VISITING

Note: Following is a page from my spiritual notebook.

I opened one eye and peered at the travel alarm. 6:15. I wonder if David’s plane has left Michigan yet.

I was staying overnight in Central Florida with my friend, June. I held my breath and listened for sounds in the house. Nothing. She’s not up. I’ll just rest a bit. I thought about the previous day when I drove several hours south on I-75 for a visit.

June lives in a small town northwest of Sebring. Before my marriage to JK, I lived in the area for nearly ten years. Old friends are the best!

These days, I make the trip only twice a year. This time, I decided to combine a stop at June’s with my drive to Tampa International Airport to pick up my son, David. He was flying in to spend a long weekend with me at the beach. In about two hours, I’ll leave for the airport.

David’s plane was due in at 12:22 P.M. I had not made the airport drive in six or seven years and was not sure how long it would take. I might run into construction or get lost on a detour. I closed my eyes. Big day yesterday. I revisited part of it.

At noon, June and I entertained another Ninepatcher, Nancyann. She drove nearly an hour for a visit and lunch. June made her special marinated vegetable “summer salad,” defrosted tasty ham cuts and added a carton of deli potato salad. Contributing food, I had brought along two of June’s recipes: orange fluff and pea-and-egg salad.

The sun was high overhead when Nancyann appeared in the driveway. After hugs and hellos, we lined up to fill our plates. We gathered at June’s round dining table, covered with a tablecloth that once belonged to her late sister. After silent prayer, we sipped tea, tasted fare and chatted.

Nancyann glanced at the knotty pine wall where one of June’s paintings hung. “That’s a beautiful painting!”

June replied, “It won Best of Show at the county fair one year.”

Nancyann said she was starting some art so June explained her process. “I painted it from a picture on a calendar. Milton and I spent summers in North Georgia at “Plum Nelly,” the cabin he and I built.

She turned to me, “You remember. The natives would say it was ’Plum out of Tennesseee and Nelly out of Georgia’.” 

She grinned and turned back to Nancyann. “ Sometimes we ate at a family restaurant in a nearby small town. That’s where Milton and I saw the calendar with this photo on it.

One day I pointed to the calendar and asked the waitress, ‘Would you save that calendar for me when the year’s over?’

She thought a minute. ‘I don’t see why not.’”

June sipped her unsweet tea before she continued. “Before we left the cabin in August to return to Florida, I took the waitress a pre-paid mailing cylinder.” She paused. “In January, I got the calendar in the mail!”

Chewing marinated summer salad vegetables and sipping tea, I watched June tell her story.

She looked up at the painting. “I took painting lessons for many years.”     

Again, she turned to me. “You remember, Frances. I was going to those classes when I met you.”

I nodded.

June looked back at Nancyann who was spooning orange fluff. “Eventually, I used the calendar picture as a painting project. It turned out so well, I entered it in the county fair.”

June, (left) and Nancyann

June, (left) and Nancyann

June took time to cut her ham and chew a bite.

Nancyann said, “I am starting with sketching. It’s been a long time since I did anything like this.”

I left them talking about using charcoal and carried my plate to the sink. I rinsed it, and began putting lids on food containers and setting them in the refrigerator. Everyone pitched in to clean up and in minutes Nancyann and I carried our tea to the living room where we anchored both ends of the small floral print couch.

Nancyann looked at me. “So David’s coming down.”

I brightened. “Yes! We’ll spend a few days over at Anna Maria Island. I love that beach! I can’t wait.”

Perched with a pillow at her back, Nancyann said, “I had a wonderful experience in February.” Her words slowed. “It was profoundly moving. I went to an Emmaus Retreat.”

“Where’d you go?” I asked.

“It was held at a church, in Venice, Florida.” She took a breath and let it out slowly. “Several women from our church drove over. It really touched me.”

She said that now she felt closer to God through writing and her favorite morning reads. She added, “ I think drawing will help, too.”

June took another turn and told a story about her pioneer grandmother and a panther. We continued  talking about other strong women we knew and loved–now present only in spirit.

Memory of the previous day faded with the sudden fragrance of perking coffee. June’s up! I checked the clock: 6:40. I bounced out of bed.

Eating together, sharing stories of our lives and mutual friends reminded me of home. The visit felt like an afternoon with my aunts and cousins. Not all “family”share blood ties! 

Frances Fritzie

 

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