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Trip to Greenville

November 17, 2008

The kids and I just got back from my hometown in North Carolina. I always get emotional when I drive into town; it’s a place where, for me, the past and present are impossibly tangled together. I see my childhood home, my old schools, and the church where I was married, and I feel so close to the time when my stepmom, my mother, and my grandma were alive. The trip was sad — but in a good way, if you know what I mean.

Friday night we had a party at my father’s house to celebrate my stepmom’s life; it was the first anniversary of her death. We spent the rest of the weekend at Dad’s. We got to spend a lot of time with him and his … um … girlfriend? I’m not sure what to call her. She’s a kind, funny person, and she told me about 100 times how adorable the kids are and what a great job I’m doing homeschooling them. Oh … and the fact that she’s crazy about Dad. I think she mentioned that about 200 times. πŸ™‚

I got the chance to reconnect with two good friends, and I saw my brother and his wife for the first time in ages. We also saw my brother’s best friend, since 3rd grade, and his wife — they are terrific. But this is the BEST part …

I finally got to meet my niece!!!

She is is fifteen months old and, in my oh-so-humble and completely unbiased opinion, one of the most beautiful and adorable people on the planet. She seemed enthralled with my 4-year-old, Trishy, and kept hugging her again and again. This made Trishy giggle.

My brother and sister-in-law are terrific parents. There is a connection between them and their little one that enables her to toddle forth into the world, confident and joyful.

Saturday, while I was still giddy from meeting my niece, we all walked to the park and hung out on the playground. There had been several days of drenching rain, and the ground was covered with a thick carpet of red, gold, and brown leaves. Ripples of dirt and other debris covered the grass; it looked like the edge of the shore after the tide has gone out. Sarah chatted with my brother’s friend about her obsession — movies. He is an English professor and kind of a film studies maven. The younger kids played. James found a thick sandy mud puddle under the swingset; it sucked in his feet like quicksand. He reveled in that for a while, gleefully heaving his feet out of the mud, jumping, and splashing.

Later, Dad’s girlfriend, F., took us all to a used bookstore and restaurant called the Tipsy Teapot. She offered to give Sarah money to buy BOOKS (her other obsession). Sarah said, “I’m beginning to LIKE this woman!!” πŸ˜€ F. gave her a $50 to blow on used books for herself and the littles. Needless to say, she was in a state of rapture.

The Tipsy Teapot was downtown, right across the street from a Hookah Bar, no less. It turned out to be the kind of place where you can buy all sorts of things, from used books to handmade jewelry to t-shirts with slogans like “Born Again Pagan” and “Tree Hugging Dirt Worshipper.” On Sunday mornings, you can even get your palm read or a tarot reading. I’ve been gone from my hometown a LONG time; I’m just guessing … but I’m thinking the Baptists don’t own the town anymore. πŸ˜€

There was a young guy outside the Tipsy Teapot that night, with the awning shielding him from the rain, playing the ukulele. He had drifted down from French Canada. He let Missy sit on his lap while he played. Afterward, F. made sure he had a place to stay and gave him some money.

Today, we strewed my stepmom’s ashes, and those of her beloved dogs, in Dad’s backyard. The kids and I were there with Dad, my brother and his wife and daughter, and two close friends. We all stepped off the deck where my stepmom and Dad drank coffee and watched birds for many years. We walked through the “glen,” thick with trees, down to the creek and sprinkled the bits of bone and ash on the damp brown leaves. It seemed astonishing that all that remains of a person’s earthly being can fit into a little box, be strewn like sand, or absorbed by the wet, fertile earth. But her spirit it where it’s supposed to be. After we spread the ashes, we all just sat on the back porch for a while and talked.

I came home feeling tired and emotional, but energized. πŸ™‚ I am looking forward to getting back to our regular routine — sort of. I’m full of food and a jumble of memories, and eager to spend the night in my own bed! πŸ™‚

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