Archive for November, 2012

A Boy, A Pizza Crust & A Chocolate Cupcake


This column first appeared in Forsyth Family magazine:

Montreat is a church retreat center in the mountains of North Carolina. It keeps company with the town of Black Mountain. So, after walking around the lake or playing in the stream, you can go into town for some lunch. I have been going up there ever since I was a kid, and, over the years, I have accumulated a number of stories.

One is about the only day that my brother and sisters and I ever went swimming in the lake. These days, swimming is not allowed. When I was a kid, a platform sat in the middle of the lake and you could swim out to it. The water was quite cold, though, and the day that we worked up the nerve to swim out to the platform we couldn’t imagine ever jumping back in once we climbed out. We sat there for what seemed like hours before we could bring ourselves to brave the freezing water again.

When I was a kid listening to someone telling a story for the umpteenth time, I swore to myself that, when I grew up, I would never do that.
Of course, I do.

A common theme of repeated stories I heard as a kid was how much cheaper things were in the old days. Now I tell the same sorts of stories. When I was his or her age, I might tell a kid, it cost a quarter to go the movies. Not only that but the theater in Williamson, W. Va., showed a double feature for a quarter. Another time, I might tell him or her that, in the days when my allowance was a quarter a week and candy bars cost a nickel, I once found a dollar in the parking lot of the bank. It’s the richest I have ever felt.

Although I long ago broke my vow not to repeat stories, I do make an effort not wear out my story-telling welcome. If I suspect that I may be repeating a story, I might ask. When, on the family’s most-recent trip to Montreat, I asked Sparkle Girl and Doobins whether I had told them a particular story, the tired “yes” from both told me it was time to retire the old Montreat stories as far as they were concerned.

I did come home with a new story, though. Below the lake is a park where the stream is particularly easy to access. There, dams and other rock marvels in the stream make it clear that countless youngsters have been at work. With great enthusiasm, Doobins set to work moving rocks. If we had waited until he was played out, there’s no telling how long we would have been there. Eventually, Garnet and I said that it was time to go into Black Mountain to eat.

Unlike me, Doobins doesn’t consistently clean his plate so Garnet and I were delighted to see him tuck into his kid’s individual cheese pizza as soon as the waitress put it on the table in front of him. When it was gone, he looked over at Sparkle Girl’s plate. She, too, had ordered an individual pizza.

“Are you going to eat those crusts?” he asked her.

Garnet, Sparkle Girl and I all looked at each other in surprise. Never before had our boy expressed even marginal interest in the food from someone else’s plate. He was welcome to them, Sparkle Girl said, pushing the plate in his direction.

In a flash, Sparkle Girl’s crusts were gone. Doobins already had his eye on a chocolate cupcake on the dessert tray. After that joined the pizza in his belly, he pushed back his chair, stood up and rubbed his stomach.
That stream and its rocks had clearly worked their magic on our boy.