This weekend was 180 degrees away from last weekend’s magnificent Hopscotch extravaganza. 180 degrees away, but just as wonderful. I was at my friend June’s log cabin near Whittier, up in the mountains, way up past Asheville. It’s an honest-to-goodness log cabin. See?
She designed it herself, on a legal pad, back in the seventies. It’s on a sixty acre tree farm, and she spends summers up there and winters in Raleigh. It’s the kind of place where you’d find red rocking chairs on the porch, and it sleeps about 15 people when you need it to,
and it’s always decorated for a party, because you just never know.
Out back is this horse pasture, and you could lose a whole day on this deck and be pretty happy about it. At one point we saw wild turkeys skwawking their way up the lane. Have you ever seen one? They are so much bigger than I’d have guessed. I’ve never seen anything like them. This, while itty-bitty hummingbirds hovered around the hanging baskets. There’s a lot going on up here.
The only critical thing we did all weekend was watch the Braves game while the sun set. June and I both agree that you can’t turn your attention away when your team needs you. The Braves started out behind, but we pulled them through, and they won on a bases-loaded walk. Who throws away a game on a bases-loaded walk? I’m not passionate about the Braves, but I am passionate about baseball. So I get it. Once the game was safely over, we had dinner looking out over the pasture.
June is one of my favorite people in the world. We wrote a book together, y’all. June actually wrote the book, while I just typed and asked questions and edited, and she’d re-write things and tell more stories and edit again, until we had a 400 page memoir finished. It took us two Raleigh winters, every Sunday afternoon. We’d never met when all of this started; one day one of the priests at my church called and said, “I have a job for you. You can absolutely say no- but once I tell you what it is, I’ll bet you won’t.” And she told me all about June, and how much fun she was, and that June wanted to write her life story as she was getting over the loss of her husband. All she was missing was a scribe.
We liked each other instantly, but at first it was all very professional. Then she’d start telling stories of learning to drive on a jalopy in midtown Manhattan, or working for the Red Cross during WWII, or waiting in a harbor town for her intended to come home on shore leave so they could have a wedding. She lost a husband in a plane crash, raised three children alone, unintentionally became one of the nation’s first female stockbrokers, married a college football coach, lost him to cancer, met the absolute joy of her life at sixty-eight, and married him after a six-week whirlwind romance. They said they hoped they’d have five good years together as they aged, and then they spent the next twenty years traveling the world while he was a cruise ship chaplain and she’d tag along and teach needlework.
Of course I had a million questions about all of that. So June and I would work, and she’d tell more stories, and then we’d drink tea and I would straight-up pry for more information. She’s always a good sport about telling stories, and usually has me in stitches talking about her adventures, and she isn’t stingy with giving advice. Also: she’s told me things that nobody else knows. She told me stories that haven’t been mentioned in sixty or seventy years. They didn’t make it into the book, but…wow. You’ll have to trust me, they’re good stories. And it’s lucky I’m really good at secrets. We finished editing her photograph for the flyleaf yesterday, and I can’t believe the whole book is done.
Last night I was curled up in a chair reading while June got ready for bed behind the heavy wooden doors the next room over. I heard a quiet sound, and I thought it was the radio, but then I realized June was singing. I couldn’t quite make it out, but she sang while she took a bath, and sang while she found her pj’s, and sang while she laid out her clothes for Sunday morning. It was beautiful. I think it was hymns, but I didn’t ask her.
This morning June and I went to her tiny Episcopal church, which has 11 pews and holds about 20 people. I’d guess half of them are Cherokee. It’s about the sweetest church you’ll ever see. We got out the hymnal and it’s the kind of place where everyone just belts out hymns at the top of their lungs, with not a hint of self-consciousness. I love that. I was singing second-soprano-ish, and realized June is an alto. June and I sounded really good together, we two. Did I mention I just love her?
After church, we had diner pancakes for breakfast in Cherokee. I told her I’d had the most fabulous weekend at her cabin. She laughed at what a simple, quiet weekend it had been, and said, “Well then, you are easily fabulized.”
That’s one of June’s better lines.
Her book will be done in a matter of days. It’s a great story. I’ll keep you posted.