we asked. That would work, he said, taking our order for cheeseburgers, homemade potato chips, and two slices of cream pie with meringue so tall it had to be tented like a turkey to keep it nice till we got home. We also got a double pork chop plate for Mom, wishing we could taste it as we sat on the parking lot inhaling cheeseburgers and talking about Patti’s.

Our stop was eye opening. While we were waiting for our order, we brushed shoulders with dozens of others in the gift shop. Patti’s had Christmas hanging from every rafter, red, green, all manner of tinsel and the trimmings. As I was jostling my way down an aisle, an attractive young, heavyset woman inched toward me.

“Can I give you a hug?” she asked. Before I could object, I was enveloped in a bosomy embrace, a public display of affection that made me cringe.

“Now can I give you a kiss?” she asked.

“No, no, no,” my brain silently screamed. Before I could object, the gal planted a big-lipped smacker on my left cheek. I didn’t know what to say even though my thoughts were racing. At the forefront of my mind was the hope that she’d had a flu shot because she continued her quest, zeroing in on her next victim.

With the approach of Christmas and the holiday season, I’m all about goodwill and spreading cheer. But I was relieved to kiss Patti’s adieu. Later that evening I had a change of heart. The coconut cream pie was yummy and worth the affection doled out by a flaky lady.