Generally speaking, I shy away from the suffixes “er” and “est.” I don’t like, for example, contemplating whether my writing is better than my friend Joe’s, or whether I’m the greatest writer in world. I am perfectly content with using words such as “great” and “good;” I like to think that on good days I’m a great writer, and that my friend Joe is a great writer, and that means that there’s room for both of us.
With that said: I may, quite possibly, be the guest of some of the kindest people I have ever met.
Up to this point, I thought that “Southern Hospitality” was just a worn out catch phrase. Now that I have been a guest of Em and Ellen, I realize that this is not the case.
I’m here because my friend Yvonne is taking me down to Pensacola for a couple of days. Because it’s 20 hours to Pensacola from New York, we’ve stopped over here in Charlotte, North Carolina. I am writing this from Em (short for Emerson) and Ellen’s house, which is beautiful.
Let’s see, why is it beautiful, Hmmm.
Well, I’m not that great at describing what things look like, but I’ll try. Walking up to the house means walking past this front garden yard that’s not a wall or anything, but sort of acts like one. It made me feel as if I were stepping into a sort of sanctuary.
The foyer leads to a dining room on the left, and an office space on the right. Straight ahead is the living room.
Everything is arranged so that each chair, table, book, picture, and furnishing made me say “that’s exactly where that thing should be.” On the coffee table in front of the sofa was an arrangement of crackers, cheese, salami, carrots, celery, broccoli, and dip. This is exactly what I wanted after a ten hour drive.
“Welcome to the South,” Ellen said, giving me a hug.
It did not matter that it was after eight…Ellen had dinner at the ready. A salad with goat cheese and walnuts. Roast pork. Mashed potatoes with assorted extra things that Ellen described as “artery clogging.”
This came after a long conversation with Em, in which I talked about how Yvonne has become a big sister to me. I then talked about how my older brother and I, after decades of animosity, have learned to love each other, much to the joy of my father.
“Oh, that’s just beautiful,” said Em, “Thats such a blessing for your father.”
Afterward, a dessert consisting of strawberries, pound cake cubes, and whipped cream mixed together to create a kind of shortcake sundae. This was exactly what I wanted for dessert.
Ellen led me upstairs, past Yvonne’s guest room to mine. The guest room I stayed in has two lamps that bathed the room in soft light. The top left corner of the bed covering was pulled down and folded over, as if to say “you’ve driven a long way. You must be tired.”
As Ellen informed me that the television in the room received every channel under the sun, I sat on the bed, and and then leaned back so that my upper body rested on it. The mattress was firm, with a top soft top pillow; the effect was like eating a frozen caramel with a milk chocolate covering.
“I hope the bed is comfortable,” Ellen said, “you’ve driven a long way.”
“I have died and gone to Graceland,” I said.
“Well,” Ellen said, chuckling, “then I guess I’ll say goodnight. You probably need some ice water in case you wake up thirsty in the middle of the night. Let me get you some.”
“Thank you so much,” I said, “all you folks are just so incredibly kind.”
“While you and Yvonne stay here, this is your house,” Ellen said.
I went to brush my teeth. When I came back, there was a tumbler of ice water by the bedside.
I awoke to my girlfriend Megan’s phone call. She lives in Massachusetts and I live in New York, so every morning, she calls me on the way to work.
“I have had the greatest night’s sleep in the whole of my life,” I said.
“That sounds wonderful,” she said.
“I’m loving it here, but a totally miss you,” I said. “I mean, you know how absence makes the heart grow fonder? Well, I kind of miss you to a factorial of ‘fonder.’”
Megan laughed. “You do have a way with words,” she said. “A factorial of ‘fonder…’ I love that.”
Today is Nascar Day in Charlotte. I shall experience the glory of NASCAR in the South.
I shall use an impact wrench to change a stock car tire. I will eat many deep fried things.
I write this in the kitchen. From where I write, I can look out the window to the back yard, a rich green thing that embodies the word “idyllic.” I can only hope I have been anywhere near as good a guest as Em and Ellen have been hosts.
There is another phrase that I thought was just a bunch of words, but now I know that, for me, for now, it a statement of truth: life is good.