My husband and I have gradually been thinking about what we will do when he retires. Our ultimate fantasy, oddly, would be to live in the Shetland Islands, or perhaps even the Aran, the accent isn’t important… But we have another fantasy, and that would be to return to what seems like home to me, the mountains of North Carolina (we live in the Piedmont now, where it is hot and humid and largely Trump Country, although Chapel Hill is next door, which is a comfort) and after all, our forefathers and foremothers emigrated here and became the Highlanders we are descended from.
Anyway, last weekend we decided to leave the damned lawn unmowed and the last of the house-work to do (we have been renovating) and get in the car and go to the mountains and start looking around, with an eye to eventually selling this barn of a log house of ours (which we dearly love) and finding a smaller one in the mountains somewhere in the Asheville area. We decided we would base ourselves at Lake Lure, and we had such a good time we forgot to take any decent pictures, so here is a stolen one.
–Getting used to endless curving roads going up and down eternally. I had forgotten what it was like getting to school (I went to UNC-A) on a snowy day in the mountains.
–Our one foray into Chimney Rock, that tacky little tourist village, where we found a rather charming cafe to sit outside with the dogs, who were given their own menu, and chose to be served marrow bones, which they proceeded to get filthy, but thoroughly enjoyed. Then they had the great good fortune to meet Oliver, a Westie from Germany who had a charming accent. Oliver and Olivia. What fun. Fergus wasn’t sure what to think, but he wagged his tail and chose not to bark threateningly at that other male.
–The fresh realization that people in the Asheville area are friendly and love to chitchat, which is not so true in these parts, with the possible exception of Carrboro, which is SUCH a comfort, being next door to Chapel Hill, but far more “aging hippie.” Everyone we met this weekend wanted to tell us about their lives and hear about ours. It reminded me of Alaska, where people are generally starved for conversation, and with good reason, too.
–And here’s the real highlight: dinner with our dear friends Peter and An, and An’s daughters, who have only recently arrived from Vietnam, where they grew up in Hanoi. These lovely girls, who speak better English than most of us, having studied it from the age of five, seem to be becoming acclimated, although I suspect that since Peter and An live way out in the country and up the mountain, they are rather bored and are champing at the bit to get out and discover the real world. I delivered a rather stern lecture about this to the guys, who hadn’t thought to, perhaps, take them to the library or into Asheville, although the older one has taken all her college entrance exams and passed them all with flying colors, and the younger one will begin attendance at a “high school to college” program in the Fall. Then they will learn to be American teenagers, God help them!
I wanted to ask these ladies “what is it like to not only come to an entirely new country, but to find your father married to another man?” But of course, I couldn’t, and really, everyone seems to be quite happy with each other; there was a remarkable lack of tension of any kind, which I attribute to the soul-power of my dear friend Peter, who tragically lost his life-partner Rocco a few years back (https://towardtheone.org/2014/09/05/angels-among-us/), and the sweetness of An, who seems to be coming into his own, after a lifetime of pretending to be a straight married man. Everyone seems to be adjusting with great ease, and we all laughed and hugged and ate and drank a great deal. The girls were thrilled with the ice cream we brought, as Peter doesn’t seem to produce much junk food for them. Thank God for Ben and Jerry!
As for us, we tend to go to the beach when we can get away, and had forgotten our love for the Blue Ridge and Appalachians, and we do not intend to forget again. I just have a feeling there is a cottage out there for us, somewhere off the beaten path.