Autumn Begins

The trees are proclaiming a change of season, mostly by dropping their leaves. Our house is approximately 2,600 feet above sea level, so we are noticing a slight change of green rather than pastel colors. Neighbor Logan is again catching the school bus at the stop sign, and John is involved with fall events at Tennessee train clubs.

Yesterday Logan came over to visit for a couple of hours after school. As usual, he shed his shoes at the door and later took off his socks, as well. I didn’t know that his mother told him not to watch television or play on the computer, that he should just visit with me. We had a snack, and Logan asked what board games we had. I refused to play checkers, his favorite, because it takes my every last brain cell to keep him from trouncing me. That’s as much a statement of my failure as it is his ability. Last time he wasn’t keen on Peggity, my favorite, but he settled for it. I’m still good enough that I can make him win every other time. We may have played ten games now, and he is beginning to grasp the strategy. If we continue to play, he will soon be like Tom, my childhood neighbor who beat me EVERY time 65 years ago. It’s a wonder I recovered.

Logan asked to look in grandson David’s closet. He caressed the Nerf guns but didn’t fire them. He asked to play catch with a tennis ball. We did it for a little while, but picking up all the balls I dropped made my knees protest. He streaked to the place where we keep balloons and soon had a blue one blown up.

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Our grandsons have played balloon games with us since they could run. We batted one back and forth, developing games as we went. Logan ruled that the object was to keep the balloon off the floor. Next, he used his head instead of his hands. It was only a matter of time until he rolled on the large green exercise ball that I use as a computer chair. He jumped on it and rolled forward, head first, landing in a wiggling heap on the other side. He asked to read a book, but I didn’t know where there were any he would like. We changed venue for ballooning, going to the living room. He set my grandmother’s small chair as a net. I imagined her sitting there with a sweater pulled over her arms, and she would have laughed with delight. Logan’s forceful blows sent the balloon behind the chaise lounge I was sitting on. His bare feet pounded the hardwood floor, and he launched himself onto the back. He used the rounded back as a fulcrum to retrieve the errant balloon from the floor. He had a workout of sorts, but I had the best geriatric exercise in the world, reaching for that balloon.

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View behind my seat to play balloon.  Note padded back of the furniture.
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Logan’s view of the balloon arena.

Shawn texted, “Do you have a little boy over there? You can send him home now and thank you for having him! He loves you guys.”

I replied, “No computer and no TV!!!”

This is when I found out we were supposed to avoid electronics. Shawn said, “Wow. I am impressed. We asked him to not do that, just to spend time with you, and I wasn’t sure he would listen. I’m impressed.”

Shawn wasn’t the only one who was very impressed.

Solo Walk

A trucker with a load of lumber was working on his rig at the service station. As I walked by, he asked, “You walking alone today? Where’s your partner?”

Evidently, he knows us by sight. Many of the men who refuel there are regulars. They know us, but we don’t know them.

I said, “He’s playing with trains in Tennessee. They’re the big kind you ride on.”

The man was a local, judging by his accent. I could understand him, though, so he wasn’t raised far from civilization. His face was weathered, making him look 20 to 30 years older than his hair. I say that because his beard matched his hair and had no gray in it.

I was surprised when he stretched our greeting into a conversation.

“You have any hobbies? Anything you like to do?” he asked.

“I love to write – not books or novels, but a blog.”

That was a bit foreign to him, so I asked if he had a hobby. Immediately his face beamed, and he said, “Fishin’! I love fishin’. Sometimes I eat ’em, but mostly I throw ’em back. There’s a big pond connected to the Pigeon River over near Canton. I catch fish in the river and throw them in the pond.”

I said, “One time my dad called our school to pick us up. I don’t know what he told the school, but he told my brother and me the fish were biting like he’d never seen them before. Your put your hook in, and a fish would bite it. That’s the only time he ever did that.”

In the middle of my story, the man said to keep talkin’ as he reached for something in the cab. He began to swipe at his phone and then proudly showed me a set of photos of the fish he caught that broke the state record. The first time he caught it, he threw it back after estimating its weight. When he got home, he asked his son to Google the state record. He was sure his fish was larger. Another day he went back, caught the same kind of fish again, weighed it, and returned it to the water. He rattled off the statistics to prove his victory. The fish was beautiful, rather greenish and shiny. I wish I could remember what he said it was, but I’d not heard of it.

The object of walking is exercise, but the destination is Jonathan Creek. If I’m talking with John, I don’t pay a lot of attention to the stream. Can’t do two things at once! Having been a canoeing instructor at a Girl Scout camp long ago, I marked the “V” that I would have headed for in a canoe. On this misty day, I listened to the water gurgling over the rocks and watched leaves shoot the rapids.

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This is the best time to watch the creek. Leaves float when they first fall and tend to sink a bit when waterlogged. I pick one as it goes by, watching to see if it makes it through the rapids. Some get hung on a branch or plastered to a rock. I always wonder how far they will go, because the water that flows at my feet will eventually pass New Orleans and into the gulf. Today I saw a large sycamore leaf fall from the tree, and it danced and twirled on top of the water. It was dunked, but rose again to sail under the arch of a stick and on toward Tennessee. I doubt it will make it to the big arch at St. Louis.

Closer to home, I chatted with neighbors Bob and Les, both walking dogs. I saw Bob first, and he said Les’ tiny dogs don’t like boxer Dolly. Continuing toward home, I found Les who said his dogs are afraid of Dolly. A few minutes later when I had turned into our street, I heard an outburst of yapping behind me. The little dogs were expressing fear and disapproval, and I’ll bet Dolly looked at them with bewilderment, wondering why they didn’t want to play nice.

A Special Visit

Niece Julie and her house-mate Patty came for the weekend while John was away. We talked non-stop except for when we were sleeping. We were pleased the Blue Ridge Parkway was open again, after having been closed because of trees downed by Hurricane Irma. There wasn’t much wind at our house, but it was a different story high on the ridges.

Saturday was perfect for seeing Waynesville in tourist mode. The town was clogged with people who were wandering in and out of shops. We went in one that I hadn’t been in before and then drove for views of the mountains from the parkway. It was sunny with pretty clouds high in the sky. We drove one section, stopping at several overlooks. On the way back home, we drove through Maggie Valley, where I pointed out the restaurant that grandson Nathaniel had worked in this summer. Patty saw an advertisement for a rock shop and expressed interest in seeing it. I had no idea it was there. We looked at all the gem stones, bought souvenir rings, and saw a child enjoying his search for treasure in a bucket of stones.

After we got home and John returned, we heard a clap of thunder. The heavens opened, and we were treated to a deluge. We saw a rainbow from the back porch, with the end reaching the earth in neighbor Joyce’s yard. It was the closest I’ve ever been to a rainbow. The driving rain splattered us until we moved chairs back and retreated. From the front porch, we watched the grassy ditch change into our personal stream. It’s not often we get perfect weather followed by a spectacular storm, all within a few hours.

Although we were together for parts of three days, I didn’t snare a photo until we were going to church. The toy camera is one-eyed, making every selfie attempt a gamble. This is the best I had to show for a relaxing weekend of fun and laughter.

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Julie, Anne, and Patty.  Only I knew when the shutter would click.

Choose Your Neighbors

Our friends, who keep up with news of the neighborhood, seem to get lots of their information from Sorrell’s. That’s the service station/cafe that we walk by on our way to the creek. Today I got the scoop there, only outside, not inside.

A white SUV stopped, and the window rolled down. Neighbor Les and his wife wanted to know where John was. They laughed when I said he had a play date in Tennessee. I explained that he would be with lots of other train madmen enthusiasts, riding on small trains around a big track.

They changed the subject, asking, “Did you see the For Sale sign in our yard?”

Yes, John and I had seen it. In fact, John sent a link to friends in the middle of this state who have expressed interest in moving to the mountains. Les found a house nearby and bought it. The house is larger, and there is more land around it. They won’t move until the old one has been sold.

“Would you tell all your friends about it?” Les asked. “This is your chance to choose your neighbors!”

I would never have thought of that. It’s brilliant! If you are interested in buying a small house on a lower slope of a North Carolina mountain, let me know.  There is also a separate building that could be used as a studio or office.  Below is the realtor’s photo taken from the side.  Come and be our neighbor!

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Wedding Roots

We had been to the lovely wedding of the daughter of John’s first cousin. The church was Katie’s home church, where the minister who performed the ceremony had been her Sunday School teacher when she was young. Her roots were very much there.

I hadn’t thought about wedding roots until our son talked about his friend’s wedding. It was far from the homes of the bride and groom, in another area of the country. He couldn’t go, but he talked to an old friend who did go. That jogged my memory that our daughter had been to a wedding outside the country on a tropical beach. I enjoyed hearing about these glamorous events, but they were out of my league.

I said to son John $, “I haven’t thought about destination weddings in quite a while. Are they still an ‘in’ thing?”

I didn’t stop to think that $ has lived in North Carolina for a number of years. He is so at home hiking and camping in the woods, that you’d never guess he grew up on Long Island. He is a transplant, one whose roots in sandy soil don’t show.

$ had an immediate answer to my question. He shrugged and said, “How would I know? The weddings I go to are usually in barns!”

75 Years Passed

Another way of saying 75 years passed is that three quarters of a century are in the past – on John’s odometer. Thank heavens John himself has not passed! Our son and I treated him to a prime rib dinner on his 76th birthday. The meat was rare, as was the dinner. When we lived in England in the 80s, John occasionally had prime rib with horseradish. The hunger for that dish resurfaced last year and again this year. I’m sure he will not yearn for it more often, if that means another year of his life has passed.

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The venue for the birthday meal was the restaurant where grandson Nathaniel worked all summer. The co-owner who had hired him was checking with diners to see if everything were satisfactory. When she came to us, John said Nathaniel sent greetings. Her face brightened up, and she began to say the most wonderful things about him. She said how much she had enjoyed him, that he had raised the bar in the kitchen, and that she hoped he would come back. That, in itself, was like another birthday present for John.

We enjoyed our dinners. John $ and I chose meatloaf, a less expensive item on the menu. I had a second reason to choose it. I suspect Nathaniel had made it! He used 20 pounds of beef for meatloaf the last time he prepared it. He might also have diced the tomatoes for the tomato jelly that decorated the top of the meat. It was delicious and beautifully presented. We came home and had angel food cake with strawberries and whipped topping. This is John’s favorite birthday dessert, one that his grandmother and his mother made for him when he was growing up.

I was thankful that John was alive for his 76th birthday. The next morning, my sentiments were not exactly the same. He planned to leave for a day at the train club in Tennessee at 5:45 am. Well before he left, he played Lutheran Public Radio using the phone in his pocket. The hymns were performed by a choir of recorders with the intensity of 100 bagpipes.

After 5 hours of silence, I was glad he texted me that he arrived safely.

Katie’s Wedding

As we drove toward the church, I realized John and I had sung there 53 years ago with our college choir. How nice to return for the wedding of his first cousin’s daughter! We had seen Katie most recently at the funeral of her grandfather and the wedding of her brother. Now it was her turn for a very happy occasion.

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We were surprised that Katie’s only nephew was the ring bearer. We thought he was only a year old. A young woman sat in the front pew armed with a child’s book and a bottle. I figured she was there to catch the baby as he toddled by. No, it was better than that. Little John Junior was too young to walk. His mother was a bridesmaid, and she carried him down the aisle and handed him to her sister in the pew. I got his picture after the ceremony when his dad was holding him.

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After Katie and Matt exchanged vows, the minister asked the congregation to stand if they would promise to support and encourage the couple in every way possible. He told the newly weds to turn around and savor the moment. They were to look carefully at all the people who were there to uphold their marriage. I had never seen that done before, and I thought it was a very meaningful part of the ceremony.

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The minister said several amusing things about Katie and Matt. He knew them well and was advising them to love each other as Christ loved them. The hilarious words came during the prayer. He said, “When they think they have everything figured out, Lord, send them children.” I don’t think anyone laughed aloud, but a hint of sound rippled through the church.

I don’t cry at funerals, but weddings always get me. Of all Katie’s relatives, I was closest to her grandmother, John’s Aunt Kay. This time tears came in my eyes as I thought how very proud Aunt Kay would have been. Katie was named for her, and she would have admired her granddaughter for her beauty, accomplishments, and most of all, her loving heart.

The reception was in the stable building of a nearby plantation. It was the most humane reception I’ve ever been to. The eardrum-bursting band was inside the building, and the dining tables were in a large tent. We could hear conversation all around our table! We chatted with the bride’s cousins while Barbara and Thom danced.

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Barbara, John, and Thom at the reception
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Bride and groom’s first dance
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Bride and her dad