Slumber Party

I had an unexpectedly exhilarating weekend. Neighbor Shawn and I had a slumber party! She was taking care of grandchildren in a nearby town when her son Logan tested positive for COVID at home. She needed to be home for the weekend, yet she couldn’t risk exposure because she was going back to the grandchildren three days later. The fun solution was for her to spend the night at my house. We did what most preteen girls would do – talked into the wee hours with laughter and giggles.

The camera wanted to record many things, but I shoved it back in my pocket. It would have been an invasion of privacy to show Shawn and Bob visiting six feet apart on my porch. Bob had been taking care of Logan and had to keep his distance. They needed time to catch up on all that had been happening.

Shawn said to keep it simple when I asked what she would like for breakfast. I was up first and threw together a cinnamon coffeecake. It certainly looked thrown together, because I accidentally jiggled the oven shelf when I pulled it out to check it. Ours fell flatter than a pancake. We, along with David, picked at the mess anyway. The smaller one for Bob and Logan looked a bit nicer.

When Shawn took a simple dinner across the street for Logan and Bob, she brought back beautiful dahlias from her garden. I let the camera out to record that. Rather cold temperatures are in the forecast, and Shawn said we should enjoy the flowers while they looked good.

When we went out for a walk, Bob and Logan were outside. We walked separately to the end of the street, stopping to talk to neighbors who were decorating their drive. I asked if I could take a photo, and they insisted Shawn and I should be the ones with the pumpkins and flowers.

Near the stop sign, we chatted with Lisa and Harmony while Logan ran on one side of the fence and dog Rosie on the other. Ever on the move, Logan ran among the trees at Cindy’s house. The camera delighted in watching that.

Shawn spoke of the pumpkin farm nearby, and we planned an impromptu field trip. Every year the farmer displays pumpkins lined up behind price signs and leaves a locked box for people to pay on the honor system. I could have kicked myself for not taking a picture of Lisa, Harmony, and Shawn picking out pumpkins.

I missed another opportunity the other day when Lisa and Rosie walked to the creek.. It’s a tradition to have a photo of people who go there with me. When we got back to our area, I asked them to pose. This is my consolation prize.

Muscadine Grapes

I believe it was childhood friend Tom who spoke of muscadine grapes. He saw them while hunting, if memory serves me correctly. People talked about muscadine jelly and wine, although I don’t think I ever had any. When I saw them in the supermarket, curiosity made me buy a pint. I tried one before offering them to David. I’m not sure he will want a second one, so it is up to me to finish them.

There were two or three seeds in each grape, easy enough to separate in the mouth and get rid of. I began with a whole grape and chewed endlessly on the skin. The consistency was something like rubber gloves. Learning by doing, I cut the next one in half and scooped the pulp out with my teeth. By concentrating, I could discern a faint flavor of grape. Was it worth it? I don’t think so.

Muscadine grapes

Has anyone else ever eaten a muscadine grape?

Autumn Pics in the ‘Hood

I brought home four photos from my walk this morning. I hadn’t taken many steps when I spotted a very colorful leaf. How appropriate that this is the first day of autumn!

This sign on a truck made me smile.

A neighbor’s yard presented this lovely scene. I thought there were red berries on the dogwood tree, but the photo says my eyes lied. The leaves seem to be the same color as the red pump. Vibrant green of grass, plants and trees set it all off to perfection.

On my porch was a scene of destruction under a chair. The day before, the chestnut lay peacefully beside a black walnut, still in its light green covering. Daughter Kate put them under her chair the day we sat outside after walking to the creek. I suspect a squirrel stripped the covering off and stole the walnut. He was welcome to it, and I shall clean up the mess as a good hostess would.

Sunup to Sundown

Before the sun came up, daughter Kate worked on the jigsaw puzzle while waiting for me to get dressed. We were using a puzzle of family photos taken in 2018. This puzzle is one from the annual gift of a dear friend. She picks the top family photos from the year, arranges them, and orders the puzzle.

Shortly after noon, grandson David and Kate started burning the trees and bushes that our neighbors had cut a few weeks before. The garden debris had dried out and burned fairly quickly.

After David went to work, Kate continued tending the fire as the shadows lengthened. Leaning on the shovel was her usual stance.

It took two days for mother and son to finish the puzzle. I put in about 10 pieces, being able to see them only when natural light was streaming through the window.

A Few Hours with Nathaniel

On grandson David’s day off, we drove to Charlotte to spend a short time with grandson Nathaniel. What a wonderful visit we had! Daughter Kate had not seen Nate’s apartment, his first place after being at university. David was getting the kinks out after being scrunched in the back seat of the car.

We ate at a barbecue place, and Nathaniel talked about wines as we waited for our food. One of his last courses was about wine. He works in a coffee shop that also serves beer and wine, so he is using his knowledge on a daily basis.

The youngsters posed after Nathaniel helped us order coffee, and he sat with us until it was time for him to clock in.

I wanted a shot of Kate with her hazelnut coffee and my latte. Both drinks were delicious.

Sarah dropped by on her way to work, so we saw her for a few minutes, too. It was a marvelous day from start to finish.

Daughter Kate!

Daughter Kate is here for a week, and we are having a blast. She drove from New Jersey to our house in 14.5 hours. How she does it in one day, I’ll never know! The following day she drove us to church in Asheville, and we went out to eat at Fatz.

On David’s day off, we had a fast food picnic at the creek near the Rec Center. For a short while, they were engrossed in watching some people playing disc golf. This is the course that David has played several times with his Uncle John.

After shopping at Walmart, I took a photo of Kate and David in the parking lot. I never tire of seeing mountains in the background when doing mundane things.

On Day Three, Kate and I walked to the creek. We were impressed with the heavy fog or mist in the valley.

After taking the required shot of us at the creek, I showed Kate taking a video of the creek.

Kate spotted a little monster with a spider web that made us laugh.

Kate ended the day picking up limbs that had fallen from the old oak tree and beginning a catalog of our CD’s. She logged fifty disks, a mere drop in the bucket of all that are here. I think my job is to stay alive until she has finished that chore.

Always Early

I have always done things ahead of time. Ask anyone who knows me. My mother said I was born three days early, not waiting for my due date. According to John,I was notorious in college for getting assignments done early. Surely no one else noticed or cared. Recently I wrote about missing visitors before they left. I felt slightly ill a day or so before family or friends ended their visit. As soon as the car lights disappeared up the road, I began to clean up and proceed with the next thing on the agenda. Was that heartless? My longing for them wouldn’t bring them back, and I had lovely memories to savor.

According to daughter Lise, everyone waited for me to fall apart after my parents died. Neither had a long illness. Both had a sudden heart issue that took them fairly quickly with no lingering pain. One was 80 and the other 89 when they died. Their funerals were family reunions in the finest Southern tradition. There was too much to be thankful for to wish them alive again, when they might have to face great pain or dementia. Let them go and remember what wonderful people they were.

Never having lost a spouse, I didn’t know what to expect when John died. The fact is, I faced his death thousands of time. Not many people were killed commuting to Manhattan by train, but driving was a different story. After we came back from England 40 years ago, John drove to work. He was an excellent driver, but many others on the road with him were not. Photos of pileups caused by ice and snow were common. He drove through blizzards and hurricanes, and there were no cell phones then. I didn’t know exactly how I’d get the news, but a policeman or medical person would contact me, and I might have to go identify his body. How on earth would I earn a living and support myself and three children?

I got the news of John’s death in a way I didn’t expect. Grandson David called, saying the hospital wanted me to call. Note, I was the one who made the call! The emergency room nurse said they tried everything they could to restart his heart, but nothing worked. I felt cold when the call ended. Immediately I remembered John was supposed to make a presentation at church the next day, and I’d better call to let someone know what had happened. The restaurant was still open, so I canceled our reservations for the next day. I let family members know, as well as neighbors and friends. In the middle of the night I printed, signed, and scanned legal papers with the funeral home.

I thought I wasn’t crying because there was so much to do. That wasn’t it. I had been through the mourning and letting go for 40 years. Who knew it could be done ahead of time?? Those who know me will say, “She always did everything early….”

I Needed a Mother, not a Geeper

For several days my arms were red and quite itchy. In all fairness, David did comment on them and asked if he should find some lotion for me. I slapped some aloe gel on the irritated spots and tried to ignore them. It was at church that a mother-like comment was made by a person who grew up in Brooklyn, of all places. Neil asked, “Is that poison ivy?”

Bingo! Why didn’t I think of that? I know why. Beth pointed out several poison ivy plants, and I stayed far away from them. There must have been others that I didn’t see. The internet suggested making a paste of equal parts baking soda and water to apply to the affected areas. My arms now look like a clown face with stark white makeup. Whether white or red, my arms could be the laughing stock of any gathering. Thank you, Mother Neil, for a correct diagnosis.

I didn’t take a photo of David while we ate lunch, so I got down on the floor for a selfie as he half-reclined in a chair.

David with Goofy Gran Goon

Visit Wrap-up

When brother Bob and Beth went home, they left my house in much better shape than before. Bob cleaned one bit of the bathroom ceiling that was discolored, balancing on a ladder while doing it. I was holding the cleaning solution, so I was glad I didn’t look at him. That would have been nerve-wracking.

Bob volunteered to trim the Wicked Wisteria, and I accepted with alacrity. That wild vine is always reaching out for me and running shoots underground in every direction. He made short work of it by putting his trimmer on a pole. John would have been amazed, because he and the grandsons used a ladder and loppers for the job.

I took a photo of them just before they left, needing to show that they seemed unscathed by all their hard work here. What you can’t see is their very smooth exit. We sat on the front porch for a few minutes, waiting for the proper time for them leave to meet their granddaughter. She had just started college in Asheville, and they visited her before driving home. Bob and Beth simply got up from their chairs, hugged me, walked to their car and drove off. Do you realize what was missing? There was no visible packing of suitcases, numerous trips to pack the car, last check for missing items, mad dash to get something from the bathroom, or calling a cell phone to locate it. They must have packed, loaded, and stripped the bed while I was dressing or putting breakfast on the table. Amazing!

David and I were going to our church via computer. We’ve done it many times, but this time it didn’t work. We could participate with the live chat feature on the side, but the rest of the screen was blank. David quickly whipped out his phone with no better luck. He tried to hook up with our former church in NY, but that service was already over. Missing only the first hymn, we watched St. Thomas on Fifth Avenue. It felt like homecoming. When we lived in NY, we’d go to evensong there five or six times a year. It was marvelous to hear that glorious music again, as well as a good sermon. Something we wouldn’t have seen in person was a view of the organist’s hands and feet. We sat on the porch with the waterfall quietly splashing in the background and birds and butterflies flitting about. Worship sometimes happens in ways you never imagined.

Water Falls Again

I didn’t think I was going to keep the waterfall behind the house, but I clipped the evergreen branches back and pulled up the weeds around it. Once it was exposed, I cleaned out the four top pools. John made it for me when we moved to this house, a gift of love because he knew how much I enjoyed the one at the last house. It leaked about three years ago, and he never found the source of the leak.

Brother Bob and Beth looked at it with me. Bob cut an old milk bottle into a scoop, and before long he was down to the muck. I could not have reached to the bottom of the pool as he did. Beth and I took turns encouraging him and taking photos.

We made sure the electric outlet was working and held our breath when I plugged it in. The pump did not work at all. Beth checked on line to see if we could get one like it. We all went to Lowe’s, picked out a new pump, and bought stones for a different project. Bob hooked up the new pump which promptly showed a leak in the old pipe. It spewed seven inches into the air. Taking a break from that, Bob spread stones in the pathway near it. I had begun avoiding that walkway because I found it hard to balance, going from one large stone to another. The little stones filled in the area, and my feet were happy with it.

Before
After

We returned two bags of excess stones to the store and bought new tubing. Before they left the next day, Bob took off the old tubing and attached the new one. We stood in awe and listened to the water splash down the course. We did it! When I get up the courage, I’ll dig up the old tube and see if I can use the “y” connection to make the water go to a second pool, currently by-passed.

Neighbor Dawn saw and heard the waterfall the next day. She was enthusiastic and offered to help with replacing the surrounding slate. She likes working with slate and stones! Isn’t that marvelous? I’m so glad I didn’t take out the pools and return the area to more growing space.

Here are two photos from 2016 when John watched Nathaniel dig and after John added surrounding slate.