The Reluctant Guest

The turkey and leftover sides were put away, so Thanksgiving came to an end. The end of the big meal was the only dish I photographed. It’s John’s favorite cranberry mince pie. I wish I’d taken a picture of Connie’s pumpkin roll, which was as delicious as it was pretty.

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If I write one more paragraph about what a wonderful visit we had with family and friends, you’re going to think that’s all I can write about. I’ll tell about the reluctant guest in a minute. Here are two photos to show both sides of the table. John was included twice, because he needed double exposure to compensate for being slightly out of focus.

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John $, Lise, Chris, and John
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John, Marla, Connie, and Dave

We particularly enjoyed hearing Marla tell about flying airplanes and working with bicycles. I wanted to know what narrow escapes she might have had on two wheels. She told about riding on the shoulder of the road when a car slowed beside her. The thugs shouted for her to get off the road. The passenger flung his door open against her bike, which catapulted her into the ditch. All of her other tales had happy endings.

The reluctant guest was in something of a brown funk. He did not enter into the general conversation other than to bark at Marla and Dave. They made the best of it and didn’t retaliate. This fellow tended to be a bit underfoot, although he didn’t interfere with my serving. Unlike our other guests, he ate nothing but turkey. He was a bit antsy too, insisting on going outside several times for short walks. Lise , Marla, and Chris went with him to get a bit of fresh air. He managed to stay through dessert and was obviously eager to leave when the meal was over.

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Albert, the reluctant guest

Isn’t Albert, our reluctant guest, a cutie? After closing the bedroom doors, we let him have the run of the house. When he stretched out on the floor after dinner, we thought he was settling in. It didn’t last long, so Marla, now the reluctant one, took him home. We were happy that Connie and Dave could stay to visit.

Toward the end of the evening, we found out that Dennis (18) was visiting across the street and would spend the night with us. He hadn’t expected to stay and had nothing with him. He and I remembered the camo nightwear he found here when David and Nathaniel were here. It was still in David’s room, so he didn’t have to sleep in his clothes. I had gone to bed when Dennis came back to the kitchen where Lise and Chris were watching a video. From the edge of the door he said, “You can’t see me.”

Lise could see him and wondered why on earth he said that. He stepped into full view, saying, “I’m wearing camouflage, and that’s why you can’t see me.” They laughed, and all three watched the video about rednecks. It included a bit about Popcorn Sutton, the famous maker of moonshine that lived a few miles from our house. Lise said there was also a good section on railroads.

Logan and his niece Lily came to fetch Dennis the next morning. They jumped into a game of checkers before going back across the street.

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Logan, Lily, and Dennis

What meal do you have the day after the Thanksgiving feast? We ate at a Mexican restaurant in Maggie Valley, one that $ and I had been to twice before.

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Mexican restaurant — John, $, Chris, and Lise

Chris, $, and I enjoyed a spicy meal, but we found bland dishes for Lise and John. Everyone lived happily ever after, as far as I know.

Group Walking

We returned home about an hour before John’s sister Barbara and Thom arrived at our house. We considered ourselves instantly ready for company after unpacking our bags and putting out towels for them. They were with us about 15 hours, but we squeezed in a lot. Settling around the fireplace, we enjoyed their catching up on news with our son $ and daughter Lise. We had tea and Lebkuchen punctuated with lots of laughter.

Chris (a Mancunian, someone who comes from Manchester, England) talked about the etiquette of leaving a social gathering. It is understood that if you have coffee at someone’s home, the first cup is part of the game plan. After chatting a while, you are expected to leave when they offer you a second cup. We have those signals, too, although I don’t think I could define a coffee ending. For hours after that, we joked about situations being “the second cup.” This morning, $ said he might mess up the system on purpose. When the hostess came with the second cup, he’d say, “Thanks. I don’t need more. I still have some.”

I had forgotten what a person from Manchester is called until Lise mentioned it. It is spelled correctly above, but since I am from the South, I was temped to write it as “Mancoonian”. I’ll bet a week doesn’t go by that we don’t speak of ‘coons, referring to raccoon roadkill or my dad’s recipe for cooking the animals he hunted. I will not let myself imagine Chris with a cute black mask around his eyes.

We left $ sleeping on the porch when the rest of us went for a walk before breakfast. $ camps out in all seasons of the year, and he chose to sleep outside instead of using our air mattress inside. It must have been difficult to get up outside with the temperature at freezing. Guests often walk with us, so having four on the road was not unusual. There were six in our group. I was walking ahead to set the pace, knowing everyone could out-walk me. I felt like the lead car on the highway that goes ahead with a sign that says “Wide Load”.

A red truck came up behind us, and we heard it slowing down. The man opened his door a few inches near me and asked, “Is this a movement?”

I called out, “No, but come join us!”

He grinned and drove on. Barbara assumed it was someone we knew. I had never seen the man before, but John recognized his truck as being one that regularly passes us. If we live long enough and do unusual things, we might meet all the people who live back in this area.

We caught up to neighbor Bob and Logan at the bus stop. The bus came immediately, and Logan jumped out of the car. We greeted Bob, and as he turned the car around, he said, “Let me know if anyone needs a ride, I’ll come get you.” We laughed as he intended, but it’s wonderful to know he would help us if we needed it.

I made everyone line up for the obligatory picture at the creek. I don’t know why I started doing that, so I don’t know how to make myself quit. The group was compliant. Relatives and guests are sweet to accommodate me.

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Below are the same people, except Barbara and I swapped places.  John claims no one believes I actually walk to the creek, since there is no photo of my being there.

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Breakfast was the only meal we had together on this quick stop. Barbara and Thom were on their way to South Carolina for a big Thanksgiving gathering that will also include a celebration of Chris and Steve’s 50th wedding anniversary. We were sorry we couldn’t be in two places at once. The photo lacks an image of $, but he often engineers that. For those who like to know what was on the menu, we had bacon, hot sausage, livermush, scrambled eggs, cheese grits, whole wheat biscuits, jam, sorghum molasses, and coffee. We downed all but one biscuit, which will become part of the stuffing for Thursday’s turkey.

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We were pleased to find the horses had come back to the pasture beyond our garden.  They have been elsewhere for weeks.  Barbara took this photo of son $ feeding DW at the fence.

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Giving Thanks

We gathered at my brother’s home to celebrate Thanksgiving early.  There wasn’t an ungrateful face to be seen. This group circulated as an etiquette book would recommend. We didn’t talk to the same two or three people for more than half an hour.

While we waited for the turkey to be done, we nibbled on appetizers. All were delicious, but the most decorative was Julie’s veggie turkey platter.

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My brother Bob is the head of our family now. He and wife Beth hosted our dinner. Their three daughters and three grandchildren were with us, as well as two brothers-in-law with spice (whacky plural of spouse). John and I had our daughter Lise and friend Chris with us. There were 17 of us in all, sitting at three tables. I wish you could have heard the laughter that burst out from each table. We were having a wonderful time.

Before we left the table, brother-in-law Rick did two magic tricks. The first was a card trick, a rather standard one, but done with an iPhone. Below Lise is listening to Siri announce the card she had chosen from the deck.

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For the second illusion, Rick took a photo of Julie’s hand. A nasty spider began crawling around on her screen hand. It was uncomfortably life-like. Rick tapped her real hand, and the spider was sitting there in all its 3-D splendor. There was instant applause.

Cell phones have been around a while, but I’d never seen a magic trick using one. I asked, “When did you begin using the iPhone for this?”

He replied, “Yesterday.”

I knew I missed taking a photo of one of the grandchildren, so I followed Sam downstairs. His Uncle John was explaining an experiment. They would fill a bowl with water, light a candle and put it in the water, and cover the candle with a glass. What did he think would happen? Sam (16) thought a moment and said the flame would go out when the oxygen was used up. They set it up, and Sam was right. The flame was extinguished, and at the same time, the candle floated to the top of the water.  I loved the way the teacher engaged the young man intellectually.

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One couple and two families with children had to leave, because they had school and work the next day. The remaining eight of us chatted until midnight and reluctantly went to bed. Thinking about the conversations, I came to the conclusion this was the most well-traveled group I’d ever been in. John and I were the homebodies. The families with children gallop about the world more than we do. Don’t read any envy in those statements, because I’m perfectly satisfied with my life in the mountains.

There were fragments of sentences, a few of which sounded like this:

Croatia has the most beautiful…. When I was in Tanzania…. Next will be a Danube River cruise… Our first trip to South America…. The food in Copenhagen…. We always stopped in Iceland for…. Two airplane bathroom disasters…. Missed our flight because…. Had a $2,000 offer for our seats if we’d….

We have all resolved to be together again a year from now. It would be fun to draw lines on a map to show where everyone traveled in that one year.

Struck by a Rainbow

I was closing my computer to go walking with John when I looked outside and was struck by a rainbow. Obviously, it didn’t hit me, but it did get my complete attention. We watched for a while as the sun shone on the mountain. At dawn there were heavy gray clouds moving steadily, brighter clouds above, and blue sky peeking through. We walked up the street, turning every few seconds to see what was happening. The rainbow was thicker and more intense than any I’d ever seen before. The little toy camera did its best to capture the scene. It recorded the rainbow, as well as our tan house. After ten more steps, we turned to find the rainbow had disappeared. What a beautiful start to the day!

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Home, Sort Of

Are you home if you can’t get in it? We had driven 2,116 miles and returned five and a half days after we started. John opened the garage door with the clicker. We each took an armload of things, but we didn’t get very far. The door between the garage and house was locked. Our son was here while we were gone, and we had asked him to lock the house when he left. He did exactly what we wanted. The only problem was, we assumed all car keys had a house key with them. We failed to add them to the Honda sets when we bought the car a few months ago.

We checked with the neighbors to see if they had a key. We had talked about it, but we never followed through. An emergency call went out to John $, and luckily he was in Asheville, not at his place an hour away. He agreed to come rescue us. Waiting wasn’t bad. We were close enough to the house that our phones and computer could access the internet I sat in the sun on the front porch and read today’s newspaper, while John listened to one of his favorite streaming radio stations. Soon $ was here. We scurried in and turned up the heat. $ helped replace a smoke detector battery that would have driven us nuts if we hadn’t. That incessant chirping, which started after he left yesterday, was unbearable. It was good to be home and inside it.

Getting home was a bit of a gamble. We knew we were taking a chance going through the gorge. $ warned us to check before we came home that way, because many wildfires have made the Smoky Mountains more smoky than ever. We could see the thick haze from Tennessee. If the road had been threatened by fire, it would have been closed. As it was, we saw signs that the tunnels were closed. We could get through, but we had to go single file. It turned out that the tunnels were wide open, but we were following a huge wind turbine blade on a truck. It was a beautiful thing, sculpted in graceful curves. Ahead of the blade was half a house. Neither of those things could have gotten around the tunnel detours. Neighbor Shawn said she saw two blades on I-40, so she must have seen one that went through before or after ours.

Now that we are home, I’ll be putting out fires of a different sort. The computer has been unable to upgrade its operating system, and the phone declares it has no SIM card. If both refuse to operate at the same time, I may just crawl in bed and catch up on sleep. That would be a good idea, don’t you think?

Wedding of Lauren and CJ

There were no planned activities until the wedding at 4 pm on a Sunday. Seven of us squeezed in our vehicle and went to a Lutheran church. We met nephew Anders, Caroline, and baby Rowan there. In talking to the pastor after the service, they discovered they knew people in common. Among others, they knew the founder of the high school John attended.

We had lunch together at a Philly Steak place In one photo, I had everyone except Chris.

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Caroline, Steve, Anders in the mirror, Lars, John, Rowan, Barbara, Thom

The wedding was lovely. After the vows were made, the ushers moved a table to the center with an empty container and three glasses of sand. The pastor had white sand, representing God. Bride and groom had colored sand. White sand was poured first, the foundation of their marriage. The three of them took turns pouring.

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The result was lovely.

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People are the most important thing at weddings. We have photos of the grandparents and parents of the groom and one of the couple at the reception.

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Emma Pollock
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Chris and Steve Lamos
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Chris and Chrissie Pollock
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CJ and Lauren Pollock

They were not messy with the cutting of the cake, maybe because it was cheesecake instead of a buttercream concoction.

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Cheesecake and pumpkin pie.  Note lighted stands for cakes

I haven’t been to a wedding recently and had no idea what people did when the bride and groom left the church. We used to use confetti, but that was replaced with bird seed. What did we have for this wedding? Sparklers!!! It was beautiful. The young couple will be flying to Utah in a few days, back to their jobs and their new life together.

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Leaving the church under sparklers

A Tractor Greeting

I was concentrating on the people at the wedding shower and didn’t think much about the surroundings. I knew how people on the groom’s side were related, but I needed a family tree for the bride’s family. We were in farm country, so things were a bit different. The hostess leaned out of the front door and invited us to enter through the garage. My eyes opened wide when the first thing we saw was a large farm tractor. Skirting it, we heard the reason. It’s a farm, so no one walks in without removing his shoes. You never know what you might have stepped in. I was glad I didn’t have holes in my socks.

Indoors was elegance you most certainly would not associate with a farmhouse. There were cabinets of fine china, huge works of art on the walls, and the most up-to-date kitchen you could dream of.

Our exit was equally different. When it was time to go, I was sorry I was wearing sneakers and couldn’t just slip my feet in and walk away like the others. The owner pulled an office chair over for me to sit in and stood there holding it so it wouldn’t tip over. He was on his way to the furnace and asked niece Caroline to guard the chair. Boy! Did that make me feel old!

He proudly showed us the furnace as we walked around the tractor. We peeked in to see half a tree merrily burning, heating the thousands of gallons of water that flowed through the house, the barn, and outbuildings. He explained that he couldn’t see the sense of walking out in the snow and ice, and that’s why he built it inside the garage. The light bulb went on in my head. In North Carolina people have outdoor wood furnaces that work exactly the same way, only we can see them from the road. Stoking in bare feet would not be an option. The man said he feeds the fire twice a day in the winter and once a week in the summer. You could see Yankee ingenuity at work on that farm.