Living on the Edge

Neighbor Amy looked at a condo that had just come on the market.  It seemed to have everything and more that she wanted.  After she made an offer, the sellers had cold feet.  There was nothing to do but wait a full day to see if they would make their final decision about moving.  The secrecy was amusing.  The couple did not want their neighbors to know they were considering a move.  Amy’s realtor backed his car into their drive so that his tag with ReMax on it wouldn’t be visible from the street.  (NC requires only a tag on the rear of a vehicle.)

I called to Amy from my porch, and she motioned for me to come over.  She said, “I have to cook and bake.”

After having done the 6 hour round trip to Charlotte, she was gearing up for her daughter and granddaughter to come the next day.  By the time I put on shoes and walked over, she had the mixer going.  She darted around the kitchen, soon pulling the cake out of the oven and putting chicken in the pressure cooker.  I wasn’t the one living on the edge, so time seemed to fly for me.

Although we kept going back to the condo she fell in love with, we tried to talk of other things.  High school reunions popped up, and she told a funny story on her late husband.  The two of them went to each other’s reunions.  Amy’s class was huge compared to Ron’s.  Her graduating class had more than 400 people!  They sat with her close friends and mingled with others.

Let’s let Amy tell it.  She said, “Ron was very outgoing and always the life of the party.  People loved having him around.  Of course, we always wore name tags.  A woman looked at his name, repeated it aloud, and wondered if they had known each other.  Ron had never met her before, but he said, ‘We had English together in our sophomore year.  Do you remember the time….?’  He made up some story with pertinent details, and before long the woman said she believed she did remember him.”

With deft hands, Amy flipped the bundt cake onto a footed stand.  It looked elegant.  She offered me a piece, but I said we shouldn’t cut it.  What I meant was, I wouldn’t have cut it before my company arrived.  The knife was already halfway through the first cut.  I caved.  Wouldn’t you have done the same?  Because I always saved a dessert for company, I never, ever tasted my own cake right out of the oven.  Oh, my!  Words would not do it justice.  I’ve come to an important conclusion.  Life is too short to refuse warm cake whenever it is offered.

A Day Alone

Because John was playing trains in Tennessee, I began the day walking alone.  He misses the walk from time to time, so it wasn’t terribly unusual for me to go by myself.  Planning a day only leads to frustration.  If I’d planned to write or clean or play the piano, something would have come up.  As it was, I drifted across the street when Shawn called to me.  She and her daughter were sipping coffee on the porch.  I’d been wanting to visit with her after her total knee replacement, and this was a great time.  Her knee is coming along nicely.  In fact, her scar is prettier than either of mine.

Her husband Bob came in from running an errand, and he said, “Y’all look like hillbillies sittin’ on the porch.”

We had to laugh.  I was in my rumpled walking clothes, and they didn’t look a whole lot better.

The other day I saw a rogue wisteria vine winding itself around the skeleton of a butterfly bush.  Today was the day to attack that.  Gardening is like eating potato chips.  You can’t eat just one.  Well, you can’t stop with killing one little vine, either.  I hacked at the big wisteria for good measure, trying to make sure it knows who’s the boss before it gets grandiose ideas.  I pulled a few weeds and picked up some dead stuff left from last year.  That was enough for one day.

Breakfast was a leisurely affair.  John and I often chat after a meal, but this time I enjoyed the mountains and watched a pair of wrens building a nest under the eaves of the porch.  A gentle breeze kept whirligigs going.  Blogging takes longer all the time as I find more and more excellent writers I want to follow.  It was nice to have nothing to hurry for.

Neighbor Amy was on my mind.  She sold her house in 2.5 days last week, and she streaked over to Charlotte for the day to look at a condo that had just come on the market.  Young Logan came over after school.  He watched TV for a little while, played games on John’s computer, batted a balloon around with me, and announced he was hungry.  Shawn texted back a yes when I asked if he could have sausage and a biscuit with me.  Her friend was bringing their dinner, but it hadn’t arrived yet.

Just before eight, Amy’s car zipped in.  I wanted to see how her day had been, and it was Logan’s bedtime.  I wondered how I could get him to go home happily without telling him firmly, “Go home!”

I said, “Get your shoes on, Logan.  It’s your bedtime.  When you get to the bottom of the stairs, I’ll start the timer and see how long it takes you to get home.”

I was quite pleased at how well that worked.  He raced home as fast as his legs could go.  I called out that it had taken him 10 seconds.  Before I could turn around, he was back at my steps wanting to do it again.  The third time I told him to touch his front door.  With all that commotion, Bob came out to see what was going on, and that was the definitive end of our play time.

Several times I’ve compared myself and Logan to Mrs. Wilson and Dennis the Menace.  I have two cartoons that seem to sum it up.  In one the frumpy white-haired woman with glasses is shown reading indulgently to the little boy.

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The other is documentation that Dennis, like Logan, is five years old.  No wonder we seem to be living these cartoon characters!

042916 Documentation that Dennis is five.JPG


Once I understood why I liked long hair, I could cut it off.  While the weather was cool, hair brushing against my neck felt luxurious.  I had to think about why it pleased me.  You see, I never had anything near my neck until I grew up.  When I was in my 20’s, I wore turtleneck tops and warm scarves, having moved from Tennessee to New York.  I felt cosseted and pampered with luxuriously soft fabrics caressing my neck.  Long hair gave me the same feeling.  It wasn’t the same as the temperatures rose, and what was once a luxury became a curse.  I didn’t have to live with that botheration and begged son $ to trim it.  We had the barbering session on the open deck near the bird feeder.  A lot of the hair blew off in the wind, but some of it was recycled.  I saw a song sparrow carry off one big curl in its beak.  You know the old saying, hair today and gone tomorrow.

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Making Music

We mostly sat around talking while John’s cousin Peter was here.  He was on his way to a gathering of musicians, so I asked if he would play his mountain dulcimer for us.  Neighbors Shawn and Bob were entertaining a multitude of friends, but Amy was free to come.  I was interested in his tuning the dulcimer by clamping a gizmo on it that showed when the string was in tune as he plucked it.  Amy had one request – Amazing Grace – which he played easily.


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Peter plays his mountain dulcimer

Peter is learning to play the langspil.  He used a tiny bow, probably the size of a child’s Suzuki violin bow.  I’m rather envious, because I’d love to learn to play the hammered dulcimer.  I haven’t earned the right yet.  Only when I regularly set aside time to practice the piano will I consider taking on a new instrument.

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Playing the langspil with a small bow


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Langspil and mountain dulcimer

Family Time

Our son $ (short for $pencer) came over especially to be with John’s cousin Peter who was here for a couple of nights.  Peter is a most interesting person who draws the family like a magnet.  I should have had many anecdotes to write about, but my head recorder was not operating properly.

Perhaps other places in my head were not quite right.  When discussing where we’d go for barbeque, I mentioned Haywood Smokehouse, only it didn’t come out that way.  I said “Smokewood Hayhouse.”

No matter what I called it, we all enjoyed chicken, brisket, and pulled pork.  The table was littered with barbecue sauces.  We had sweet red, Piedmont, big Texas, Carolina, strawberry chipotle, and japple (jalapeno and apple).  Those were only the ones we requested from the menu.  I wish I’d counted the choices.

042616 Peter JC $ at Haywood Smokehouse.JPG

I’m not sure the others were around when I asked $ about the wild fire raging near his place in Hot Springs.  It was exciting to watch helicopters scooping water from the French Broad River to dump on the fire.  There were more people around, too, because the Appalachian Trail goes right through the town.  Parts of the trail were closed because of the fire.  There was lots of smoke.  $ said he went outside carrying a cigarette, but instead of lighting it, he said to himself, “What’s the point?”

John spoke of historical trains coming into Asheville.  The same company had trains coming in on two different time zones.  Back then the line went near or through the city.  $ found a map with the old boundaries and showed Peter.  They were intent enough on the image that they didn’t protest publicly when I took their photograph.


Music to Dust By

I try not to think about dusting, it being one of my least favorite chores.  I avoid it as long as possible.  There comes a time when it simply has to be done.  I have a dust meter, do you?  It’s the top of my jewelry box.  When the afternoon sun shines in, that dust stands up and salutes.  If I left it another day, I’m sure the dust would have a rehearsal on the parade ground.

John might have been planning to listen to a NY radio station or music at his computer.  To avoid a music war, I asked him, “Could you put on some music to dust by?”

He asked whether it should be choral or orchestral.

“Orchestral.  It needs to be very loud and happy.”

If I’d thought about it, I would have known he wouldn’t have much to choose from.  I’ll bet he could fill 24 hours playing funeral masses or another 24 with Gregorian chant.  When I reached the living room, I saw I’d left some CD’s near the player the last time he was away.  He put in the one I handed him.  It was lovely having an assistant.  As the beginning bars of Brahms’ first symphony filled the house, I flitted off to flick the duster in every direction.  As the last bombastic chord sounded, I sat down.  Perfect timing!  How long did the dratted chore take? 47 minutes and 67 seconds.   I must remember to set chores to music.

An Exciting Service

I saw the old man standing near the front of the church and wondered why an usher paused near him, looking over his shoulder.  All was made clear when he faced the congregation, still fiddling with the microphone.  He explained that at almost 90, he was the oldest of the retired ministers in that church.  He thought he was in charge of the service next week, but when he got to church, he found out he was on that day.  That’s why he was not robed.  He certainly had everyone’s attention!  He asked two elders to do the liturgy so that he wouldn’t have to stand so long.  He hoped he would remember what he had studied to preach the next week.  We laughed when he said he always told young pastors to keep the sermon short, and he thought his would be.  With that, we plunged into the service.

I was shocked when the man read the text for the sermon, and it had come from today’s reading.  He proceeded to speak on the topic, obviously without notes.  He even referenced a passage that came before the reading.  As John said later, you don’t preach for 60 years without gaining experience.

I felt a kinship with the pastor, though I couldn’t blame age for my lapse.  About 30 years ago I sat down in the pew, wondering why the organist wasn’t playing.  Pastor Koepchen came out of the sacristy and looked directly and pointedly at me.  I turned and looked back at the organ and the empty organ bench.  I’ll bet I was up those steps and playing the first hymn in one minute flat.  Since I got my dates mixed up, I wouldn’t have had music with me and no shoes, so I probably played barefoot to feel the pedals, which I couldn’t do wearing heels.  Some memories are very good, because you know they are going to stay in the past.