Back to the Future

I woke up in a panic: Oh my gosh, another deadline looming for the newspaper column, and I hadn’t a clue what I would write. And so this morning’s blogging time on the first “free” morning at home in a week has been given over to obligations. I will eventually post the whole piece here, but for now, just an excerpt from a piece about Ann’s recent high school reunion in Mobile:

Friday’s Meet and Greet under the vaulted atrium of the hotel lobby was an informal gathering. I consented to go briefly to be introduced to a few of her most cherished friends. It wasn’t long before I found myself standing among the Ficus trees along the margins, conspicuously disengaged as gray-haired folk passed by for a quick look at my nametag. Was I was another of their classmates grown unrecognizable over the decades?…

…Soon, I slipped away to our fourth floor room; she didn’t even notice. I stood there in the dark quiet and watched the crowd and my wife of thirty-six years, one of the strangers mingling in the lobby below. Hugs, back slaps, handshakes–a hundred ants touching antennae and moving on. We’ve come so far together to be so far apart for these two days, I thought. But such is the stuff of high school reunions, of separate realities that have made us who we are, for better or for worse.

I read it to Ann a little bit ago with the certainty that she would object; it’s rather personal and she is a much more private person than Fred the Blogger. But she is fine with it, and I think this prospect of facing a high school reunion is enough of a shared reality for married folk that it will be of some interest and value for the Floyd Press readers next Thursday.

At any rate, I got that to-do item checked off my list. And now, oh wow, what a beautiful sunrise. I gotta go.

Fruit-Flasher

image copyright Fred First

“It’s rumored that in the early ’90’s, civic authorities ordered the Peachoid water tower repainted so it would look less like a big butt — reducing rubbernecking fatalities on nearby I-85. It may be safer today, but from the right angle, the one-million gallon watersphere STILL looks like a bright orange butt.” link

We knew to expect it this time down I-85 through South Carolina. The first time–twenty years ago, when the kids were young–it came upon us quite unexpected, like spotting the plumber’s rump protruding out from under the kitchen sink when you walk into the house with an armful of groceries. It just sort of demands one’s attention, and this is even with the purported taming down of its buttness since those days.

If I had time before work this morning, it would be fun to put some low-slung Carhartts about mid-cleavage, playing around in Photoshop. Be my guest, show us your best “just say no” picture.

The other thing I wish I had a picture of from our trip–but never went back with the camera–is the collection of identical signs that appeared about every 20 feet on the wall behind our motel in Mobile. Under a large, standard-yellow smiley face, were these words: YOU ARE BEING VIDEOTAPED AND RECORDED.

What a country.

Old Times There…

…are not forgotten.

Back in Dixieland. It has its charms and its memories. Spanish moss and mistletoe overhead; fireants and armadillo scratchings in the sandy soil; the smell of salt spray and marsh mud in Mobile.

Today we leave from Birmingham where I grew up. This is the first time I’ve ever stayed in a motel when visiting “home”. Mom has some back problems and we didn’t want her to worry her with beds to make, wet towels and such, though of course she insisted we could stay in her bedroom since she hasn’t been able to sleep in the bed now for a month.

Between baulky wireless connections in the places we’ve been and Blogger.com eating one long post that I made the mistake of composing directly in the blogger edit window instead of my usual Notetabs text file, it’s not been a good few days for any kind of writing, but particularly not for jotting to Fragments. That should change by midweek and the old rhythms return.

Right now, the four-cup coffee brewer smells like it has successfully done its job. We’ll fill up our insulated cups from home to the top with hot coffee, swing from I459 to I59, next stop: Waffle House in Gadsden. Home to Floyd in time to pick up Tsuga from puppy camp. To Goose Creek before dark, in time to get the fire going in the woodstove to warm the place up again–a task that will take a day or more after it cooled down for four days without heat.

Ah well. Good to travel, great to travel home. See you on the other side, Y’ALL.

Elder Mobile-ity

Just a quick howjadoo from Mobile. Spanish moss, mistletoe overhead; fireants and armadillo sign underfoot; the smell of salt spray, the faint aroma of papermill and wet marsh mud. Traffic of I-65 just outside our dirty fourth floor window that also has a scenic overlook (and direct acoustic connection) with the busy lobby complete with piped-in bass-enhanced rap music. Makes me miss Musak); a lobby full of so many people my age at this 40th reunion of hers that it is impossible to continue to believe I’m still the kid I feel inside; the feel the morning after a night of motel air; gas pumps that demand you add more to your credit cards or you go someplace else for gas–we went someplace else; the elderly man with a cane spending his disability check for 6 lotto tickets and two cartons of Salem menthols; the unavoidable excess of speed just to keep from being rear-ended at less than 80, the high cost in fuel efficiency from driving so fast that had us stopping every little bit to keep the tank no less than half-empty (an Ann obsession I don’t share.)

Sorry, that is the best I can come up with on short notice. I’m about to get out and see what I can find to occupy 10 hours til she comes home from the brunch with the girls, followed by other unspecified conviviality with folks she hasn’t seen in almost a half century. There will be stories to hear going home–if she’ll tell them. I think I’ll go out and make a few of my own. Left alone to shift for myself for dinner last night, I ended up at Hooters. Yeah, really. I needed to be around some young people–the token codger sitting alone nursing his Killians, making social commentary to himself. I’m blogging this, he muttered, but he never did.

Counting My Blessings

image copyright Fred First
November 2001. Our only grandchild, Abby, was less than a year old, barely enough hair to tie a ribbon around , fat-cheeked, speechless. My how she’s grown into a bright, stuck-on-go little gal, just like her momma. We see her once or twice a year–and if she doesn’t remember us down the road, she’ll remember the white house in the woods, splashing in the creek, and she’ll remember the dogs, Buster and especially Tsuga, her hug-buddy.

Mike and Holli, SIL and daughter, we thought were living far away then–in North Carolina. Now we wish they were so close, having seen how much country passes under the shadow of the plane between Goose Creek and South Dakota. Both are thriving in their respective therapy professions of PT and OT. I’m afraid we’ll never get them back this way, now that Holli has a horse again. That was the only thing we could tempt her with that she didn’t have out there. She’s never forgotten Beauty, and her clubhouse in the barn loft–the blessings of a country childhood I’m thankful we could give her before wisking both kids to Birmingham so I could climb my professional ladder.

Nate soon lost the beard he had brought home from Belfast a few months before. If I’m keeping my calendars right, at Thanksgiving that year he was finishing his bachelors at Maryville, finally, after first taking a semester off to walk home from Bar Harbor in April through July 2000 on the back roads of 8 states, and then there was the stint at Queens College and after that, busking his way around Europe and a few months on a dairy farm in the Swiss Alps in 2001. His flight was scheduled to bring him home on September 13, 2001. There were some unsettling complications in air travel about that time. We were so thankful to have him home for Thanksgiving. Now he is married almost a year, moving even today somewhere on the road, from Vancouver where he finished a Masters in Theology to a few months in St. Louis. Now only God knows what and where the boy will go from here, and He isn’t divulging what comes next just yet.

Ann was working at the pharmacy at the V.A. in Salem then, and didn’t know at the time that it wouldn’t be a forever job for her. Six months later, her first choice job, not available when we moved here in 1997, opened up. She started it the same week I left mine. And she’s still there, more than four years later. She’s to credit for the lovely table and meal.

I can’t remember how we talked mom into joining us. I’m pretty certain it had to do with the rare conjunction of her son, his children and their child in one place. I don’t think she’s been back since. We’ll get to see her for a short while when we pass through Birmingham soon.

The photographer behind the camera on this day was a fortunate fellow, with a fine family sitting down together to a warm meal in a snug old house far out in the woods. But six months after this picture was taken, he came home from the clinic and told his wife he needed to do something different with his life. He found blogging as a way of speaking out his uncertainties, but also as a way of sharing his blessings–and they were, and are many. And to this day, he finds this picture of the last time the whole family had Thanksgiving dinner in this old house, and it makes him feel mighty satisfied. Yes sir.