When we are with our neighbors, we laugh a lot. I intend to rush to the computer and record the things I find so amusing. The trouble is, they’ll say several things, and I’ll forget them all. I did remember one isolated statement the other day.
Our morning walk is a little over two miles and includes one wicked hill. I have taken a photo of it before, and it looks like an ordinary road – nothing special. Your eyes might be deceived, but your legs and lungs would cringe. We were at the bottom of that hill, about to begin the climb, when Bob drove up and stopped his car.
With a straight face and a nod toward the back seat, he said, “I know a shorter way home.”
That hit our funny bones, and we burst out laughing. I’m hoping the laughter translated to applause for his ears.
As we began our walk, we had to stop to admire the effect of sun on clouds. The sky seemed to be on fire just beyond the mountains. What an inspiring way to start the day!
The inspiration lasted a long time, but the effect wore off while I slept that night. In the wee hours, I woke with one eye oozing sticky stuff, the start of my annual allergy. It must have been quite corrosive, because I had a rusty taste in my mouth. Great! I had gone from getting old to being a rust bucket!
I used to think Easter celebrations in New York were extreme, but that’s before we moved to North Carolina. Up north the whole choir would sing at both of the big festival services. Only occasionally did the early service start before 8 or 8:30. Before there was Easter breakfast for the entire congregation, we ladies of the choir baked things for us to nosh on between services. The late service was very crowded, so that sometimes it took almost two hours to get through the lengthy communion service. After that, we’d all go to our respective family dinners. It was not at all unusual for our family to have 30 to 35 people. I’m thankful that John and I never hosted that dinner. We enjoyed being with everyone and got up the next morning to go to work as if we’d had a relaxing weekend.
You have to be hardy and resilient for Easter in the mountains. Our daughter would say we got up at “O dark hundred”. Our alarms rang out at 4 am. We were on the dark road shortly after 5, when you could have sworn it was still the middle of the night. The Easter vigil at St. Mark’s in downtown Asheville began promptly at 6 – outside! in the dark! with light rain falling! We each had a foot long candle, nothing like the slender little thing you’d get for a Christmas Eve candlelight service. We were in for the long haul.
Even dark days can have little bursts of joy. I found myself standing beside our friend James, and the day began to glow in the dark for me. Over a year ago I happened to see his unusual last name in the bulletin. A Lutheran church was the last place I would have expected to find the seminary student who had been the summer pastor in our Presbyterian church in the 50s. We had a great reunion, he, my brother and me with our spouses. Bob and I had last seen Jim, as we knew him then, at his and Margaret’s wedding over 50 years ago. We were greatly saddened at Margaret’s death last year. We had only begun to know her. Last Christmas we knew that James was downsizing and moving into smaller quarters in February. I didn’t email him, because things can get hectic when one moves. We went back to St. Mark’s for the Maundy Thursday service and talked to James after it. He had marvelous news. He announced he was getting married. In the dark on Easter morning, James introduced us to Susan on the steps of the church. What joy! She is also a retired Presbyterian pastor whose spouse of many years died a year or so ago. They have known each other for some time. During the service they read a selection from Genesis together, the account of creation. James read the majority of the words, while Susan read the words of God. We teased them about it later. She chatted with us before having to dash to her church where she would sing in the choir for two more services. The wedding is next week!
Half the vigil was totally by candlelight. Suddenly the lights blazed as two trumpeters sounded a fanfare from the back of the church. It was Easter, and we made the rafters ring with the joy of resurrection through music and liturgy.
From St. Mark’s, we went to the 8:30 service at Emmanuel, a church in West Asheville. They were in full Easter mode with a brass choir, bell choir, tenor soloist, and senior choir. By mid-morning, many of our sweet spots of worship had been touched. What a day!
We had Easter dinner with our marvelous neighbors. Amy lives next door at the end of the street. Shawn, Bob, and Logan live across the street, and Connie and Dave have the first house in our development. Denise, Bob’s sister-in-law, lives in the next town. It was great fun getting to know her. The toy camera wanted to photograph all the food they brought, but I insisted he would bite off more than he could chew. If you are hungry, stop reading here. We had chips and dips, ham, broccoli casserole, rolls, corn, Asian salad, macaroni and cheese, sweet potato casserole, lemon-lime jello salad, cherry/apple pie, and carrot cake. No one went away hungry. All of us had good manners, but Logan (5) shone. He sat through that long meal without squirming or fidgeting. He even asked permission to eat the chocolate bunny that marked his place!
I was glad the folks left bit by bit. It would be a jolt if everyone walked out the door at the same time. You’d go from party high to silence. Amy needed to prepare for company coming in a few hours. The Shawn/Bob contingent had family to see, but Connie and Dave had time to sit on the porch for a while. What a lovely, satisfying day it had been! I’m thrilled I don’t have to get up and go to work tomorrow, acting as if I’d had a relaxing weekend.
The tale of an accident can be told several hours later, because it had a happy ending. Neighbor Logan came over when we were having a late breakfast. He drank chocolate milk at the table with us and kept us amused. There is nothing like conversation with a 5-year-old! John began reading him a story while I was preparing two dishes for Easter dinner. Logan’s attention shifted to the piano. He enjoyed playing random notes, drowning out the story. They drifted into John’s office.
You know what accidents are like. One moment everything is fine, and the next there is an explosion of activity as you cope with a mess. I knew seconds later when John shouted to ask me for a roll of paper towels. I hustled to get them and knew only that coffee was everywhere. When the phone rang, I answered it in the kitchen, only to hear gurgling sounds. It happened two or three times. It seems John had a full mug of coffee on his desk while Logan was typing on the computer. The boy was a bit frustrated when he held down one key, and it kept repeating. John was fixing it for him. Suddenly the mug was on the floor, and coffee was flooding everything. John was concerned about the CPU on the floor, as well as a book next to the computer desk. It was only as he moved the undamaged book that he saw coffee coming out of the modem. I put two and two together later and figured that was when the phone gurgled at me.
Coffee damage is nothing new. Both our cars have coffee stains and smell like used coffee. I’d be surprised if there aren’t coffee scars all around the desk, too. John saw only one light blinking on the modem when there should be five or six. He unplugged it and asked me about it. I advised letting it dry out before trying it again. I don’t think anyone knew we were incommunicado for several hours.
After lunch we decided to plug the modem in again. If it didn’t work, we’d contact the cable company to see about a new one. We held our breath. No lights came on for the longest time. I said we should be patient to give it a chance, and we talked of other things. John noticed a green light blinking just before the phone in my pocket came to life. I whipped it out and saw with relief the icon that showed it was connected to the internet. Whew! We were back in business with no one else the wiser.
Logan’s mom sent me his brand new school picture. They must have used a very fast shutter speed to catch him without a blur. That precious boy moves like lightning.
This was the fourth time the Jeep was hauled home in disgrace. After not starting in a national park, on a roadside in Virginia, and at the Asheville airport, we used it only for very local errands. The vehicle gradually acquired a new ignition switch, a new starter motor, and a whole new ignition system after a factory recall. Neighbor Bob worked on it, too, cleaning all the wires that could have caused trouble. This time John couldn’t get home after a doctor’s appointment in the next town, so we left it for two nights. Often it will start the day after balking, but we gave it two chances this time. Oddly enough, I felt sorry for the old boy. He tried his best to start, giving us a click to let us know he was trying. I blame the Jeep company. Many others have had the same trouble with the Commander line, and no one has come up with the definitive fix.
I came home to decorate Easter cookies while John waited for AAA to pick up the Jeep. My job was much more fun than his.
We had quite a bit of spineless snow overnight. It had no determination, no stick-to-it-iveness. I shouldn’t complain, because I know the neighbors were pleased. My feet were happy, too, because there was no black ice lurking to surprise us when we walked. The sun was just coming up when we headed down our street. On the second day of Spring, the toy camera wanted to record snow on the mountain, still sticking to the ground at higher elevations.
There was no holiday or parade for St. Patrick’s Day in Western North Carolina, but it was the best personal celebration I could remember. Amy and I knew we were both having company and planned to share the day. John’s sister Chris and husband Steve came specifically to go with us to the Biltmore estate, as did Amy’s friends Mary and Tom. The plans were quite loose. We’d have dinner together in the evening.
As we waited at the shuttle stop to go to the mansion, three pairs of hands waved at us from inside the departing bus. We had semi-formal introductions as our groups met at the grand staircase, one going up and one down. Surely we wouldn’t see each other again. We did. There were more greetings in the garden shop when they had finished a picnic lunch, and we had not eaten. We were finishing ice cream treats at the creamery as they arrived. John and I had never before stopped at the last gift shop on the estate, but we clapped each other on the shoulder inside. Having met so often, we chatted like friends of long standing at the dinner table.
It should have been neighborhood day at the Biltmore. Neighbor Shawn said she saw us from the shuttle bus as we waited to follow her path. I didn’t know until we got home that she had been there, too. The other surprise to me was seeing a huge number of people wearing green. Shop owners here didn’t realize people would notice the day. There were a token number of decorative items and a mere mention of corned beef at the supermarket. Wake up people! We are more Irish in our hearts than you think!
I can’t begin to quote conversations from our dinner, but the recurring punctuation was laughter. I wished the evening would never end.