We have lived in North Carolina one full year, but there are many things we haven’t learned or experienced yet. I was sure I had discovered the largest mushroom I’d ever seen in the grass by the side of the road. Out came the toy camera. Click went the shutter. I included the toe of my shoe for size comparison, wanting to be as scientific as possible before calling a botanist.
On closer inspection, the mushroom turned out to be a very common thing around here – litter. Who knew a paper plate could look like a giant pseudo mushroom? No doubt there are things growing in, on, or under it, but I’m not interested in a taste test.
Toward the end of the visit of our English friends, Charlie spent quite a bit of time chatting with John in front of his computer. I didn’t find out until later that Charlie thought we might want to replace some of the Nerf bullets. He loved playing with the guns and probably wanted to make sure the next visitors had plenty of ammo. Christine explained that Charlie is used to researching purchases online. If there is something he wants, he is a veteran comparison shopper. The older man and the boy shopped a bit and looked at funny videos of Nerf guns that Charlie knew about. When the subject of church came up, Charlie said he would go with us.
We gave Charlie his choice of seats in the Jeep. He opted for the configuration our grandsons like, that is, sitting in the rear with legs stretched over the folded seat ahead.
The ride to church was fun. The service itself was interesting to Charlie until the sermon. He participated fully until the whole thing became extremely tedious as we sat and sat and sat. I was tempted to wiggle myself. The more unbearable it became, the more he controlled himself, behavior you might expect from a proper English lad. His parents would have been so proud of him. I had seen Charlie the day before when the park ranger’s talk was beyond endless. His mother had moved across the clearing to help quiet Wesley. After a reasonable amount of time sitting motionless, he stood up and constantly bounced around from log to boulder. I thought it was a good solution, because he got the fidgets out and did not impede anyone else’s view. There was no such outlet in church. If anyone deserved a reward, it was Charlie.
He went in with us to pick up barbecue sandwiches to take home for lunch. There weren’t many choices, so he opted for pulled pork without slaw. To his credit, he ate it all without complaint. The fun part? He and his parents had never had hushpuppies before, hushpuppies being the standard side served with BBQ in North Carolina.
In retrospect, I should have asked his mother before offering Charlie dessert. Instead, I asked him to give me an “ice cream face” to photograph and dished up Extreme Moose Tracks ice cream for him and his dad. Christine seemed to understand that the aged and the young can end up in cahoots with each other. The house is very empty today.
Having been the first to bed, Wesley (10 months old) was the first to be up. Christine let him loose while I was getting out things for breakfast. As you might imagine, he made a beeline for the Nerf guns on the porch. The toy camera couldn’t resist a series of shots. The first is my favorite. You know how speed is portrayed in comics with dust balls in the air? Wesley’s speed was shown by the feet of his sleeper. He was going so fast he left his feet behind!
He was a little surprised when he realized I had caught him, but he quickly settled down for serious play.
I suspect, as any true gunman would, he was inspecting the firearm before taking it apart. Like a Glock, this one had a surprising amount of plastic.
It got dangerous only when the adults began to shoot.
For years I read about Charlie’s getting junior ranger badges from national parks as he traveled about the US on holiday. It became real for me when we went through the process with him. He has been to 28 national parks and received his 27th badge as we watched.
The Smokey Mountain park nearest us is located near the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Charlie put on his vest and hat before presenting himself to the ranger. What a reception he had! The ranger gave him a high five before they got down to business. We just missed the ranger’s talk for that park, and that is one of the requirements to get a badge. The next closest ranger station was in Tennessee about 25 miles away, and we could make it in time for the talk there. Charlie began to fill out the booklet on the way.
While waiting for the talk to begin, we went through the display area. I was excited to find the butterfly that I see all the time in our garden. Whenever I saw a lovely yellow one, there always seemed to be a black one close by. They were a pair! In this day and age, I’d be labeled a racist if I said it appeared to be a mixed pairing. Although I know they are Diana Fritillaries, I have no idea how to pronounce the Frit part.
We sat on benches, boulders, and logs while Ranger Jennifer talked about black bears in the park. She shared with us the distance we should stay away from them, what a danger it is to leave food for them to scavenge, and how they trap bears that have become too used to humans. Most impressive was her walking around the group letting us touch a bear pelt. When a bear is killed by a car in the park, they keep the pelt for educational purposes.
Back inside, a ranger at the desk checked Charlie’s answers while telling the family how much she loves English people like Kate and Will. Keith, Charlie’s dad, commented that at least this one was up to date. The last person who gushed went on and on about Diana. The ranger fetched her hat before standing in front of the sign to have Charlie repeat the oath. He promised to take care of national parks and tell others about them. Charlie posed with his certificate, while his mother Christine held the sticker that was given to little Wesley. Charlie earned seven badges on this trip, and now he can relax. No more badges are on the schedule, and they will return to London next week.
The Junior Ranger program with our National Park Service is open to people from age 5 to 130. Present cost is $2.50 for the booklet. Christine says most of the badges have taken Charlie about two hours to complete.
What a marvelous collection of people we had gathered around the table on the porch! We came from North Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio, New York, and England. The award for the best Southern accent went to Shawn (Ohio) imitating her daughter. She sounded more authentic than I do. Dennis (NC) was testing an English accent, and Wesley cooed in International. Frankly, I wouldn’t have thought to get us together until Shawn said they’d love to meet people from England. It worked out that we could have a leisurely meal together, and everyone gave the appearance of having a good time. Can’t ask for more.
Bob told the funniest story that made our group burst into laughter. He had a friend, whom we’ll call Felix, who was at the hospital for the birth of his third child. He had not been in the delivery room with the first two, whether by choice or not, I don’t know. Felix was in the hospital with his wife and went downstairs for a snack. While he was gone, the baby was suddenly delivered.
As Felix was returning upstairs, a nurse entered the elevator who knew that he had come in with his wife in labor. She was curious to know if the baby was a girl or a boy.
The nurse asked, “What did you have?”
Felix answered, “Macaroni and cheese.”
Yes, truth can be funnier than fiction. I’m sure there were amusing stories at the other end of the table, but I couldn’t hear them.
It was getting dark, so I didn’t get any photos of the three older boys using the Nerf guns outside. As you can imagine, playing with those guns took precedence over eating. They dutifully sat through the meal with good manners, but as soon as they were excused, they rushed out to play. Kudos to Dennis (16) and Charlie (11) for letting Logan (5) play with the older gang. The pleasure was written all over the young lad’s face.
Grandson Nathaniel told me about a pedometer app he used, so I put it on my phone. He helped measure my stride, and I was set. Having read that one should take 10,000 steps a day, I was pleased that I always made that goal on the days I walked. Two days ago I logged 16,736 steps without any special effort. Then I got one of those awful 24-hour things in the middle of the night. Yesterday the phone registered 27 steps for the whole day! Luckily, I was able to get up and cook dinner before our friends came.
We had these days blocked off on the calendar for months, ever since Christine and Keith began planning their long holiday from England. Yesterday they spent most of the day on the Blue Ridge Parkway, enjoying the mountain scenery. John is taking them to Cherokee today to see the presentation there of Indian dances and crafts. Tomorrow they plan to go to the Smokey Mountain visitors’ center so that Charlie can get another junior ranger badge. He has a marvelous collection of these badges from national parks. You get them by filling out sheets to show that you have seen and understand things about the park. I wondered what the age cut-off was for the program. There isn’t any! Christine said she’s seen many adults participating.
Charlie (11) hadn’t been in the house very long before he found the Nerf guns. I hope there will be time for him and his dad to have a war. Judging by the noise level, a war is far better than a lone sniper. When Charlie came in the room with a Nerf bullet stuck to his forehead, I knew we had to have a photo. He posed nicely for the first and made a funny face for the second. I’ll include both, knowing Charlie would prefer the silly one.
We don’t have toys for a 10-month-old, but that doesn’t bother Wesley. Everything within reach is a potential plaything, some appropriate and most not. It’s amazing how quickly he can scoot across the floor
New York schools are not in session yet, but this was the first day for children in our area of North Carolina. Without thinking twice, I did what I always did – took a photograph. I was at the creek when the bus went by, so I stepped on the road and snapped a picture of the bus almost obscured by fog. There’s no telling who was getting on the bus, but the event was recorded.
After I downloaded it, I looked for pictures of my children on their first day of school. I was totally surprised that Lise and Kate wore the same dress, one I had made, on their first day of kindergarten. It was new on Lise and three years old on Kate. John $ was our third child and didn’t seem to rate a picture alone. He was loved and treasured, but he was the youngest of all his cousins and got lumped with the crowd.