Posts Tagged ‘Virginia’

Melva’s Place

January 27, 2013

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“Most of the furniture conveys with the house,” Debbie said as we looked around.

The top of Melva’s polished oak kitchen table shone under a porcelain chandelier. Four matching pressed-back chairs were arranged neatly, waiting for a family dinner. A photograph of Melva’s grandchildren smiled at me from a frame on the wall, three boys. Melva liked red apples. Several framed prints displayed baskets of the fruit. Being this close to the seashore, I expected beach pictures. These apple scenes reminded me of home and our mountain orchards.

The living and dining rooms were more formal with a dark drop leaf table, chairs and matching hutch with Melva’s wedding china displayed. Through an arched doorway we found the wall we hoped would have a fireplace. The chimney outside gave us an expectation. We didn’t find one though. A large mirror hung where we expected to find a mantle. Melva’s couch was covered in a gold brocade, matching pillows hugged the sides of the sofa. Two chairs, a ‘his’ and ‘hers’ flanked the couch. Melva’s reclined and rocked.

I opened the closet by the front door. Photo albums lined the top shelf where I imagined hats would be. Ladies sweaters and jackets hung below, smelling of lavender and dusting powder, an aroma so familiar to me, I felt the comfort of my grandmother. I had an overwhelming urge to reach out and embrace Melva’s sweaters.

Her bedroom stopped me at the door. Before me I found the dark wood furniture I knew from childhood, the four-poster bed, vanity with mirror, chest of drawers and nightstand. Even the dresser scarves were familiar. I stood there, my hand to my chest, my mouth open.

“What’s wrong?” Bruce asked, walking up beside me.

“It’s Grandma’s bedroom,” I said.

“Huh?” he said, completely puzzled.

“It’s the same furniture my Grandma had when I was a little girl,” I said.

“I guess they would have been close to the same age,” Bruce said. “It must have been a popular style.”

“I don’t believe in coincidences,” I said.

“I know you don’t. That’s what worries me. Let’s go look at the bathroom.”

The tub and toilet were the heavy porcelain of 1950, and shiny white. The linen closet smelled of cedar, and each towel was folded just so and stacked one on another with washcloths along side.

The second bedroom displayed pictures of Melva’s daughter, son-in-law, and three grandsons. A homemade quilt warmed the double bed. The ginger jar bedside lamp was filled with seashells.

Bruce pulled the attic stairs down and we climbed up. Melva’s attic had dormer windows, unlike my Grandma’s, but the pull string to turn the overhead light on was the same. While Bruce inspected the walls, roof, duct work and furnace, I counted Melva’s canning jars, marveled over her Christmas decorations sparkling from an open cardboard box, and touched the delicate lace of a fancy dress hanging from the rafters. The dry cleaner’s plastic bag had fallen off one shoulder. I wondered where she had worn that dress, to her fiftieth wedding anniversary, to a garden party, to her daughter’s wedding?

“Looks good up here,” Bruce said from the stairs. “Come on down. I don’t want you falling through the hole in the ceiling not looking where you’re going.”

I followed him down the stairs and he folded them back up.

We thanked Debbie for showing us the place on such short notice. “We’ll be in touch,” I said.

Part 3: https://trainswhistle.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/crunching-numbers/

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Impulse Shopping

January 21, 2013

melva's

As careful and hesitant as I am, I am disabled by an impulsive streak that flashes its lightning at interesting times. My long-term goals, although still there, fade in the brightness of what’s in front of me. Sparkle captures my eye and sends me wanting. My husband usually grounds me. He listens quietly, then brings me back to the reality at hand. He ticks off the hazards, extols the cost, and after a day or two of processing his words, the careful me returns. I go back to thrift store shopping, gardening, recycling, and saving. I can count the times on one hand he’s let me run the extent of my dream without interference. Those have worked out for me.

Bruce and I didn’t take a vacation last year. With my dad’s illness and death, we’d spent most of my vacation time going back and forth to Chesapeake to check on him, then to make funeral arrangements, and finally to settle his estate. I had gone full force for five months without stopping for breath. I’d yet to have a good solid cry. I was worn out.

“Let’s go to Chincoteague this weekend, just the two of us,” Bruce said the last week in July. The boys will be alright at home. We can take the bicycles, beach chairs, a cooler full of cold ones, and sit on the beach, do nothing but relax in our favorite place.

A year ago we bought a lot on Chincoteague at Big Glade Creek; and made plans to build a house in ten years when we retire. The view is as close to perfection as we have found. Ten years seems a lifetime away, and we continue to visit our little island. Each trip, whether staying in a hotel, cottage, or campground costs us rental bucks. Zoning laws will not allow us camp on our lot. We bought the property knowing that up front. Even so, Bruce threatens to pitch a tent, but I don’t want to antagonize the neighbors.

We arrived on the island a little after daylight on Friday morning and parked at Big Glade Creek. We watched the egrets and geese catching their breakfast. The breeze cooled my skin as I sat cross-legged in front of Bruce on our floating dock. I leaned back against his chest and he rested his chin on my head. “I could sit here forever,” he said.

“Me too,” I echoed.

We checked into the hotel at 3:00, stored our gear and unhooked the bicycles. We rode toward Assateague and then onto the hike/bike beach. We stayed, watching the waves break, until just before sunset. We shared the beach with only six other people, but if we looked straight ahead, it was just the two of us.

Sunday came too soon. It always does. I hate to leave Chincoteague more than I hate paying the one hundred thirty-nine dollars a night hotel cost, but with a five hour drive ahead of us, and work for me on Monday, we pulled out at 11:00. We usually head straight down Maddox Blvd to the causeway over Chincoteague Bay toward the mainland, but there was a small line of traffic up ahead and Bruce veered left onto Pension, then right onto Ocean Blvd. which would take us to Main.

That’s when I saw it, a small white, aluminum-sided house with a brick chimney, on a neat manicured lot. It reminded me of my grandparent’s house. The one we live in now. The bay window was somewhat obscured by an overgrown rhododendron bush, one of my grandmother’s favorite shrubs. The ‘for sale’ sign held a box of leaflets describing the property. “Look at that house,” I said, pointing. “Pull over.”

Bruce parked at the curb and I grabbed one of the leaflets. The house was built in 1950, the same year my grandparent’s home was built. This one had two bedrooms, just like theirs. We walked around the outside and found hydrangeas and crepe myrtles in bloom, ours at home are blooming now. A shop and shed sat on the back of the lot. I peered into the window. Woodworking tools were anchored to the workbench. My grandfather was a carpenter.

“I want to see the inside of the house,” I said.

Bruce looked at me and raised an eyebrow. “If we do, we’ll get back late,” he said, looking at his watch.

I could not explain the connection I felt to this house, but it was there. “Let’s just call,” I said. “At this short notice, they might not even be able to show it. If they can’t, then I’ll take it as a sign and we’ll go home.”

Bruce handed me his cell phone and I dialed Debbie, the realtor who had helped us find our lot last year. She answered on the first ring. “I’ll call Ocean East Realty and get the key,” she said. “I’ll meet you at the property in fifteen minutes.”

Debbie opened the back door and we stepped into “Melva’s kitchen”. The carved wooden sign on the wall proclaimed it to be. My grandmother lived in her kitchen. I remember the tastes and aromas of biscuits baking, strawberry jam and apple pies.

Debbie stepped aside for us. “It belonged to a couple who lived here for sixty-two years,” she said. “Islanders. They built the house just after they were married. Melva’s husband passed away a couple years ago. Melva lived here by herself until June. She’s moved to the mainland to live with her daughter now. They had a hard time putting the house on the market. It’s been Melva’s life.”

As I looked around, I could see that. I could feel it.

Part 2: https://trainswhistle.wordpress.com/2013/01/27/melvas-place/

Autumn in Virginia

November 12, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bring Your Camera

April 18, 2012

“Come with me to deliver this load of mulch,” Bruce said last night after supper.

I never know what our trips will bring. He doesn’t usually ask me along; so I know when he does invite me, there’s something he wants me to see.

“Bring your camera,” he added as I walked toward the front door.

The dump truck is an International road tractor. You need a ladder to climb up into the thing, but once there, you survey the world on your side from a high vantage point.  Bruce started the engine and pulled out of the driveway.  We bumped along Rt. 250 toward the foot of Afton Mountain. At Rockfish Gap Country Store, we took a left onto Old Turnpike Road. It’s a gravel road I’ve never traveled. On our right was an old factory with abandoned cinderblock buildings, peeling tin roofed structures, loading docks with bay doors rusted shut, old equipment smothered under weeds and vines, and off in the distance stood a tall, brick smoke stack.

Bruce stopped the truck next to the Realtor’s For Sale sign. “I wonder what this used to be,” he said.

“I don’t know, but it sure is a mess,” I answered.

He’s been looking for a little piece of land to move his mulch business to. He needs a place where a tractor trailer can get off the main road easily, turn around, and dump the load.

“I’d love to have it if the price was right,” he said.

“Oooh no,” I said. “There’s too much to clean up here and you don’t know what that factory made. It may be one of those situations where the EPA has to get involved, asbestos clean up, lead based paint, underground oil and gas tanks. Can you imagine what a mess that would be? How much money you’d have pour into it? And that would be after you bought the property.  You can just put this idea right out of your head,”  I stated with crossed arms.  My tone must have sounded firm enough, because he pulled back out onto the road mumbling something about “just a thought.”

The road was narrow and the truck is big and wide. I was glad not to have met any cars coming. They would have had to back up, or pull over if they’d met us.  The Blue Ridge mountains rose to our right. We were so close to the foot of the range that we could see individual trees where the slope graduated upward. Spring hay in the pastureland between us and the mountain waved under the breeze. A fence stretched along the roadside with rails arranged like clasped gray fingers. The sun had dipped below the mountain and the warm spring air had begun to cool.

I lifted my camera when I saw three deer standing in the field adjacent to the truck, but the side mirror obstructed my shot and I put the camera back in my lap.  “If you wanted me to take pictures,” I said, “we should have come back later in the car.”

“Keep your britches on,” Bruce said. “You haven’t seen anything yet.”

We traveled for another two or three miles before making a sharp left and climbing a steep driveway. The road surface was littered with large loose gravel and good sized pieces of crystal quartz. I could hear them hit the bank as the truck rolled over them and they shot out from under the tires. The driveway was rutted from rain and we bounced from side to side in the truck seat. I hoped this realignment of my brain was worth it.

At the crest of the hill, spread out before us, was the acreage of our destination, a flat, terrace of spring green dotted with hot pink and white azalea bushes under weeping willow trees. The view of the mountains was crisp and clean. My intake of breath was audible. Bruce looked over at me and smiled. He pulled up beside an old weathered gray barn with a rusted tin roof. It leaned back against a tree, tired from years of holding farm equipment and bales of hay.

The farm house was circa 1920, a non-descript two story brown dwelling with square white pillars holding up the porch roof. I was not impressed with it.  What caught my eye was the small rock house to its right. It was quaint and old, probably dating back before the Civil War. The mortar around the rock was rough placed and the craftsman had taken something like a stick and traced a line in the mortar around each stone.  We have many rock walls, pillars and buildings in Albemarle County, but I had never seen one made like this. The roofline had been changed at one time to add height to the cottage, and the structure had a later addition, crafted by a different rock mason. The lines were missing. The two windows facing us were stained glass. The door was a wide paneled mahogany with a white porcelain knob.    “It’s beautiful,” I said.

“Thought you’d like it,” Bruce said as he tipped the dump body and unloaded the mulch.

The owners of the property had been spreading the last load of mulch Bruce had brought and came over to the truck to hand him a check. Bruce is not shy.  “She’d like to see the rock cottage,” Bruce said motioning to me with his thumb.

“Sure, come on in,” the woman said. “I’d love to show it to you.  As much work as I did to the place, I like to brag about it.”

And it was lovely, with its original hardwood floors, exposed beam ceilings, stone fireplace and walnut mantle. She had sanded the wood to its original burnished finish and was in the process of taking the layers of paint off the inside rock surface of one wall. A huge high four poster bed sat in a corner of the front room near the fireplace.  I had my camera in my hand as I walked through the cottage admiring the renovations that brought the original look back to the building. I didn’t take any photographs though.

We thanked the owners for the tour and climbed back into the truck. “I could stand there and feel myself transported back in time,” I said to Bruce.

“Why didn’t you take any pictures?” He asked.

“I felt funny taking pictures of the inside of someone’s house with them standing right there,” I said. “Like maybe they’d think I was casing the joint.”

Bruce laughed. “I think you look pretty trustworthy,” he said. “Besides, they have my name, phone number and address. You wouldn’t get very far before you were caught.”

“Oh well,” I said. “I guess I missed out. I’ll just have to keep the pictures I have in my head.”

We left the way we came. As we turned at the bottom of the hill, I pointed and called out, “Wait! Stop! Look at this.”

“Oh yeah, I saw it the last trip,” Bruce said. “I thought you had seen it.”

“No, I missed it. Pull over,” I said. “It’s so sweet. I want to get out and take some pictures.”

He pulled over in front of another stone cottage and let me slide out. He drove the truck down a ways from the cottage and waited for me.

The building looked to be constructed by the latter mason who had added onto the house we’d just come from up on the hill. This rock was smooth on the surface with neat mortared edges. The small entryway was framed by a pillared arch. Two round-top windows on either side of the front door reflected the yard’s white dogwood trees in their dark surface. A rock chimney rose from a roof shingled in weathered gray cedar shakes. A neat stack of firewood sat near the front door. Its small split logs ready to warm the little house.

To the right side of the cottage, a retaining wall made of the same rock rose behind the building with a set of stairs climbing along its side to access an upper level door that lead to a room that had been dug out of the hillside above.  The door mirrored the same rounded arch as the porch and windows.

Bordering the tiny front yard, a rail fence stood next to an old fashioned climbing red rose, its fragrance perfumed the evening air as no hybrid rose could.

I stood staring at the cottage for a long time after I took my photographs. I imagined its interior inhabited by elves or fairies. I smelled the aroma of meat stew simmering over an open flame in the fireplace. I tasted buttery cornbread cooked in an iron skillet. A grandmother rocked in her chair, reading to a child from a storybook written long ago.

“You alright?” Bruce called from the truck.

I put the camera into my pocket and walked down the hill to the dump truck. “I want that little house,” I said.

When we got back to the old factory, Bruce pulled to the side of the road again and stopped. “You want to take some pictures?” he asked.

I looked at him and frowned. “No,” I said. “I thought we decided against this.”

“We?” he asked.

“I’d rather have that cute little rock house back there,” I said smiling, my arms crossed over my chest again.

Bruce crossed his own arms and smiled back at me. “There’s no ‘For Sale’ sign there,” he said.

“I’m Sorry”

April 1, 2012

With my tax documents on the front seat of the CRV this morning, I drove to town. Mrs. Gordon was waiting for me at her apartment complex north of the city. She’s an elderly lady who retired from GE years ago, but prepares taxes to supplement her Social Security.

I hate the main drag north of town with its thirty traffic lights and twelve lanes, its strip malls hugging the highway, its allotment of daily accidents, so I try to avoid it. I took the off ramp from Rt. 250 onto Barracks Road. That’s where several of  the homeless people panhandle and sleep under the overpass.  The city clear cut the trees last year to discourage the vagrants from gathering in the undergrowth. The city put up no trespassing signs. The homeless population has decreased from this spot, but they are not extinct.

As I slowed at the traffic light there at the end of the off ramp, I noticed an older man with a slight frame. He wore a white goatee and his hair was a little long and tangled. He stood with his cardboard sign. “Trying to get to N.C.” it read. “Please help.”  I’d not seen him before. He was dressed in faded blue jeans and a brown button down shirt. He had no backpacks or duffle bags, only a fine tremor as he stood holding his small, square sign.

I pressed the button to lower my window and handed him a five dollar bill.  He took the money and said something to me, but I couldn’t hear him over the traffic sounds. He smiled though, and put the five in his front pants pocket. I looked up to see if the light was green and saw a city policemen walking toward the old man. I pointed out my window at the officer so the older man wouldn’t be surprised. I rolled up my window and started to pull away, the light had turned green.

The policeman held up his hand, stopping me, and motioned for me to roll my window back down.  I did.

“You know you are breaking the law,” he said, frowning at me.

“No, I didn’t.” I replied.

“He’s trespassing,” the policeman said, pointing to the old man, “and you are breaking the law by giving him money.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“He’s trespassing, you’re breaking the law, and you’re sorry,” the officer said, shaking his head and turning from me to the homeless man. I felt dismissed and pulled away.

Sometimes I wish I was one of those people who have quick come-backs. I never do. As I drove toward Mrs. Gordon’s apartment, my anger grew. I could feel its heat move from my stomach up to my chest and into my red face before my eyes began to water. I pounded the steering wheel and yelled inside the car for no one to hear, “I’m not sorry for breaking the law. I’m not sorry for giving someone five dollars that I worked for and can decide who and who not to give it to. I’m not sorry for rolling down my window to try to help someone.”

After dropping off my taxes and hugging Mrs. Gordon, I drove back the way I came. I hoped to see that police officer. I wanted to stop and talk with him. I wanted him to know how I felt.

I was ashamed of myself.   I wanted to let him know from my mouth what a disgrace I think it is to make a law that forbids someone from asking for help; and what a disgrace it is to make a law that forbids someone from trying to help. I realize he has to uphold the law, but I wanted to see a bit of compassion on his face. I wanted him to understand.  I wanted him to be sorry too. I wanted to know if he had ever been trying to get somewhere and needed someone to help him.

 

 

 

 

On My Own

October 31, 2011

 

 

I’ve been talking all week about taking pictures, about this weekend being the final one before all the leaves are gone. I’ve mentioned several times how pretty I bet the countryside is going to be. I’ve said I want to spend some time this weekend taking pictures.  I didn’t go yesterday, it rained and snowed. Today was Sunday, the last day of the weekend. It was now or never.  

When I got up this morning, Bruce was busy gathering his lawn maintenance equipment, gas cans, short little keys to the mowing machines on the trailer he pulls behind the truck. As he does every day of the week, he planned to work.

The sky was bright, clear with a few white puffy clouds. A slight breeze blew in from the north, and the leaves were on their way to becoming the gold and brown of past peak. After yesterday’s weather, it’s definitely the last weekend for colorful reflection. When the wind blows this week, leaves will rain off the trees.

“I’m headed to the doctor’s office in Crozet to mow and get up leaves,” Bruce announced on his way out the door. See you later this afternoon.”

I stood dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe it.

After growling low in my throat and pulling my hair in frustration, I charged my batteries, put the camera in my pocket and stomped to the car. My plans included a trip to Mint Springs, Sugar Hollow, and Beaver Creek Dam. I wouldn’t be home until later this afternoon either. To heck with laundry, dusting, dishes, toilets, sinks and tubs. The winter wardrobe could just hibernate in its plastic tub one more week. The boys wear shorts all winter anyway.

I sped through Crozet ten miles over the speed limit before the colors of my purpose slowed me, calmed me enough to notice them. The mountains to my west pulled me to their reds and yellows. The blue sky met them on the horizon to make a palette of primary colors and their secondary offshoots of orange, green and purple.

Mint Springs is closest to home and the sun was still low in the east. I’ve been admiring a barn for the past year, but the light hasn’t been right when I’ve been there. It was my first stop, and I was feeling adventurous. I don’t usually break rules. When Bruce does, I get nervous, stand back, and worry about getting caught. I’m not a good Bonnie to his Clyde.  My heart beats fast; and I hesitate.

Today, on my own and angry in my independence, I stepped around the locked chain and no trespassing sign guarding the barn and the orchard to the west of Mint Springs Park. What could happen to me? I had no gun, was only armed with a camera, and all the apples had already been harvested. Not a soul was in sight, but I didn’t care either way. I took my time, and found the angle I needed with the sun behind me. On the other side of the red barn with its rusted roof sat an equally rusted hulk of a truck, its steering wheel open to the air, its engine and tires missing. A highway of weeds stretched out in front of it. In the distance, an abandoned gray hornet’s nest, clung to a bare apple tree branch. Pay dirt.

Back at Mint Springs’ lower lake, I surprised a young couple as they walked their dogs through the woods on the edge of the tree line.  “Beautiful day,” I announced as they walked past me.

“Oh hi,” the girl said.

“Great day to get out and enjoy the leaves, huh?” the boy said.

“Sure is,” I said. What I didn’t say was, “I’m glad you saw fit to accompany your other half on an outing today. Glad you didn’t have grass to cut and weeds to pull and parking lots to sweep.”

I got in the car and drove the ten miles farther west to Sugar Hollow. Halfway there, a pine tree lay in the road blocking my path. Several cars had parked on this side, their passengers obviously deterred. I wasn’t.  Making sure there were no oncoming cars, I swerved to the other side of the road and drove through the top of the pine, paying little attention to the branches as they scraped the side of the car. “Let Bruce polish them out,” I said to no one in the passenger seat.

I stopped at the bridges and snapped the river. I parked at the reservoir, walked down the hill and took some shots of the huge split rock. I walked down the path, and sat on the bank overlooking the lake. Following the shoreline, I took pictures of a duck swimming in the distance.

“Hi,” a man sitting in the sun behind the windbreak of a boulder said.

“Oh, you scared me,” I said putting my hand to my heart.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to. Getting some good shots?” he asked.

“Beautiful,” I said.

“You should have been here yesterday evening with the snow under these trees. It was magnificent.”

“I bet,” I said, wondering where his other half was. “Any luck with the fish?”

“Nope, too windy, I think.”

When my heart got its beat back to normal, I headed up the bank to the main road and back to the car. I still had one more stop.

Beaver Creek Dam is three miles from home. Local boys launch their boats from the shore and spend all day fishing from one end of the lake to the other. When I arrived, I was the only one parked in the lot. The sun was at such an angle, I had to walk to the south and into the shade of some trees to avoid glare on the water. As I stepped along the edge, my shoes squeaked in the wet grass. Yesterday’s freak snow had left its moisture behind. Frogs plunked into the water from a half-submerged log, and birds rustled in the dry leaves of the cat tails.  When I reached my destination, I looked in the distance to see a couple of young men in a flat bottom boat fishing along the bank. One of them waved to me, before the boat turned left into a shady inlet. I thought about our boat at home in the garage. Today would have been a perfect day to take her out.

It was three-thirty when I pulled into the driveway. I had two hundred seventy-nine photos stored on the memory card. My feet were muddy along with the seat of my pants from sliding down an embankment at Sugar Hollow. My face was pink with windburn and my muscles were tired from all the walking I did. I was calm though, most of my anger having been exercised. I leaned back in the car seat and closed my eyes.

I awoke to a peck on the window.

“Where you been?” Bruce mouthed.

I turned the switch and lowered my window.  “Where haven’t I been?” I said. “Mint Springs, Sugar Hollow, Beaver Creek Dam.”

“Why didn’t you tell me you were going?” he asked. “I could have gone with you.”

“You had work to do,” I accused.

“Shoot,” he said, “that could have waited until tomorrow.”

I closed my eyes and shook my head as I was reminded just one more time that men don’t take hints. They need a billboard and at least three reminders.