Our trip to my hometown of Columbus, Georgia was brief. Friends Dave and Jane Wilson hosted us as they so often do when we come to town. We will do the same for them when they come to Oregon later this summer. Jane is an Oregon native who moved to Columbus following her civil service career. Dave is a Connecticut native and Navy veteran. The University of Oregon could not have two finer fans than Dave and Jane. We enjoy the friendly banter over these two rival teams – the Ducks and Beavers.
While there is plenty to see and do in Columbus – rafting or zip-lining the Chatt, biking the river path, terrific culinary adventures, and wonderful theater at the Springer- I mostly look forward to catching up with dear friends.
I usually alert my circle of friends when I’ll be in town and we make arrangements to see each other.
But this time I just winged it. One of my favorite places to visit is Fiddleheads in Bibb City. Ross and Sherri own this delightful store. Sherri and I have been friends since our youth group days at Rose Hill Baptist. Even so when she found me playing with the colorful music boxes in the children’s department of Fiddleheads, Sherri has no idea who I was. To be fair, I was wearing a cloth masks and sunglasses, so I looked a bit like a masked bandit. Besides it’s easy to be distracted by all the lovely gift items (Sherri is a new grandmother so this part of her store is like a burst cloud of pastel joy).
Ross had the advantage of hearing from Sherri that I was in town so he had no problem recognizing me. Ross and I met years ago when he moved back home to Harris County, Georgia. Ross is the fine fellow who first gave me advice about all the wonderful places “You have to visit” in France, where he had lived prior to moving back home. Visiting Ross is like entering a snow globe of the movie set for Steel Magnolias. Every word out of Ross’s mouth is quotable and usually leaves me in fits of shocked laughter. He’s a wonderful storyteller and the very person you want to have at every dinner party.
“You know what they say?” he said when I told him about a dinner I’d had with friends the night prior. “Too much wine is just enough.”
The night we were talking about was the dinner we had with the Wilsons and Pam and Frank Feagle. Pam recommended Morten’s in Old Towne, two places I knew nothing about. Old Towne is a new development in North Columbus. I’d heard about it for the first time that morning while on a walk with another friend. I recommend you make reservations. Morten’s is a hopping place. We were able to secure a patio table with the help of Pam’s niece who is a hostess there. The food and wine was all wonderful. It is unusual to find a night in Georgia in July when you can sit outside and not need a towel to soak up the sweat from the humidity, but we’ve had unusually pleasant weather for most of our trip. Thankfully.
We did manage to fit in short visits with Paul Pierce from The Springer Theater over coffee at Iron Bank, where we discussed the politics of North Georgia, where Paul grew up. And a quick visit with childhood friend Lynn Wilkes, who moved into a new home during a pandemic year. Her home is filled with light which is something all of our lives should be – vessels of light and love. Lynn’s life has always reflected both.
And with that, we wrapped up our visit and headed out on the road again. We had planned to head to the Gulf Coast of Florida and Alabama, but with the Delta variant raging we decided to take the safer route home. So far, we’ve managed to engage with vaccinated people. We are doing our best to avoid those who are careless about Covid.
What we had not planned on when rerouting was that we’d be driving through a town where a dear friend’s son and his wife are deployed. But when Siri alerted me that we would be passing through that town I began a frenzy of text messages trying to track them down.
I could see from Facebook that they had been on the West Coast vising friends and family in Oregon while we were in the Deep South. I wasn’t sure, however, when they had gone or when they’d return. They have a new baby named for his mother, The Redhead, which I wrote about in Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide?
They had flown in from Oregon that very day, and I wasn’t sure if they were still on the plane. Then I got a message saying they’d just arrived back in town but had a dinner engagement with friends.
Well, let’s go by the house and take a photo of us there to send to them, I said to Tim. It was more on the way to Oxford, Mississippi, than Boston was to Tennessee, I rationalized. In reality it was a 10 minute drive off our route. So that’s what we did.
We drove up to their home and snapped a photo of us in front of their Welcome sign. I was disappointed to have missed them but was amused that they had been only a short distance from our Oregon home while we were in the Deep South. Tim and I were standing in their driveway talking about how we hated missing them when the garage door opened. We looked at each other thinking we had done something to set off some gadget that regulated the door.
But out they came, as surprised to see us as we were to see them. Turns out the folks they were having dinner with literally lived next door. They would have been there already except, you know babies. They don’t abide by schedules. So we did get in a round of hugs and laughs and short stories before heading out again.
The pandemic taught most of us that we need one another. We need those hugs, brief as they may be. We need laughter in our lives. We need stories. We need one another.
Dennis Covington, a writer I’ve long admired, posted a piece written by Louise Erdrich that aptly says how I’ve been feeling lately:
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Mother of Rain (Mercer University Press).