I looked up and saw the grin. Immediately, I caught my breath and I remembered - picnics under the tree, Grandma Franklin, the Elvis moment - all surfaced. I gasped. She gasped. And the rest was a reunion of best friends.
My memory has never been too favorable; there are jabs at the past, flashes of light that will illuminate certain moments. At this age, flashes of light are favorable. I need jabs. I need reminders. The grin was my jab.
It had been at least 35 years since I had seen Sharon Franklin. She lived in Woodstock; I lived in Clarkesville. The summer brought us together as she would spend three months with her Grandma Franklin on the hill in the little brick house underneath the towering oak tree. I can't for the life of me tell you how we met. All I know is that we were inseparable. We were besties before besties were cool. We swooned over Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy, vowing I would marry Bobby and she, David ( I think Peter Frampton was in the mix somehow?), and we'd be happy forever. Instead, she married Ricky, a pure stud in Habersham speak. I was jealous. I started college with no Bobby in my future and certainly no Ricky along the way. Sharon settled down with Ricky, made babies and well, our lives drifted apart. Until last Saturday . . .
You never forget those who make you feel good about yourself, those that just make you so stinking happy. Sharon make me stinking happy. Our hot summers spent in the shadows of Grandma Franklin and the old oak tree prepared us for life, although we had no clue that that was happening. Those summers taught us to delight in the simple things, the beauty of best friends, the wonder of really old people, that laughter cools just like lemonade, that going places is overrated, and jumping sky-high on beds won't bring down the house. True friendship requires bed jumping and lemonade sipping and secret sharing.
Last Saturday, Sharon smiled and I cried; I felt Grandma Franklin and mama doing their happy dances in heaven for the girls were back together. Time and geography may have separated us, but in a split second, we were back on the hill, underneath the oak tree, running silly. We exchanged numbers, and I promised I would not let time separate us again.
My book has given me earnings that weren't penciled in my contract. I got to return home, to hear heart-felt stories of how much the community loved my mama and daddy, to be part of a family again and visit with relatives that I miss so much my body aches, and this - for this reason - I am most thankful; I made a new best friend with my old friend Sharon.
"You're a travel writer?" she said with an elevated voice. "What an amazing job."
Yes, Nessa, it is.
When we get really lucky, we get to lay our heads at B & Bs. We dine at the breakfast table with strangers from who knows where and talk about mostly unknown things and more than likely, we'll never ever see them again. We have one moment to uncover a lifetime.
Nessa Pettyjohn and Nihshanka Debroy from Gwinnett County celebrated their one year anniversary, and at breakfast, we celebrated, complete with candle-topped banana bread. After an amazing casserole, intense coffee and our own slice of banana bread later, we discovered they were IT people. I could tell. It was like looking in a three way reflective mirror - Nessa, Nihshanka and Len. Triplets. I, on the other hand, was the elephant in the room, but that's alright. We learned about Nihshanka's love for rare books and Nessa's skill at preparing Indian food; we wanted to go home with them.
Hosts, or innkeepers, are rare breeds we are told. There are ones that are nice and do their job well. Then, there are those who could be your Aunt Sally or Uncle Frankie. Family, in other words. You hear it in their voice, see it in their eyes, in the little touches - like complimentary this-and-that, fresh baked cakes always available tempting and calling your name, exquisite "I never want to get out of bed" sheets, binoculars for bird watching, or smiles no matter the time of day. And if they accidentally lock you out of the Lodge at bedtime, you know deep down they really didn't mean to. And when they say, "Come back," they expect you to.
Janet and Ric came to Blue Ridge by way of Key Largo and Colorado. "This [Aska] makes us happy," Janet says with a visible sense of contentment radiating from her face. Calling them adventurists would be an understatement - climbing Mount Rainier and Mt. Hood, caving, scuba diving - and this little piece of heaven, satisfies their longing to be close to nature. They have even changed roles; Janet who once handled all the cooking now serves as sous chef for Ric and his morning masterpieces.
a good friend reminded me yesterday of my promise to learn to spit. actually, it was poet jenny joseph who got the ball rolling, and once those immeasurable words of genuineness became part of my daily vision, i knew it was a matter of time before i, too, would grow old and become everything i said i would never become.
i will not be my mother. who am i? i am my mother.
there are things we must do. bills we must pay. jobs we must finish. celebrations we must attend. noses we must wipe. but soon (and my soon is coming quicker than anticipated), all the routines will change, and i will fall in love with the serendipity of it all. i'll turn the corner, and be sucked in by the inescapable fortune before my eyes.
nevertheless, i'll walk the expected road for now, but soon, when you least expect it, i'll be spitting and wearing purple. don't get in my way - for your own sake.
when i am an old woman i shall wear purple
with a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
and i shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
and satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
i shall sit down on the pavement when i'm tired
and gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
and run my stick along the public railings
and make up for the sobriety of my youth.
i shall go out in my slippers in the rain
and pick flowers in other people's gardens
and learn to spit.
you can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
and eat three pounds of sausages at a go
or only bread and pickle for a week
and hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
but now we must have clothes that keep us dry
and pay our rent and not swear in the street
and set a good example for the children.
we must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
but maybe i ought to practice a little now?
so people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
when suddenly i am old, and start to wear purple.
thank you, dear friend . . .
snow blanketed the ground as i stepped outside my little bungalow on colquitt street early that january morning. i wore a winter white hooded wool cape, the only thing that would cover my bulging nine-month stomach. i was a marshmallow, but i didn't care. i was on the way to the hospital to give birth to my second child, a son. it would be a good day.
i was right about everything except the last part. well, semi-right. everything was going according to plan, the check-in, the prep, but once i got on the table for the epidural, normal morphed into emergency. i remember saying, "i can't breathe" and the world going black.
long story, short - the epidural went up instead of down. i didn't wake until that evening and when i did get to hold my son, it was with assistance. but i got to hold him. and touch him. and the day was good again.
then, i met kathy.
most of the time, when your world is turning upside down, you forget that life continues for others without any regard for your status. it's not wrong; it's just how human nature works. but in the midst of my struggle, kathy and her family paused for me. you see, she gave birth at the same hospital, on the same day, at the same time as me, a fact that her son still holds over my son's head. that's the price you pay forever when you arrive five minutes early.
our families knew each other, but i had never gotten to know her. we attended the same church, sang in the same choir, but ran in different circles. she was old monroe; i was an outsider. i didn't think i fit. but on this day, we fit. our families fit. our concerns meshed. the lot of us leaned against each other for comfort, advice, strength and all the while, we celebrated our two beautiful boys - no matter what the future held next. our bonds were born.
we shared a unique opportunity. learning how to be happy for the other while our world balanced on its side. our friendship multiplied over the years. there were many good moments, but unfortunately, much of our lives were mingled with pain and struggle. again, we returned to the ties that drew us together in the first place; we leaned and survived.
today, my friend is going through sadness. a circumstance that has brought years of anguish to others and now, it has chosen her. it has a history of destruction, but i'm not sure it knows the what it is up against with her. she took care of her first husband, and he was much more ominous than cancer. so there.
i'm not sure what to say or even how i can make it better. more than likely, i can't. i'll leave that to the doctors and the good lord above.
so, i will lean. just as before. i will be there. i'll brush a shoulder or pat a back or touch the back of her daddy's hand. maybe that's a daily exercise we should all engage in. stay on the treadmill, raise the weights, but never forget to raise your arms, hold a friend, lean a little closer. exercise those ties than bind.
kat, i'm leaning today. leaning hard.
Whether it is exploring this amazing world or being content on my own piece of real estate near Athens, Georgia, I'm spinning stories and fashioning tales from a Southern perspective. As an editor and writer, I get to meet incredible people and share their stories. As a photographer, I get to cement these moments in time. As a wife and mother, I'm always excited to see what's around the next corner, For it's anything but ordinary.