So, despite all logic and reason (I was the only minister around last week, the boys were sick with some cold/eye goo/fever bug, we planned this with less than 48 hours notice, etc.), we packed up the boys, feverish and gooey into the car on Thursday and headed to Knoxville. My hometown. A fine place to visit, but I sure don't live there anymore.
Though my mom still lives in the same house that I was born in, I haven't lived there since I moved to Atlanta to go to college. I left as a girl, and have no idea what it's like as a town for grown-ups. I've lost touch with most of the locals, and many have moved away. Going back is bittersweet.
The boys, however, love going to Mimi's house. After all, it's big, clean, there's a huge yard, and she cooks all the time. She's also got this slightly annoying collection of toys from my childhood. I say annoying because I always thought it was cooky of her to keep them on hand... as if my children would ever play with them. Well, it turns out that Cooky Mimi was right. They love playing with my General Lee wrist racer,the Skeedoodle (remember those?! If the Etch-A-Sketch was too hard for you, then you could use the Skedoodle which provided templates for you to follow. Perfect!), and my old, rainbow colored xylophone. Well done, Mimi. Well done.
We arrived Thursday, many, many hours later than we should have. We piled everyone and their bodily functions in the car, and by the end of dinner, I'd come into contact with 5 of the big 6 of the aforementioned functions (no blood? no foul!). Between Edgar's carsickness, Jackson's snot and eye goo, Cooper's potty-training, well... you get the picture. The Cracker Barrel in Kennesaw was glad to see us go. After one additional stop for gas/coffee/potty, we finally rolled into Knoxville at 10:38 p.m. This was approximately 6 hours after our departure. If you're keeping count, that's as long as it takes to go round-trip from Atlanta to Knoxville, sans dependents. Sigh...
Friday arrived, and we snuggled at home, playing in Mimi's backyard with her treasure trove of toys (kid-friendly horseshoes! badminton! bubbles!), and Cooper ordered us to avoid standing in Edgar's poop. Fevers had abated. Gooey eyes were clearing. The sun was warm and kind. Naps came easily. A good day was had by all.
That night, mom scooted Matt and I out of the house for an evening of real grown-upness. We headed into town, via Kingston Pike. I pointed out all of the places I used to frequent - Buddy's Bar-b-que, my high school, the library. We marveled at the crappy decision to litter the main thoroughfare with strip malls, and oohed at the lovely homes in Sequoya Hills. We bowed down and paid homage to the mighty Sunsphere. And, we made plans to meet up with Sam, pictured above.
Sam and I go way back to our days of working at Camp Wesley Woods. We both served as Support Staff back in the day, and were responsible for leading the music for all of the worship services. Over time, we cultivated a group of camp friends who eventually started meeting during the year on the first Friday of the month in Waynesville, NC to play guitar, drink cheap beer and eat Micah's inexplicably good cooking. These are some of my fondest memories. I still have a recording of one of our afternoons, sitting around, playing, singing, sharing original songs, inventing harmonies, sharing lead vocals and admiring Sam's solos. He was, by far, the most talented of us all, and the most unassuming. To know now that he's out there, doing what he does best, is hardly a surprise. But, it never fails to amaze me.
Sam met Matt and I at Tomatohead in Market Square. We enjoyed a recommendation from our server, and killed time until heading to Old City to see if we could get in to the Pilot Light, a totally crappy "Rock Club" that looked as though it was far too cool for us. Tift Merritt was playing, and Sam and Jill opened for her on several shows that they played in the Midwest. His recommendation was resounding, and we were thrilled. Two live shows in one week!
Because we were with a musician, he seemed to know all of the other musicians everywhere. Matt and I got to feel cool. The picture above indicates that we are not, in fact, cool. But, we were with a friend who knew how to be, so we pretended like we belonged. Walking to the uber-minimalist Pilot Light (man, I love hyperlinks!), I ducked into a coffee shop to grab a little something to keep me going. In there, we saw people waving frantically at Sam. It was Tift Merritt and her band. Yeah. I was introduced after Sam caught up with them a bit, and she said to me, "Hi. I'm Tift." With earnestness I replied, "Oh! I'm going to see you!" So. Not. Cool. They were lovely, gracious, and kind. Zeke, the drummer and Tift's husband, walked us over to the club and got us in. We thanked him and headed back to Market Square to catch Gill Landry's set at the Preservation Pub.
Now that I've broken all of my own rules for name-dropping, let's move on, shall we?
It was a crazy night, which ended with us seeing one of the best live shows ever. At one point, Tift and her band came down off the stage onto the floor and sang, "Supposed to Make You Happy" a cappella with heartbreaking tenderness and beautiful harmonies. Tears flavored my PBR (I don't think the Pilot Light sold anything else). It was so beautiful. We even got to talk with the band afterward, which is an experience that rivals my best-ever music memory that involves Jennifer Nettles, and concluded with Matt and I riding the train from NYC back to Princeton at 4:30 a.m. the following day. More on this in some sort of blog-flashback later...
It's been nice this past week to have a couple of experiences that are so outside of our norm. We spend a couple of hours with the boys each night, and a good hour is always spent wrestling/convincing/encouraging/forcing them to bed. To have a break from that nightly struggle and negotiation is a gift in and of itself. But, we got to claim for ourselves some pure enjoyment from the evening beyond some parenting liberation. I got a chance to see an old friend. To hear some wonderful music. To re-claim my home for myself on my own terms, and share it with my husband and children.