A belated Happy Easter ~ He has risen and what a glorious time of year!
With the recent spring break and most college kids heading to all corners of this side of the hemisphere with mission trips, ski slopes, cruises, the beaches along the Atlantic, Gulf and Mexico, I decided to do a little traveling myself. I visited my parents and dog, Abbey, before heading to Blowing Rock, North Carolina, to visit friends Jim and Helen Cain (our former ambassador to Denmark during the Bush 2 presidency and his lovely wife). We had six inches of beautiful snow glaze the mountains. Perfect for reading two books! Once the snow melted, adventures awaited Helen and me as we ventured to Boone, shopped and enjoyed lunch in the Dan’l Boone Inn. Next stop: the original Mast General Store and Post Office in Valle Crucis. Then, downtown shops along Main Street in charming Blowing Rock were to be explored. Our last evening was filled with entertainment when a small dinner party gathered on the deck to watch the perfectly gorgeous sunset from the Cain condo and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
About 30 miles north of Athens as I was returning from Blowing Rock to reopen the house, I received a text from my closest friend when growing up, sharing that her 96-year-old mother, Velva Darden, was in the hospital and not doing well. She passed that night. Her daughter, Denise, was the youngest of five siblings and I was the oldest of six. We lived next door to each other, and shared TONS of exploits including summer nights playing kick-the-can, campouts and baseball in our yard when younger. Playing on our high school basketball and tennis teams together, shooting hoops in our back yard where Daddy had made a basketball court for us and seeking the unexpected were always on the agenda. Our mothers monitored grand central station between the two houses. All the kids in the neighborhood were most often in or near our house. When my house was too rowdy while trying to read, I would head next door with a book I had checked out from the town library. Mrs. Darden would find me curled up on a sofa or in one of their beds with my eyes affixed to the pages as I got lost in another world. She had a great sense of humor and was the first I knew who had an aloe plant in her kitchen window and used it on me when I inevitably got a scrape. And, she always had a treat just for me whether I was hungry or not. She was my second mama.
AXO had its spring formal where “my” beautiful young women were escorted by handsome dates sporting tuxedos. I actually tried to help one young man with his bow tie and cuff links. Probably the first time for him. Hopefully, not the last for me as I had helped my ex adorn his.
Sports are blooming this spring. March Madness has ended. I suppose I may be a bit of a spoiled sport as the SEC is not represented. The coveted Masters begins this week and the Run for the Roses and first leg of the Triple Crown - the Kentucky Derby - is the day before my next column. It is also the day that I close the house for the summer. How quickly this year is passing!
As I attended Mrs. Darden’s funeral in Forsyth where I grew up, I pulled right into a front parking space under a full blooming dogwood tree in front of the First Baptist Church in my small town ~ thankful for the shade it would offer in the sun. It was a beautiful spring day. The church became packed as people came to pay respects for a woman who had a servant’s heart and was loved by many. I saw faces that were once young like I was when I left my hometown … those who had aged well and not so well. I sat behind Coach Dan Pitts who was king in the high school football world in middle Georgia with successes that rank him among one of the winningest coaches in the state. He is a true legend and one of my father’s closest friends. We sang songs I recognized from my upbringing in the First United Methodist Church a couple of blocks away. Mrs. Darden’s eulogy was filled with loving memories from two of her grandchildren. She apparently had continued her servant's heart until she passed.
Did you have any little munchkins around the house for Easter? Fond memories take me back to our home on Easter mornings when my youngest siblings would run around waking all of us announcing that the Easter Bunny had visited leaving baskets filled with yummy treats and dye-colored boiled eggs … eggs that would be eaten before church with black pepper sprinkled upon them. My taste buds have now matured to hot sauce. I still have the Easter basket that was brought to me on my first Easter a “thousand” years ago when I was just six months old. I continue to pull it from my decorations storage and display it every year with the picture of two of my siblings and me in front of the church.
I visit my parents in Forsyth frequently but doing so with the added opportunity to see old friends makes leaving each time a little harder. Thank you, God, for allowing me to grow up in a small town in a Christian family and blessing me with so many opportunities and friends ~ it does take a village to raise a child. May God bless you as we celebrate our Savior’s rising!