This past Wednesday, Emma and I piled in the car to drive north of the Cackalackie border to....North Cackalackie to visit old and very dear friends. It was a lovely trip, and travelling with Emma was a pleasure, go figure. It gave me hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel in terms of being able to sit in the car for more than 30 minutes without someone screaming.
Anyway, as I said, the trip was lovely. I got to see my best and lifelong friend Karen, her husband Jason, and her extended family. I also had the opportunity to meet her new daughter Marcie, who was recently adopted from China. Check out We Found Baby S. In China for the details. Unfortunately, Marcie was pretty sick, nevertheless, she was charming and adorable, and a little butterball of a baby that I couldn't resist kissing and squeezing. And....now I'm sick. Very sick. And so is Emma. Yet it was TOTALLY worth it! Emma had an absolute ball playing with Casey, Karen and Jason's soon to be 4 year old son. And I loved being able to chat with Karen and Jason again and squeeze their new daughter. And I had a wonderful conversation with Karen's sister-in-law which ultimately helped me to clarify some ambitions I've been kicking around lately (but those are a subject for another post).
There's just something about meeting up with old friends. It felt a little bit like coming home when "home" is something that seems to allude me lately. All in all, it was a memorable trip, a wonderful bonding experience for Emma and I, and inspired a few thoughts along the way.
Here they are:
1. North Carolina is just another way of saying, "South Carolina" without the inland wetlands. It's all the same people, Baptist and Methodist churches, BBQ, and freeways named after staunchly conservative, right-wing, fundamentalist Christian, dead politicians.
2. "Carolina country" is surprisingly beautiful...large white pine forests, rolling hills giving way to wetland laden valleys all framed by white horse fences and fall foliage. I remember at one point thinking that I had just driven into a Norman Rockwell painting.
3. "Carolina country" is surpisingly ugly...too many trailer parks dotting an otherwise beautifully untouched landscape; too many industrial parks, factories, and truck stops that have obviously over-run some of the only remaining wetlands that this country has left.
4. My friend's parents are possibly the most patient and tolerant people I've ever met. I envy their calm demeanor and warm, patient regard. After being a stay-at-home-mom for the past 2 and a half years, I am especially in awe of my friend's mother who raised 4 of her own children with what appears to be the utmost of grace and kindness, and now treats her own grandchildren with the same regard. I wish I had her patience and reserve in those moments when my own kids are making me want to crawl out of my skin!
5. I miss Karen. I sorely miss her. Like I said, there's something about old friends that makes you feel at home the way that nothing else can.
6. There is a random traffic sign along I-26 that reads, "SMOKE." That's it. And given that we are in a part of the country where tobacco is considered a vegetable (thanks for that one Jason), I couldn't help but chuckle and think that perhaps this sign was intended less as a warning and more as a reminder to grab a pack of Marlboros and light up, perhaps because you were approaching a particularly stressful part of the drive.
7. So much of the Carolinas is untouched landscape, and as a result, there are a plethora of intact habitats available to support local wildlife, as is evidenced by the variety of raptors I saw flying overhead throughout the drive.
8. Much of that untouched landscape is marked with, "For Sale," signs or equipment for clear-cutting, which of course foreshadows the ultimate destruction of local habitat and ensuing disappearance of said wildlife.
9. Emma is a delightful traveller, and a very well-behaved, polite child. I had my suspicions about the well-behaved part, but I was extremely pleasantly surprised by the little traveller in her. Perhaps she and I will find ourselves in more exotic locales in the near future.
10. Finally, in seeing old friends, one is reminded of old times; laughter, tears, kindnesses exchanged, and hurts inflicted. I only hope that in the end, those I've met along the way take the kindness and the laughter with them, and leave the hurt where it belongs...to be forgiven in the past.