Moving On...

We are in the apartment of the Eldest Unnamed One. It is the big, final Move In Day and the time has come to say goodbye. He sits in the swivel armchair he’s spent the morning assembling while I lean against the doorframe beside him.

“You know,” he says. “It’s weird. One minute you live at home and the next you’re in some apartment on your own.”

My heart snaps right in two. I can’t help myself. I reach over and pretend to flick a piece of dust from a lock of his hair. I won’t make this any harder than I know it already is- for both of us. After all, this is the brave boy who finally burst into tears on his fifth birthday after I’d said for the millionth time that day, “Now you’re Mama’s Big Boy.”

“I don’t want to be your Big Boy!” he’d sobbed. I want to be who I am!

I realize now it was my adjustment to make- my baby was no longer a toddler. It was time to let go of that phase and begin the next one. I was the one who had to remind myself of that, over and over again, until I could find some peace with losing my treasured baby to a more independent child- the child who marched up the steps of the Kindergarten bus and never once looked back.

I know now how hard that must have been for him, what inner strength my child uses to make those big transitions seem easy. Funny how we learn so much, often in retrospect, from our precious children.

Lately, more so than ever, I try and think what my own father would do- or did do- when faced with one of these life-altering situations. I summon up memory and try to respond as I imagine he would. This one is easy. We had so many goodbyes, so many times, and always he made the parting easy on me.

Once, after I’d moved 800 miles away to live in the South, I asked him how he stood the long times between our visits because I was so homesick.

“Oh,” he said. “I create my Nancy in my head and even when you’re not here, when I miss you, I just summon her up and there’s “my” Nancy. I store up our times together and play them back and it’s like you’re right here.”

I believed him then. I felt much less guilty about having chosen to run off to the far away south. I had more strength to live my new life.

Every single leave-taking was the same, even his dying. He always smiled but he always walked us out to our cars then stood watching until we were out of sight. The last image we would have in our rearview mirrors was always that of him standing there, smiling and waving goodbye.

Later, when the boys were teenagers and I knew how much our visits meant, I would drive around the bend in the road, stop and cry because it was always so hard to leave him.

He would always be sure, at some point in our visits to tell me how proud he was of us, how great it was to watch us becoming the people we were. Dad packed us full of confidence and unconditional love- the sent us back out into our worlds without one string attached.

And we always came back home.

“It’s weird. One minute you live at home and the next you’re in some apartment on your own,” he said.

“I know,” I answered. “It’s gotta feel a little strange but cool, huh? I mean, your first apartment. College. Wow! I am so proud of you. You guys are gonna be fine.”

“I know.”

“Besides,” I can’t help but add. “We’re only an hour away and you know how us moms are, always looking to feed you or maybe even pop in now and then, just to maybe bring you a casserole or something. It’s not like you can get rid of us so easily.”

The Wench Beloved, having just been through all of this with her mom, studies the screen of her laptop with fierce intensity, pretending not to be a part of this conversation but I know her by now. I see the quick blink of her eyes and feel the emotion that sits just on the edge of spilling over.

I stand up; look at the Youngest Unnamed One and Mertis and say, “Well, we’d better get on the road and let these two get settled in.”

“I’ll walk you out,” the Eldest said. There is so much of his grandfather in this child. I love him so very much.

We walk out to the parking lot and he watches us from the top of the fire escape. I remember suddenly all the times he’d ride off to school with his father and I would come running out at the last minute in my bunny slippers and bathrobe, my hair sticking out at all angles and cry, “Bye-bye, Honeycakes!”

“Wait!” I instruct. “Don’t move! I need a picture!” A picture just like every other first day of school, a picture to remember the passing of yet another year. A picture that doesn’t need to be taken because the memories are etched forever in my heart.


Cabin Life- The Search for History

Yesterday I took the day off from the nursing homes to come up to the cabin. I wanted to be present for the passing on of my great walnut tree.

Actually, I didn’t want to be present. I just felt I should be, since I’m the one who’s responsible for giving the order.

Well, the tree guys didn’t come. Turns out they said they thought I couldn’t take off work Tuesday, so they decided to start on Wednesday and “finish the week out” at my house. This was per Mertis who had to call them as my cell doesn’t work at the cabin.

Later Marti reminded me my last words to the tree guys were, “I’ll see you Tuesday!”



I used the time “wisely” by heading off to research the cabin. I hit the Blue Ridge Institute first where the very nice director gave me the number of a local historian and told me to call her.

On the phone. You know how I am about phone calls!

So instead I went to the Franklin County Historical Society. “You should’ve called Edith,” they told me. “She really knows that area. That’s where you should start.”

“Well, I didn’t want to appear completely stupid, so I thought I’d find out as much as I could from y’all first,” I lied.

This completely threw them. “Well,” the sweet, gray-haired, volunteer said. “Linda’s in the basement. I hope she comes back up. If she does, she’ll be able to help you.”

And if she doesn’t? What happens in the historical society basement that decides whether Linda gets to come back up or not? I never did find out. Had I been a really good investigative reporter and been rude enough to ask, I might’ve found the real story. As it was, I gleaned enough to make me think perhaps she was doing her own research as she is on a book deadline. When I’m on a deadline, I look for whatever quiet space I can find and the basement of the historical society sounds perfect.

Linda did re-emerge and she was as sweet and delightful as the volunteer. And very helpful. Linda said, “You really should call Edith. She hasn’t been in good health and she is getting older…”

I know I should call Edith.

“She’s very nice and she’d love to talk to you,” Linda added, perhaps knowing the look of phone phobia when she sees it. “But you can also go to the courthouse and search through the records. Go back as far as you can. Once you have a family name, we can help more. Just go to the Clerk’s office and act dumb- they’ll help you. They’re really very nice and they love to help but if you act like you know what you’re doing, they won’t help you a bit.”

“Oh, it won’t be an act. I really am dumb about all this.”

So I drove to the little courthouse and prepared to throw myself on the mercy of the Clerk.

The Historical Society ladies were totally right. A stern-faced, gray-headed, woman named Mary turned out to be amazingly helpful. She reminded me of my junior high school librarian and intimidated the heck out of me with her no-nonsense insistence that I “Get closer so you can watch how I do this.”

The great thing about Mary is that she does not suffer fools gladly and assumes you will be watching so you can then complete the search on your own. She is a natural born teacher. When people do things for you, it’s almost a vote of no confidence- it’s an unconscious message that they feel you’re too dumb to do it yourself. So Mary gave me a great gift.

Three hours later, when I was still hard at work but totally into it, Mary walked by, munching on a cracker left over from her break. “You’re having fun, aren’t you?” she said.

I didn’t even need to look up to hear the complete change in Mary’s voice. She was smiling and happy. Apparently, I’d passed muster.

“I love this,” I told her.

“Just wait until you get to the books on the top row,” she said, indicating the earliest deed records. “You’ll really love that.”

And I did, and I do. It was the greatest fun in the world. I was reading about people I’d researched, looking at their signatures, or in most cases, X’s and feeling as if I could almost reach out and touch the past. It is an awesome feeling- to see history coming to life before you.

Attorney’s researching cases swirled around me, busily accumulating information for upcoming cases or real estate ventures. The paralegal from my closing came in and settled her papers on the long wooden stand next to where I was working.

“Well, how are you?” she asked. She wanted to know all about what I was doing there, maybe worried some glitch had turned up in the property.

When I told her, she nodded wisely. “You really should call Edith,” she said. “She knows a lot about that side of the county.”

“I know,” I answered. “I’m just doing the groundwork first.”

So when I do finally call Edith I will ask her all about the Wade family- from Posey Wade on back to Royal Wade. I will ask about Thomas Jones who bought land on the branches of Turners and Nicholas Creeks in the late 1700s. But while I know the “facts” of my property and some of the lore, I don’t have a true feel for what is true and what is fiction.

Is a Confederate soldier buried here? Are those the remains of stills in the woods? Are there really photographs of my cabin from long ago? What gives this place such a special and warm feeling? It’s more than the cozy style of the cabin. It is the place itself, the land that gives off such an inexplicable aura.


Trouble in Paradise

It's beautiful, this walnut tree.

It sits beside the cabin, its limbs shading the ruins of an older, smaller cabin- perhaps the blacksmith shop.

A huge limb hangs over the cabin.

I love that...the graceful way the tree seems to caress the house, wrapping its protective "arm" around us.

But my tree is very sick.

This rot eats almost all the way through the trunk and even Joe, the man who knows just about everything and owned the cabin before me, regretfully agrees the tree has to go before it falls on the house.

So, I called a tree service and they're coming Tuesday. They came out Friday to give me an estimate- Mike and Eddie.

Eddie's a little guy maybe in his late 50s, wearing an NRA ball cap. He stepped out of the truck, eyes wide. "How did you find this place?" he asked.

I told him all about it- right down to the rumor of the Confederate soldier buried somewhere on the property in an unmarked grave.

By this time Eddie was digging through the remains of the little cabin, crowing over the bits of old harnesses and tools he found, and caressing the handmade chain we'd recovered earlier.

"You know," he said, straightening up and looking at the old Walnut. "In the old days when they didn't have a grave marker, they planted a tree." He studies the tree with an appraising eye.

"Mike, you think this tree's old enough? I think it's mighty old. I bet...Hey look at this hump of ground here...Do you think?"

Mike, a tall skinny man with dark hair and bright blue eyes, shakes his head dismissively. "Nah. Probably not."

"Still..." Eddie murmurs, ignoring Mike's answer. "It just could be." He looks up into the overhanging limbs and sighs. "You know, I always thought I lived in another time, you know?" He says, checking to see if I'm open to this sort of musing. Well, you know me...of course I am!

"Yeah," I say. "Me, too. I feel so drawn to this place."

This is all Eddie needs. He tells me about finding finger bones in the yard of an old cottage he restored once. "It belonged to a doctor and in those days they didn't dispose of..." He breaks off, uncertain how to phrase what he wants to say in an inoffensive manner. "Well, they just didn't," he finishes.

He slowly walks around the perimeter of the cabin, eyes fixed on the ground. "What you need here is a metal detector."

"I know," I say. "I wish I had..."

"Well I've got one at home," Marti says.

This is a fact I didn't know about Marti and I about jump her to borrow it ASAP.

Eddie's eyes light up.

"I bet Mike won't just show up and cut the tree down straight away," I say to Eddie. "Maybe we can dig around in the old cabin a little bit before he drops it."

Eddie is all over this idea. His eyes light up as he studies the ruined cabin site. "You should hang some of this stuff over the mantle of your fireplace," he says. "But you need to have balance. Symmetry. It's very important."

I nod. Balance. Yep, I could use a little bit of that.

When Joe comes over later he promises me he'll be there when they come Tuesday. He offers without my asking and I am so grateful to have someone who feels like I do there to witness the passing of this brave tree.

Joe thinks he can use some of the wood from the tree and Mertis suggests maybe my kitchen table can be made from some of the wood. This way the old tree would live on as part of the cottage.

This, I think, would be a fitting tribute to an outstanding tree.