Saturday, September 14, 2013


Gurgle, gurgle, bump,bump.  Drippy, drippy, drip, drip.  This is the sound of my magic elixir machine brewing the pot of liquid jolt necessary to begin my day.  Maybe not necessary.  I can jump out of bed and function in an emergency situation but not by choice.  In that case, I grab a cold Red can from the fridge and perform the same task but with a cold start.

I remember drinking my first samples of coffee when I was very, very young at my great-grandmother's house.  Maybe I was 4 or 5, with just as many tablespoons of sugar and milk and a couple of dollops of hot coffee.  She had the cutest little wooden spoon holder of a Dutch boy and girl.  That is a place I would love to go back and visit.  What a great way to get hooked on caffeine. 

When I was growing up, caffeinated beverages were a treat, not a daily part of my life.  Even though my grandparents owned a hotel and had a cold drink box in the corner of the lobby, I had to ask permission before I could reach my hand into the freezing water and retrieve a bottle.  When I was six, we took our first big camping trip to Colorado.  I had my first fountain drink of Coca-Cola (nectar of the gods).  Being in the mountains, this new type of drink became a "mountain" drink in my vocabulary.   

My serious coffee drinking began in seventh grade using freeze-dried nuggets.  It is a wonder that I kept drinking the stuff.  I do keep a small jar in the pantry for cooking purposes or to grab for the allusive camping out experience, just like the plastic box in the garage containing all items required to equip a camping kitchen big enough for a small regiment.  Always, the just in-case, never must throw out or give away an item that may be necessary if a camping excursion were to commence on a moment's notice.  This is required to keep an old Boy Scout in good standing.  And the sleeping bags of uncertain condition after twenty years of little use.  I have become a real bed person.  Tie that to the top of the car.

Speaking of travelling like the Joads.  Once on vacation in Washington, D.C. I remember all of us climbing out of our brand-new minivan, which was packed to the gills.  Burt had just managed to park the car, which is no small feat in that city were the majority of the vehicles are small and convenient.  When travelling there, one will notice the rarity of the SUV's, trucks and vans that we Southern folks are partial to. Our niece was also travelling with us.  Princess and her cousin had been fighting over who was sitting where, almost for the entire trip.

A couple of  "sophisticated" young Washingtonians walked by and laughed, remarking about our license plate and the President.  It was a very tacky thing to do, especially to a tourist but more is the pity.  Afterall, I doubt they had ever been to the President's birthday party or stopped to offer him a ride on a cold January morning when he was jogging.  Bless their heart. 

We had more camping equipment than luggage.  On the return trip home we were driving through the Carolina's and we already had a camping spot picked out. 

                                                   An earlier trip to Carolina

Burt had only heard tales about this magical nook, the world's most beautiful camping spot, nestled in the mountains.  Away from the dirt-packed campsite, a green lawn of  moss led down to a cold, mountain stream which shimmered when a slice of sun filtered through the trees, reflecting off the smooth chips of Mica glistening   Nearby, a small swimming lake held waters too cold to swim in, even in August.  A bath house offered showers so frigid that young children were not required to bathe, especially after the experience of a screaming mother.

My family made the trek twice to camp in this very same spot.  For many years, we exchanged Christmas cards with a neighbor camper, a woman who pitched a tent in that same beautiful glade, and resided there as long as the NPS would allow.  Despite our best preparation, the rain would keep us away from the hallowed campsite on this trip.  Hopefully, Burt will someday get the chance to set up camp there.

When one is driving home from Maine, a diversion through the Carolinas is a must.  And a blessing in disguise.  My mother, father and I had not traveled this scenic route in decades.  The road wound along the very edge of a rushing mountain river full of boulders that looked like a gully God had rolled His marbles down just to see where they would land.  A metal guard rail clung to the most precarious edges as the curves prevented any high speed.

We saw the sign for the swimming lake first.  It still looked cold.  The bathhouse was still standing.  We got back into the car and drove to the campsite.  The Thursday afternoon was fairly quiet and not yet impacted by the certain influx of campers that would soon seek a beautiful October weekend.

I pulled into the parking spot beside the campsite.  Decades of growth had encompassed the site and with all things when looking back, the place seemed smaller.  A favorite of my father, native son Thomas Wolfe said, "You can't go home again."  And it is better not always knowing, the last.

But with memory, I walk the laurel-lined pathways of the campground of happy times.  With my sister, my parents and my cousin.   I see tiny garnets shaking together in the bottom of a cup.  The smell of carrots, corn, onions and potatoes cooking with hamburger for our camping goulash.  The feel of the slips of mica peeled away in delicate layers, a fairy's mirror.  The gurgle of a moss-banked stream and water too cold for feet.  But the perfect temperature for submerged cans of sweet refreshment.  Tucked into a warm sleeping bag, the sounds of the night in low voice.  Just in sight, on the other side of the table, my parents sitting in folding chairs with their feet propped on the outside rocks of a campfire, each cupping a small, plastic cup with steam rising, and the smell of coffee on the camp stove, as they each pause and take a sip between the words of their life's conversation as it drifts high into the trees, forever caught in the canopy of this magical glade.


a woman who will return

In memoriam of the 75th anniversary of the passing of Thomas Wolfe, a reception will be held Saturday, September 14, 2013, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site followed by a viewing of his childhood home.  Ashville, North Carolina

( I discovered this by accident today, when I was doing research.)

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