Saturday, June 29, 2013

Portrait of a Knight in Armor.

~*~Tomorrow, the Chief and I will have been married 23 years. He loves when I post blog entries. This post is dedicated to him. He has put more happy in my ever after than my best dreams ever conjured.~*~

I had put in a long day.
That's my excuse. I need one, and that's the best I can do.

But the Chief and I were in our bedroom, doing what we normally do when he gets home from work. Debriefing, you could call it... He tells me what he learned that day and what all his day consisted of, and I tell him what I learned, and what I did.

It's how we merge when we've been navigating separate highways.

His day is usually more interesting than mine. And he's better at telling it, and I love a good story, so this is probably my favorite part of the day, followed closely by the part of the day where the coffee maker just quit dripping enough that I can pour myself a cup of coffee before another drip drips, and the part of the day where I am pulling back the sheets at night and getting ready to slide between them.

(Diagram that sentence.)

Anyway, I was telling him about my day. He had already told me about his, and I was suddenly frozen by a thought.

"Honey..." I said. And I could not help it, tears just bled through my eyes like water seeping through a basement wall, brimming at the threshold, but not overflowing. "There is a huge spider on the wall behind the freezer. It's the biggest spider I ever saw."

"Bigger than that other biggest spider?" he asked.

"Well, almost as big." I said. "Maybe not quite as big around, but his legs are thicker and furrier, and his body is bigger. He is just gigantic."

"I see." he said soberly.

"Well... I can't go out to my shed now." The Chief was not grasping the magnitude of this. "And I have all these blueberries sitting in boxes that I need to put in the freezer. And I need to go through my freezer and organize it before there's room to put them, because the freezer's smack full."

The enormity of the situation was dawning on me even as I spoke.

I had handled the situation stoically at the time. I had opened my shed door. Taken one step in. Seen the spider. Taken one step out. Shut the shed door.

I didn't so much as shudder till I got back to the wig-wam. That's the truth.

At the wig-wam I had pondered phobias. "They can't rule you if you don't let them." I thought to myself. "I will not think about it. That's all." And I didn't much. In spite of all the blueberries stacked there, needing to be put in the freezer.

But that was half a day ago. I had been strong too long, and felt powerless to even resist. I started to cry. This is called post-traumatic stress disorder, I think. Definitely a disorder of some variety.

"There are probably gobs of them!" I continued, "I saw the skeleton of another huge one hanging out there a long time ago. They're probably out there multiplying and multiplying."

The Chief regarded me thoughtfully. "Sooo...Do I need to get one of those foggers?" he asked.

"Yes!" I hadn't been able to think of a single solution the entire time I hadn't been thinking about it!

The only thing I could think of was that it was going to be impossible to kill him, because, of course, he wasn't going to be sitting there at the same place on the wall  behind the freezer waiting patiently for the Chief to get there to kill him. These are not the kinds of spiders who build webs and stay in them. These are the ambushing kind.

He would just be out there. Forever. Him and his descendants. The Spiders of Gath. And I could no more  go out to my shed without facing the giants. I had hardly considered that there might be a solution!

Hope shown through my tears.  

"Yes!! A heavy duty fogger!" I said.
And then I had to cry some more, out of sheer relief...and to wash all the emotion out in order to get back to normal. You know.

The Chief regarded me some more, smiling a little. A gentle, amused smile.

And then he put back his head and laughed. And roared. He held his stomach and leaned back and just died laughing. He staggered a little...and laughed some more. He may have cried some tears of his own variety.

I knew it would come to that. At some point it would come to that. Because I know him. And he knows me. And that's just how it is.


Friday, June 21, 2013

The True Citizen

I love a small town newspaper. Love love love.

We have a local small town newspaper. We don't subscribe to it, because technically, we don't quite live in this town, but we pick it up occasionally. I picked one up yesterday.

The True Citizen. $1. It's a steal.

Last night, while the Chief caught up on on-line news. I sat cross-legged on our bed and read The True Citizen.

After some time had passed he said, "You must be finding more to read in there than I did."
What was that suppose to mean? I have no idea.

I can find more to read in a small town newspaper than in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Any day.

Take the first page, for instance. You are not going to see Lee Boy's Barbecue featured on the front page of The AJC. You will not see a picture of "Pa" Richards leaning in over his grill testing that smoking meat with his fork, and another of Donna behind the counter.

You can smell the aroma of those ribs wafting right off the page almost. That's worth .50 right there.
Roy F. Chalker Jr. wrote the article. He's been to Lee Boy's three times in the last few weeks since he discovered it, and every last time he's been there, Sam Cummings, the mayor of Midville has been there too.

He asked the mayor if he eats every meal there.
The mayor said "No, just twice on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and once on Sunday."

This is news you can use. This is what news was made to be. I want to go to Lee Boy's now.

Also on the front page: Tyleasha (a teenager) stabbed her boyfriend, Jimmy in the neck with a filet knife. They've been living together on North Hill Street for three months. I guess it's not working out so well for Tyleasha and Jimmy. Jimmy's 32. He should have known better.

The lights went out for hundreds of residents of Burke County Monday night when a line of severe thunderstorms moved across the area. I know about that. That was the night the Chief thought we might as well be driving in it as sitting in it, and we drove by faith and not by sight.

And there's a tribute to Denzell "Snake" Warthen, a remarkable strong safety who met an untimely death when he went to sleep while he was driving. The title suggests a scholarship fund is being started in his honor but the article ends mid-sentence. There's no sign of it on page 2 or 3. Maybe it's continued somewhere...but who knows?
I don't search for it...

On page two are the pictures of the winners of the Annual Frog Jumping Contest held at the library.
 Sam Kyzer's frog "Jumpy" and Kayla Tinley's frog "Lizzie" won the contest.
Congratulations to "Jumpy" And "Lizzie" and their owners!
 This is life.

Also on page two: "Mad Anthony's Big Boom is on!" The people responsible to do it are raising money for the fireworks show on July the 3rd. I don't know who Mad Anthony is.
I should, maybe, but I don't.

We also learn how many people have died on account of the heat between 1979 and 2003. More than 8,000. How did they decide to reports statistics for this particular time-frame? I do not know. And where  did these untimely deaths occur exactly? In Burke county? South Africa? The whole world over? This might not be funny to the Chief but it leaves me giggling...

Page three. The swimming pool at Magnolia Springs is now open. This should help forestall heat-related deaths. (worth another .25, surely)

On page four there's a picture of Mr. and Mrs. Delaigle. They have been married for 65 years. They still look really happy. They are going to spend 3 days on Jekyll Island celebrating.

Page five is the opinion page. The editor (Roy F Chalker Jr.) talks some more about barbecue. Good man.

Don Lively talks about the voices in his head. The Quiet Voice and The Loud Voice. He explains about what they tell him in various circumstances: on the dance floor and during church, and on Saturdays when he should be doing lawn work.

(He's Baptist, so there is nothing that doesn't fit in that picture.)

Alongside the obituaries on page six, F. Leslie Jenkins Jr. wrote an entire column around this sentence "Don't do anything you can't do on a bicycle." You never thought of it, I bet, the virtues of limiting yourself in this way. Or the doability of writing a column on this. I bet it never once crossed the minds of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution people.

 Church News and Announcements are on page 7, as well as a devotional and the local businesses who sponsor the page. This takes up the entire page. There are a lot of churches.

On the flip side of the page is a line-up of  the mugs of people who were booked into the Burke County Jail last week. They should have gone to church.

Also on  page eight:
A man on Keysville Rd wants to know who's been growing marijuana in the woods behind his house. 125 plants. I bet he does.

The story about "Snake" is continued on page 9, I see.

On page ten it says about the High School Field getting a facelift, if plans hold.
And there's a picture of a bunch of darling children who attended the tennis clinic "earlier this summer", holding their rackets high.

There's also a picture of "Gabi". He's the featured pet of the week. His parent is Jessi Chandler. I'm not sure how that works.

On the back two pages are the classifieds.
Auctions you can attend. Houses and lands you can buy....If you don't live in a small town, I highly recommend you look into moving.

Here's some land for you: 56 to 142 acres in North Burke County: Old fields, wooded, county road frontage $1200-1500 an acre.

There are no personals. In a small town, people know people.
Love's Wedding Chapel will marry you, no blood test, no waiting. How neat is that??

And if you need someone to sit with Me-ma while you're at the ceremony, Ethelene Young will do it. She gives her number. It couldn't be handier. She doesn't mention references, but have you ever known an Ethelene who wasn't completely trustworthy? Me either.
That's worth at least a dollar all by itself, having Me-ma looked after by Ms. Ethelene while the wedding is going on.

The Chief can have his Drudge. And you can have your AJC.
Give me The True Citizen every time.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Carry Me Back to Old Virginny...And Home Again. In One Piece, Please.

Families, in spite of the occasional incident that might suggest otherwise, were a good invention.

We got together with my side of the matter this past weekend. My sister and brother and their good spouses opened their homes and barns, tents and campers, to host the rest of us, 37 in all, in the Valley we love.
The ones in heaven would have made it 40.

Our freshest loss being Mother, of course.

It was the first time we had a family get-together since she's been gone and it felt a bit like a wheel without an axle...but the wheel still rolled in the same direction it had gone before. Good times; they rolled again, with only a trace of a wobble, which occurred, now and then, if I thought more than a minute about the axle being gone.

But I often looked around at my siblings and the abundance of nieces and nephews, and felt wealthy beyond measure.

 The weather was perfect. This was Providential benevolence for sure since we were up-close and personal with it much of the time due to the limitations of the available facilities.
The best stuff happens out of doors, at any rate. Corn hole, horse shoes, hiking, and trampoline parties, easy conversations in the fire-glow under the night sky...

There is a marvelous old house down the road from where we stayed that I adore and long to tour. My sister's family knows the owner, my nephew works for the lady. My brother-in-law investigated the possibility of us touring it. It did not work out; they were hosting a birthday party there or something, (no one lives in it) but the lady said we were welcome to come tour her own home, which is even older, the second oldest home in Port Republic. Saturated in history. We thought it might be a bit overwhelming if the whole tribe showed up on her doorstep so we didn't all go, but the ones of us who did were treated to a colorful trip back in time by the very educated and gracious lady of the house. New construction cannot hold a candle to the glories of an old home. Selah.
In three years they are going to host the house's 200 birthday party.

"Will your family get together another year? Come back again!" she said, "I'll show you through the other house!" She couldn't have enjoyed showing us through it as much as we enjoyed going through it, but it may  have been close. The older I get, the more fascinating history is to me. Probably because I'm not being tested on it and don't have to remember any dates for fear of failing.

Nita planned  a scavenger hunt....we all got prizes no matter how slow we found the stuff. In fact, the ones who sat on lawn chairs and watched, got prizes.  I'm not quite sure how that worked there. I'm trusting it was all above board.

When it got dark we funneled into the house with games and conversation spilling onto porches and decks.
When the stars came out, Kelvin set up his amazing telescope and we lined up and took turns looking at Saturn and the ring around it...and the moon...It was just breathtaking!!

Saturday night, we invited our two aunts and uncle to join us for supper at Jeff's barn. It was so good to touch base with them a little. Later we were joined by a gaggle of friends for what has become the traditional hoe-down. The talent rests heavily on the male side of our family in this department, but it creates a lot of fun and memories for us all.

I am realizing that I'm not relaying this stuff in the order it happened. Does it matter?
How could it matter??
I am not going to try to fix it. It happened. Somehow.

And I won't tell you about how half of us went and worshiped by the magnificent Shenendoah River and half of us worshiped elsewhere, and we both were very blessed by our respective worship services. That would take too long and I am trying to get to part about the ride home anyway...

The point of this blog is the the ride home.

Fast-forward to Monday morning. Ready to go home. Or ready to be ready at any rate.
But not actually ready.

Getting ready, when your tribe stayed on two pieces of real estate. (Why is it called real estate, by the way? Is that opposed to unreal estate?) and has two vehicles to pack and maintain is a bit interesting. The first interesting part is finding all your stuff.

The boys arrived from the other piece of real estate first thing, pretty much, which was good, because they were going to be eating on this piece. We were hoping to leave about 9 AM. It seemed doable.

We got our things together. Stuffed our dirty clothes in bags. Repacked suitcases incorporating the purchases we had made during our several shopping excursions. We cleaned out and wiped out the cooler, tried to minimize the carnage in our wake, so our hosts would let us back in next year, and other various and sundries.

"Has anyone seen my wallet and phone?" asked Dustin at one point. "I looked at the barn but I couldn't find it."
Vague waves of despair started lapping at my shores. He'd been about four different places. Not counting vehicles. He'd taken a shower in the dairy barn, been in Jeff's house, slept in Jeff's barn/shop, been here at Jon's.... We started hunting. And hunting. And he found it. My shores had eroded significantly by then on account of my melancholy expectations alone. I was genuinely surprised. I think I had given up before we even started.

"Should we stop at Sharp Shopper on our way out?" I asked The Chief.
"I thought maybe we would." he replied.
 We love Sharp Shopper and there are no Sharp Shoppers anywhere around the wig-wam, so we stock up on bargains when we have a chance.

Then it was time for hugs, and good-byes, and happy synopses of our fantastic weekend expressed. More swiftly written here than carried out.

The division of natives and cars was made. The car the Chief and I were navigating was not the car of choice. It's a little beater car. Basic. Stick shift. The rear dash is torn up; the previous owner had dogs. They tore it to smithereens. It's not classy.

So the natives who had endured on the way up saw to it they were not the ones to endure on the way back.
I like this car myself. It's fun to drive. It has pep. It has personality.

We were ready to go when Scott came over from the preferred car. "Why don't y'all go ahead over to Sharp Shopper." he said. "I have a tire that's kinda flat."
Something else was wrong too, I think. I forget what. They were running diagnostics on it to see what the issue might be.

It seemed like a good plan. Off we went. We were nearly done with our shopping when the Preferred carload showed up. And they wanted to look around too. And buy a few things. One of them had gone into the Goodwill store next door. So much for leaving at 9 oclock. Nine oclock was now but a pleasant, but distant, memory.

We retrieved all the shoppers and headed for the gas station. We needed gas. And ice to chill our newly acquired purchases. We selected a gas station, and pulled in. Only to see all the handles were covered with bags. They were out of gas. We selected another gas station. This one had gas. But no ice. We got gas. Then we went back to the first station and got ice. Filled the cooler. Got in and were on our way. The Beater followed by The Preferred.

We could have driven straight across from the gas station and gotten on the interstate, but somehow, the Chief and I were both thinking we had to go up the road a piece. So we did. Which, of course meant we had to backtrack when we figured out we were wrong. The Beater, followed by The Preferred.

And we were finally on our way. About 11:30.
 But the sun was bright! The carpet was damp, but the sun was bright. I forgot to tell you about the carpet. When the A/C was on, the carpet got wet. Gradually. The front first, and then the back.

We sped along without incident for awhile, till we stopped for lunch. Becky decided she wanted to ride with the Chief and I in The Beater. She trundled from The Preferred to The Beater, with her pillow and her stuff.  This made everyone happy. With reconfigured passenger loads we pressed on.

And all was well, till they attempted to put all the traffic into one lane. And then it slowed to a sluggish crawl, as all of us in the right lane had to try to find places in the already congested left lane. There was a car or two between The Beater and the Preferred, and we suddenly started hearing someone laying on the horn...over and over again.. It continued awhile, and then we saw The Preferred pull off on the shoulder of the road and stop. The horn-blowing car blasted past it. Another car or two scattered from its path. Then it was behind us. It flashed its high beams repeatedly and lay on the horn some more. We pulled off the road too...there was no place to merge in the other lane. It charged passed us and on up the road at idiotic speed and ducked into a spot in the left lane, and then the driver put his left hand out the window and gave it a mighty PoW! with his right fist. He was enraged at how long it was taking people to merge, apparently. 

We checked on the passengers of The Preferred. They were alright. We resumed our trip. But we were crawling. For mile upon mile we crawled single file up the mountain. There was one perk. We got to look down over that vast valley to our hearts content for once. It always goes by so fast. At a place near the top they were pulling cables up the steep mountainside.  That was what was slowing us down... Once we passed it, the traffic thinned again and off we went again.

The floor was getting wetter. Sopping really.

We stopped for gas again, at the cheapest place we knew. It was also the cheapest place everyone else knew. It took forever to get gas. The Preferred gave up on it and went somewhere else for gas. We knew not where. So when we were done pumping ours we had to find The Preferred.  They were behind us somewhere. They said they would catch up. So we went down the road slowish for awhile...

Quite awhile.  They finally caught up and we were on our way again.

I dozed off and on a little till I noticed The Chief  starting to draw in deep breathes, hold them awhile,  and then let them out in a deep long sigh. When he does this, it means he's getting sleepy.
"Are you getting sleepy?" I said.
"Yes." he said.
I told him how I knew he was."You always do that" I said.
He had no idea."You think you have me figured out, don't you?" he said.

The next time we stopped I took over the wheel.
I like to drive. Usually. Especially a stick shift with a bit of pep.

Traffic was heavy and it had started raining. I am not quite as fond of driving in the rain. The windshield on The Beater is a bit scratched, and my eyes are not as good as they once were. Too many taillights and reflections and raindrops leave me feeling slightly on edge.

I put in the clutch and put it in gear and off we went, but when I put on the brake before pulling onto the road, my breathe caught a bit. I had to push the brake pedal way down before it started slowing. This was my car. I was used to driving it and this was not normal. Or was it? Had I just forgotten? It did stop, after all. At any rate, whatever the reason, when I needed to brake thereafter, I was always a bit unprepared for how far I needed to push down the pedal before it started braking. Was I just imagining, or was there really something wrong with the brakes?? We were approaching Charlotte. It was rush hour. It was raining.  Once a car ducked in front of me and I put the pedal altogether to the floor before it slowed. My stomach resembled a Celtic knot.

I had  voiced my suspicions before. I voiced them again in more affirmative language
"There is something wrong with the brakes. Do you think it might be low on brake fluid?"
"It's possible." replied Chief-I'm-Just-Not-Worried-About-It, calmly.

I kept my eyes riveted, my hand on the gearshift, my left foot poised above clutch, and did my best to keep a healthy distance between me and the car in front of me. But it was rush hour in Charlotte. You can try to keep five car-lengths between you and the person in front of you all you want but you can count on five cars being determined to fill the space. It looks like wasted road to them, I think.

The native in the back on the passenger side splashed in the growing pool at his feet to make a point about how unPreferred his position was.

I glanced at Chief-I'm-Just-Not-Worried-About-It to see if my driving and the perils that abounded on every hand were putting him on edge. He was sleeping.

There was no time to worry about him not worrying. I prayed intermittently asking God for His protection, and on we went with the mass of traffic. It felt like racing to me. Around the curves, first this way and then that way. Charlotte stretched longer than it ever had before. The rain fell. I had almost no brakes. The Chief dozed. Like Jesus in the bottom of that ship on the raging sea.

"He trusts my driving." I thought smugly. It was the happiest thought I had had in awhile and I enjoyed it thoroughly, in spite of the fact that death pretty much sprawled all over the doorstep.

Finally the traffic began to thin a little. Maybe we were through Charlotte???? Maybe! I hadn't seen the first building, but we had driven 50 miles in Charlotte alone, it felt like, and that is not an exaggeration.

It was true! We were through!

The Chief roused from his slumbering and helped me figure out a good exit to take. We pulled into a gas station. Rain started dumping in earnest. He pumped gas and then checked the brake fluid.

"Is it low?" I asked.
"Yeah, it looks low. It's kinda hard to tell." he replied. He went in and bought a bottle of brake fluid and poured it in the little break-fluid compartment. I crawled out of the driver's seat and ran around to the passenger side.

We had made it. Alive. No one but me was even surprised.

The rest of our trip was rather uneventful till we got to Augusta. The rain stopped at some point and the sky cleared. The native in the seat behind me splashed now and then, for effect, but he wasn't treading water yet, so it was all good. Becky effervesced continuously in the seat behind the Chief, a bundle of cheerful buoyancy. Almost too buoyant. He threatened now and then to put her in the trunk, but she only giggled. Her floor was dry.

As we approached Augusta we decided it would make sense to stop and pick up something to eat. The trip had taken much longer than usual, by the time we got home it would be time to tuck the littles into bed.

We decided on tacos. As we were deciding on tacos, a boiling bank of blackness was rising before us. Broad and increasingly high. We were getting ready to enter a storm. We left the interstate and headed for Taco Bell just down the street. The Preferred on our heels. The Storm was nearly upon us. I did NOT feel like unloading all the natives. I just wanted to be HOME. Let it storm then, if it wanted. The Chief went over and told the natives in The Preferred that they might as well head for home as fast as they could and we'd bring food. So off they went, and he dashed inside, while Becky and Dustin and I waited.

The wind hit with serious intention.
Becky was losing a bit of effervescence.
"I don't like storms. I want to be home." she said plaintively.

Gigantic drops suddenly splatted on the windows. And then it POURED. The wind was blowing with fierce force. Water started dripping in the tops of the windows. Becky whimpered. We were parked near the door, and I tried to watch for the Chief but the rain was coming down in layered swirling sheets, and I couldn't see the door even though it was close at home.. All of a sudden, he was there. And inside. Soaked to the bone. 

It was a tremendous storm!  You could scarcely see more than a dozen feet.

"Do you think it's safe to try to drive when it's like this?" I asked.
"It's just as bad of a storm if we're sitting still." replied Chief-I'm-Just-Not-Worried-About-It. And off we went.

And for a little it was just amazing. The rain! The wind! How so much of both of them filled the same spot I have no idea. But it wasn't but a mile or so till it subsided some, and then some more, and by the time we made it to the wig-wam it was raining only gently. The Preferred had arrived safely as well. The lights  were on. We were home.

And I, at least, was glad.