I had not paid attention to the dust bunnies gathering in the bathroom. They evidently had time to plan a national convention there while I was enjoying company. After Karen left, I happened to flick my towel so that several of the bunnies hopped across the room. Impressive as that was, I got out the dust buster and did what I had to do.
The very next day I found thousands of small black balls of lint on the rug and marching around the waste basket. Where on earth did they come from? You’d think they had the walls of Jericho in sight. For those of you who love to read mysteries, what clues should I have noticed? Human hair (mine) was not part of the mix. The black balls did resemble sheddings from John’s sweats, somewhat like those scattered about the bedroom and his office. His dirty clothes were there in the closet waiting for me to add mine and walk them to the laundry room, but they weren’t throwing off lint. I’m thinking some gremlin turned his pockets inside out and enjoyed a black snowstorm. Housework is one thing, but doing the same weekly job two days in a row is beyond tedium. If I had been properly tuned, I would have turned tedium into Te Deum, we praise thee, O Lord.
I can’t remember ever watching the presidential inauguration for any length of time. In past years I would have been chasing after children or working. This time I had the quiet house to myself. With the television on, I vacuumed one room, mopped another, cooked a good old American hamburger for lunch, and ate outside on the porch. I switched stations to get different views and hear different commentators. Since we are not TV watchers, I was shocked at how many notables I recognized on the screen. Didn’t they used to have labels to slap on famous people? It became a game for me to name the person on camera before an announcer said it. I recognized five of the eight supreme court justices, two of my former state’s senators, all the former presidents and their wives, and those who ran for president. Makes sense, doesn’t it? They are historical figures, and I’ve been around a long time.
It didn’t occur to me to close my eyes and bow my head for the prayers, because I was watching TV. You don’t watch television with your eyes closed. That’s why I was amused that several of the clerics read their prayers, looking up at the people as if making a speech. Were they preaching to God or the crowd? Heaven knows, whoever occupies the White House needs lots of fervent prayer.
Listening, even with only half an ear, brought lots of historical tidbits. They have to fill the air with something while nothing is going on. I did wonder about what happened when January 20 fell on a Sunday, and that was easily answered on line. As happened with Obama’s second swearing-in, the oath of office is administered in a private ceremony at noon on Sunday, followed by public ceremonies the following day.
Frankly, I was glad when the day was almost over. Feelings ran so high during the election, that I feared for the safety of all the main characters.
Our friend Karen was here for almost a week, and what a delightful visit it was! The comment I expected to post here was that we never stopped talking. That’s what you’d expect to hear about a BFF. This visit was beyond non-stop chat. I wouldn’t pause for a nap! I often take my shoes off and get in bed for half an hour in the afternoon, mostly to freshen my smile. Karen-time was too precious to waste, so I kept my shoes touching the floor.
The day after she arrived, we tried to drive to Cataloochie to see the elk grazing in the meadow. The road in the park was closed, so we took a picture of a different animal.
When we lived in New York, we began a tradition of having a repeat of our Christmas dinner with Karen and Al. The 25th was always spent with our respective families, so we got together a week or so later. They made appreciative noises over the chicken casserole, as well as the steamed Christmas pudding. For our first dinner of this visit, we had both. The casserole was freshly made, but the pudding was the remnant from Christmas. I pushed the bits together, heated it, poured rum on it, and was amused that fire came from every crevice. It wouldn’t go out, even when I blew on it. John smothered it so that we wouldn’t be eating charcoal. At least we didn’t have to get the fire extinguisher.
We walked to the creek where I took the obligatory picture.
The Vanderbilt mansion, Biltmore, was on the list of things to see. John and I had seen it with David all decorated for Christmas. We loved being there again, seeing staff dismantling the holiday glitter. The orangery was even more beautiful than before, with a simpler display. The picture for this should have been our tired feet. To traipse all about that mansion, upstairs and down, was a bit much after our 2.5-mile walk to the creek.
Knowing Karen likes to knit, I wondered if she would enjoy going to a knitting shop. That suggestion got an enthusiastic yes. She found two and gracefully agreed to pose before the first one after an initial groan. The little shop was crowded with colorful yarns, a group of chairs, customers, and knitting gadgets. We saw some very strange people in that area of downtown Asheville. It’s too bad the toy camera was not ready to record them. Thanks to Karen’s phone and my Garmin, we found a spacious, well-lit shop further out from the city center where there was free parking. I asked which place was better. I would have voted for the bigger, newer one, but what did I know? Not much, judging by her answer. The crowded little shop was her favorite. The selection of yarns was better. If there were fine points listed, I missed them.
For future visitors – be careful with your comments, because I clobber people with kindness. Karen told us she loves barbecue, and I asked if she would want it every other day. She laughed and agreed. She and John had it at Due South in Virginia and at Bonfire not far from our church. Haywood Smokehouse was her favorite after Due South. When I printed a coupon for Dicky’s, we sensed she was not quite as enthusiastic as before. She didn’t roll her eyes, and she didn’t complain, but I think she was relieved when I said I’d cook after church. Karen ordered a brisket sandwich at the Smokehouse and pronounced it delicious.
I wanted a good photo of her the day she left. An added bonus was that it showed a sweater she had made herself. Isn’t it gorgeous? I am not envious, because I tried knitting about 47 years ago and knew better than to repeat the experiment.
After we took Karen to the airport, I came home and took my shoes off. That nap was just the restorative I needed. She landed when I was writing about the knitting shops.
The week seemed to evaporate from the time we took grandson Nathaniel to the airport until the day John drove David to New York. A lot of laughs and a few photographs later, the house was totally quiet except for the dripping of faucets. We saw zero on the thermometer and thought keeping water moving through the pipes was a good idea. We did the same thing once before, so we don’t really know if the pipes would freeze or not. They are wrapped but hang down below the house where there is no heat whatsoever.
Sunrise –The sun rose every day, but I took a picture only one time. John and I saw the mountain looking north as the sun hit it. At the same time, the house we were approaching seemed to glow. Only when we turned to look behind us did we see the glory of the sky.
Hush puppy — We discovered a new barbecue place near church the day before Nathaniel went home. He was so full he couldn’t finish his hush puppies, so he brought one home. As we drove toward the airport, he remembered he’d left it sitting on the counter. I assured him we’d take care of it. David had the idea of putting his hand in the picture as a measure of its size. He and I split it for a snack.
Barbecue — John’s cousin Pete and wife Debbi from Illinois came for a few days before going to a gathering of dulcimer players at Lake Junaluska. One of our meals was at Dickey’s, the closest barbecue place that is one of my favorites. I’m not sure how much my rating is influenced by the free soft ice cream to which you help yourself at the end of a meal.
Christmas Pudding — It doesn’t matter how I strive to make a tiny Christmas pudding, we always have leftovers. I begrudge it refrigerator space in January. Thankfully, Debbi and Pete were game for the ritual of flaming it and eating it with brandy hard sauce. Be forewarned: the next guests will probably be subjected to a repeat until the remaining little ones are gone. I know what I should do. I should make signs and put them on the two pudding containers that John loves them and will gladly give them a warm home.
Packing Box Labeled Miscellaneous — In making more room in the closet for David, John opened a box that purported to hold miscellaneous items. I wondered what was in the bottom when he brought out a tray of serving items – little spreading knives, silver sugar cube tongs, Norwegian knives, and various spoons. I had gone to bed when David brought a small stack of books to show me. Yes!!!! My long-lost cookbooks were there! I had mourned them for over two years, and there they were in all their faded glory. I knew I had packed them myself, because John wouldn’t have been near them. David snickered when I said, “I’d get up and hug them if I could make myself sit up.”
Two of the books could have been replaced, but they wouldn’t have been the same. I had notes and comments scattered throughout, as well as a check mark in the index by each recipe I had tried. I considered four of them to be irreplaceable. Of historical significance, there was the sturdy ledger with recipes written in my grandmother’s spidery hand. (She was born in 1880.) There aren’t many entries, making me wonder if she had another book that we never found.
Snow We had about six to eight inches of snow, along with everyone else in the eastern US. I took one photo while the snow was still coming down.
Another picture was taken after the skies had cleared.
I went outside with David, because no child, even a 21-year-old, should have to sled alone. There was no way I would have used a sled, but I could stand in the back yard with him and the old oak tree.
About that time Shawn texted back that Logan (6) would come over. Things really got off the ground when I invited neighbor Joyce to join us. “Really?“ She wanted to know. I wrote, “Look out your back window.” She came, dragging a blue plastic sled. It was one of five that had been left under her house when she bought it. Logan said his run was better, so we trudged across the street where I caught a picture of three of the four generations in attendance. The temperature was in the single digits, so we didn’t last long and soon retreated to our kitchen for hot cocoa.
There is one last photo with train cars on the porch. I figured the snow that had blown in was about in scale with the cars.
This story about airplanes begins years ago, probably in the early 1950s. Flying was not something ordinary people did in those days. John’s family usually drove from New York to Tennessee to see his aunt for Easter. For some reason, maybe time pressure, they decided to fly for the first time. John was a know-almost-everything preteen at the time. They took off in the rain and were soon at cruising altitude, with water still streaming down the small windows. John’s dad had a window seat, and John was next to him. The stewardess handed out lunch trays, which had cold meals covered with plastic wrap.
John’s dad said to him quietly, “Don’t tell anyone, but the plane is leaking.”
He replied, “The plane can’t leak, Dad.”
“It is leaking. There is cold water running down my leg.
“There is no way this plane is leaking. The cabin is pressurized.”
I don’t know how long this went on, but they finally found the leak. There was condensation on the plastic wrap over the lunch, and when Dad laid it back, the drops ran down his leg. Obviously, for me to know the story, it became part of family lore and was trotted out frequently. All you had to say was, “The plane is leaking,” and everyone laughed.
Fast forward to 2016 when Lise and her English friend Chris were traveling. One of their connecting flights had a tiny airplane. Chris took one look at it, called it a daft plane, and wondered if it could fly. There were propellers instead of jets. Lise reassured him that it could indeed fly. Using her hands to demonstrate, she said because of the placement of the engines, it might go through the air at an angle like this. Not only that, she said, “The seats are two and one, so it will probably list to the heavier side and move through the sky lopsided.” You can count on Lise to be sarcastically comforting. From the telling of the story, it was hard to tell how serious Chris’ reservations about the aircraft were. I’m sure both sides were hyped by the time I heard it. In any case, our family now frequently refers to daft airplanes. Thank you, Chris.
Nathaniel (16) flew here for Christmas from a small airport on Long Island. He said, “I had a suspicion that something was not quite right when we walked out of the terminal on the ground floor instead of a normal gate. Are they serious? Will this tiny plane get us to Philadelphia? The side of the plane opened downward, and that’s where the stairs were. There were propellers on the thing! The 24 seats were two on one side and one on the other. What on earth am I doing here? Why did Aunt Lise and GP (Grandpa) book me on this thing? Guess I’d better sit down and buckle up. Oh my goodness! I’m in the back seat, and look at the people ahead of me, bouncing up and down! They look like people in old movies riding in a rickety bus. I should have taken a video of that.”
Once Nathaniel related his story, we shared Chris’ tale with him. He was pretty sure he’d get another daft plane on the way back home. John and I drove him to Charlotte for the return flight. We stood watching him go through security until he walked toward the gate and disappeared from our sight. As we drove along, I kept texting Nathaniel so that he’d know we were ready to turn around if there were any problem. Wait! I can tell the story in his exact words
N: Try to take a nap so you will be refreshed.
Me: Not until you are in the air. I’m the communication link, you know. We’re with you, just not next to you.
N: Yes, I understand.
Me: Does anyone ever overstand?
N: Depends on your height.
A couple of hours later I wrote, “We just got home.”
Everything went well on the large plane, and before long he texted that he had landed in Philadelphia.
We pick up the narrative again there.
Me: GP says the layover is not too long.
N: Yeah, luckily I’m at my gate.
Me: Is the flight on time?
N: Yes. Watching the daft plane pull in now. I just texted Aunt Lise a picture of it.
The story was paused while Nathaniel boarded the little plane. His next message was in all caps.
OMG. THE PLANE IS ACTUALLY LEAKING!!
N: They’re using napkins to stop it. We’re stuck here until they fix it. Tell Grandpa if it’s here, it can obviously fly (sarcasm).
The next message from Nathaniel was short and to the point: “I am home.”
Nathaniel had survived a week with us and two flights on a daft airplane.