What is the last thing you did before going on a road trip? I found myself dusting! Dusting the bathtub!
The day before we left, we were in the car six hours, taking grandson Nathaniel back to Charlotte. These are the before photos – the mirror ritual before Nathaniel left, and before we drove him back to campus.
I was in zombie mode while packing that night, so I got up earlier than necessary to check that I had everything. With the extra time, I got the dust out of the big tub. After hiking, both son John $pencer and Rose like soaking in hot water. I told Rose she was welcome to use my tub, one of those garden tub monstrosities. Daughter Lise is the only one who likes it so far, and that’s why it was last cleaned six months ago. The dusting was overdue.
Our first stop on the trip was in Nashville to have lunch with John’s cousin Harold and wife Susan. We were celebrating the first weekday of Harold’s retirement. Susan retired two years ago and has had her taste of first freedom. Harold does not feel free yet. He had come from his office where he was working on papers. He was an orthodontist and has many things to file and will take all the records to his home. We had a delightful time chatting with them.
John drove to Charlotte to pick up grandson Nathaniel, and it was fairly late when they got home. We had a cheese snack when grandson David finished work and chatted for a while before heading to bed. I thought about the mirror ritual, but maybe Nate wouldn’t hang the hall mirror on the upper hook for just a weekend.
The next morning I asked myself, “What am I doing??? I’m rolling out biscuits for a young man who is majoring in baking and pastry? Am I out of my gourd?”
The answer to my question was no. I was doing what I always do. In chatting with neighbor Marla recently, truth came out of my mouth unbidden. I surprised myself when I said, “Cooking for people is the way I show that I love them.”
For the foodies, we had bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, and Southern biscuits made with White Lily Flour.
After breakfast, Nathaniel called out, “I didn’t do the mirror!”
David came to the hall, and I had the camera. Nate took the mirror and carefully moved it to the hook where the former owners had a clock. He moved slowly so that I could get a photo.
Egging him on, I told him to smile at himself. That’s why all his teeth are on display. David can see his head in there, but the mirror is useless for the rest of us. Nathaniel will do the ritual in reverse when it is time for him to go. It’s a silly thing, but we enjoy it.
Neighbor Logan’s family had more visitors than we did over Christmas. There had been no time to give him the little gifts we had for him until the day after Christmas. His mom was busy cleaning up after company, and his dad was doing a project in the garage. Logan chose to have cookies first and then open presents.
A few weeks ago Logan was in the musical Elf. When we saw an elf hat in the store, we had to buy it. He popped it on his head and wore it while he finished opening his gifts.
Nathaniel handed him another small package, one daughter Kate had sent down from New Jersey. Logan had a big smile on his face when he saw it was the card game, Uno. David and Nathaniel played one game with him that lasted over an hour.
This was Nathaniel’s last full day with us, and he made us a proper chicken pie. By proper, I mean it was made from scratch. He roasted chicken breasts in the oven, used the drippings as a base for the sauce, shredded fresh carrots, cut up celery and onion, and cooked peas and corn to go in it. He had planned to make his own puff pastry for the top, but we were running out of time. He made pie crust instead. It was delicious. The vegetables had just the right amount of body to them, and I liked the very fresh taste of the onions. He spoiled us to the end of the visit.
I insisted on one last informal portrait of the fellows, to have their smiling faces all together.
We were not going to forget the mirror ritual this time. Nathaniel started high and ended in a goofy stance to check his appearance. Until next time….
Our drive from Maryland to North Carolina was pleasantly uneventful until we were 20 miles from home. Traffic came to a halt in the gorge, and we sat there for one and a half hours. There was a long stretch with no exits, leaving us no alternative. The attraction of the moment was the rising of the moon. When we finally moved, we passed an 18-wheeler on a tow truck headed in the wrong direction. It was a strange sight. The four-lane interstate was squeezed by mountains on both sides with a concrete Jersey barrier down the middle. Perhaps the road was closed again later to allow that rig to escape.
Needless to say, we dragged ourselves into the house, carrying as much as possible. Nathaniel clapped his hats on my head for an easy ride in.
After the car was unpacked, Nathaniel performed his mirror ritual. His summer has officially begun. [Every time he comes to stay, he moves the mirror to the hanger where the former owners hung a clock. He is the only one who can use it easily, although David can see himself on tiptoe.]
A couple of days later, a cloud invited itself to dinner on our porch. It shied away at the last moment.
Niece Julie and I had finished half our breakfast when John and grandson Nathaniel arrived from New York. It took them about 16 hours to drive here from Long Island. Julie and I eat slowly, so they soon caught up, and we had fruit together. To celebrate Nathaniel’s recent 18th birthday, Julie gave him a couple of baking gadgets. One I’d never seen before – a pastry marker.
After the meal, Nathaniel announced it was time for the mirror ritual. He pointed out where it should go so that he could see his face instead of his belt. After moving it up, he was satisfied. He will reverse the ritual when he leaves.
John had taken only two short naps on the drive down, so while he slept, we went to Waynesville to an art shop. Julie waited in the background as the artist signed the place mats she bought for her house-mate, Patty. The artist was a lot of fun, telling us that she is an up-and-coming artist. If we bought her work as an investment, we might make a lot of money. She also pointed out that burying a mayonnaise jar full of money in the backyard might be just as remunerative.
We couldn’t resist the photo board outside the shop, both of us women taking a turn with Nathaniel.
We laughed ourselves silly over a roast pork dinner. Nathaniel, who pretends to hate puns, declared he would not bake the promised Black Forest Cake if Grandpa made 20 puns that day. In a matter of minutes John racked up 13 points. He argued that each of Nathaniel’s puns should take a point off. By 9 pm the count was 18. John made one final pun that sent grandson reeling off to bed. They were talking about vintage cars. John said, in light of Nathaniel’s planned career, he should have a chef-fer for his car.
Although temperatures were still seasonally hot, a fun summer ended for me when John headed north with our grandsons. We laughed every single day at things that were amusing or just silly. We were old enough to be silly, and they were mature enough to join in. Of course, there were tons of puns bandied about, with David reveling in them and Nathaniel claiming to despise them. Both were good at it. We delighted in visits with relatives in Summerville SC and Winston Salem. Relatives from Thomasville were here for a conference, so we were with them for a few hours. Touristy things included seeing a bit of Charleston, touring an Asheville mansion, and going to a mountain folk museum. Another high point of the visit was son John’s taking the young men on a hike to Chimney Rocks. While David worked, Nathaniel helped John build a waterfall in the garden – a treat for the eyes and ears! Quite often Nathaniel grilled the meat for dinner. Everyone enjoyed the food, and John was pleased that he didn’t have to build the fires and do the cooking.
The time slipped away for us to see neighbors Shawn, Bob, and young Logan. They came over to say goodbye, and sadly we didn’t hear them at the door. They left a very special calling card – vine ripened tomatoes and green peppers from their garden. Unlike us, they have a very USEFUL garden.
The last full day was a time for packing and putting things away. Nathaniel’s belongings were compact, but David was taking everything he’d need for college from summer clothes to winter coats.
At the very last minute, Nathaniel remembered the mirror ritual. One of the first things he does when he comes is moving the mirror from its normal hook to a high one left by the previous owners for a clock. The height is perfect for him, and him alone. I don’t know why he was wearing a winter hat topped with a conductor’s hat, but we do silly things here. He was probably taking them out to the car the easiest way possible. He and David assumed poses for the formal ritual. Nathaniel carefully moved the mirror and leaned down to check his reflection.
I hadn’t the heart to take a photo of the van before they left. I know it was unorthodox. They removed the middle seats. David sat in the front passenger seat, and Nathaniel folded himself into the very back where he was surrounded by luggage before and behind him. The last I heard from them was a text from David responding to my reporting of Olympic wins of the American swim teams. For me, this was a most satisfying summer, one filled with good memories and hopes of more to come.