North/South Toward Home

I had driven hundreds of miles when I caught sight of a sign in Laurel Hill, NC — not more than a few miles from my parents’ home — that I remembered having seen before. This time, I stopped.

“Fried Oreos?” I thought I had asked a question, or the beginning of a question; in any event, the two words to me were a question (or three questions — really? how? what?) The woman behind the window was as pleasant as she could be but absolutely not forthcoming with information beyond the price (“two for $1”) and the word “batter” when I (rather carb and gluten-concerned) asked what they were dipped in. Her kindness or her perfunctory response or the resurgence of a sense of Southern propriety now that I was once again traveling the sandy byways of the Carolinas or a combination thereof silenced me.

I proffered the bill plus tax, took the small styrofoam container to the picnic table outside to see what I had purchased, noticed its warmth and figured I could make it to my mother’s home before the Fried Oreos were cold. If nothing else, the small white box would make my mother smile. I figured there was no way we would eat them.

Victory on the first count — Mom more than smiled; wrong on the second. We ate them — standing over the kitchen sink laughing and dusting the environs with confectioners’ sugar. It was not a bad start to a good visit. The cookies’ insides were melted beyond recognition as Oreos, but the concoction induced an Oreo-like desire to liberate the interior (in other words, the outside, oddly redolent of waffle, begged to be shucked).

The times in North Carolina this summer were rich, with family, friends, and fellow writers. My father continues on as does my mother, he in the nursing home section and she in the adjacent independent living section of the same place, and I hear clearly as if for the first time the words long term care. My mother and I made a brief trip 97 miles east to our favorite beach, a place our family has, in some configuration, been going for most of our lives.

I had the great pleasure of leading a four-day writers workshop on First Person Narratives at the first Blue Ridge Writers Workshop. At beautiful Lake Lure, NC, writers from North Carolina and New York gathered to write, read one another’s work, swim, relax, cook together, and take in the beauty of the place. A special treat was Friday evening’s concert of beautiful cello music. In workshop, alongside questions of craft and technique, we discussed aspects of resilience, enchantment, and distance in what we read and wrote. It was a special time; I hope it comes again next year.