Thursday, August 3, 2017

Upholding the Dream - Magic Mystery Roadtrip Revelations Part 8

The place of my heart. I didn't think there was one anymore.
So this post is what ties up all the others about this roadtrip. I promised I'd tell you what I bought and it's verrrry special, and has another story behind it too.

This is FOX BOX.
I collect boxes. I have for years. Beautiful boxes. And I put things inside them for my grandchildren, who are not yet a twinkle in the eyes of my children, but they're starting to glimmer. I want for my grandchildren to have things to explore, beautiful things that they can touch, little things in unexpected corners of my house that they can discover and play with. So I collect boxes.

But this one's special. It's for Rob and me.

When I bought it the price tag put spirals in my eyes and I almost didn't buy it. But I did. So I said to the sweet girl at the register that I thought it was expensive, but I wanted something special to commemorate this trip.

Here's what she said:

"When I finally graduated from college I bought a pair of shoes. Those shoes cost me over $300. But I'd earned them and I love them and I wear them and they're special. I'm the first of my family to go to college. I'm working on my master's degree, and after that I'll get my Ph.D. and I don't know if I can do it, but I'm sure gonna try. I'm taking online courses and I work on my studies mostly at night. And when I get my Ph.D.," she said,"I'm gonna buy another pair of $300 shoes."

I introduced her to my hubby, who has his Ph.D. and told her she could do it. They talked academic shop for a few minutes and he encouraged her. "You can do it," he said, and he meant it : )

"You should not feel guilty or that you're not worth this memento," she said to me. "Sometimes we have to feed our spirits."

She's a HAVE. She has a dream and she's working hard on it. She understands about feeding her spirit. It's something we don't do lightly. But we do it. However it suits us best as individuals. She's supportive of others who have dreams. You go girl!! AND she understands about being encouraging to other people. She didn't really know what she was telling me when she said don't feel guilty about buying the box.

So I decided to tell her why I chose this box over the Santa or the little ornament or any number of beautiful things available for purchase in those top-of-the-line giftshops at the Biltmore.

"We fell in love," I said. "When we came through the mountains and drove through the city of Asheville. Oh my god, we fell in love with the mists and the mountains and the thriving economy that's centered around tourism and ART and craft breweries and academia. It offers so much to each of the members of our family. We have decided to retire here, and this is my dream box. When we go home, we will put our dreams in here, and we will find ways to make them happen."

I didn't tell her that I'd thought my dreams were dead. That when my daughter died, my dreams died. That I'd always imagined we would retire out West, which we both adore, close to my daughter, and live near one of our children. That there would be someone near me who loves me in case my husband decides to go to Heaven before me. That I'd be near one of my children in my elder years. I thought I was safe. But all that got shot when sweet Jess died. My son lives in Argentina, South America, and we'd considered retirement there, but I can't order things on the internet and it doesn't have the infrastructure that I need for selling the artwork that I do. I'd love to live close to my son, but I haven't yet had a chance to bring my dreams to fruition, and I want that chance very much before I die. I can't do it there. I have to live my dreams, not my father's, not the obligation of responsibility as I've done for many years, but really live my dreams, even just for a little while. There are hundreds of galleries in Asheville. I want to be friends with all those people I saw walking the streets. They're adorable! I want to decorate them all with my beadwork, it would go so well with their outfits, which range from 1960s psychedelic to stately academic. La!

Asheville is very much like the place where we live now, but it's much more focused on the arts than sports. It's a tourist city, bringing over a million art-loving visitors every year. Peeps who love beautiful things and want to bring home mementos. We'd need several trips just to browse through the galleries! That makes my heart sing, as do our galleries and museums here, though there aren't as many. The weather is similar, with a bit more warmth and a slightly longer growing season. And it's surrounded by nature for miles, you can hike to your heart's content. We also love the number of learning institutions.

I NEVER expected to fall in love with anyplace on this planet other than the West Coast, but it happened. In the mountains, in the mists, in the beautiful city, along the highways and tiny roads of North Carolina. We have a NEW DREAM. Asheville. It'll take a decade or so, cause my husband's not ready to retire, but we're going to move there eventually. I'd live in a freakin' closet just to be in that beautiful place. It hums with life everywhere. It is not an economy in decline like many of the little towns we drove through in our 2200-mile trip. The Biltmore is the hub, like our university is in our present hometown, and so much has sprung up around it that it's absolutely thriving. There are so many things to do that don't cost a dime, and if you do want to spend a little bit there's tons more and you don't have to drive four hours to get to it. The people are very creative, positive, sweet, and just the kind of people I love to be around. My hubby too. There are several higher institutions of learning there if he chooses to "stay plugged in" after he retires. It's a craft brewers' hub too, in case my son might want to come back to the U.S. He sometimes says he might. And his wife is almost finished with her degree in international corporate law. That's portable, marketable anywhere. Come back, oh please come back and have my grandchildren here. But okay, if they don't we'll do summer visits and the children can go through my boxes, lol. xoxo

So Rob and I went into the kitchen after we arrived home and as we clinked our wineglasses and toasted to 2200 miles of adventure, tests, revelations, and pleasure, we put our hands to our mouths and blew our new dream into them, then sprinkled them into Fox Box.

Fox Box holds dreams and some special tokens to support them.
When I was sitting out on the loggia at Biltmore, I spied a marble that was just sitting there on the polished concrete. I picked it up. It was a gift. My grandfather loved marbles and had a wonderful collection, some of which I have, mixed in with my grandmother's buttons in a clear glass button jar. Hope, this little marble said, and play. Laugh, it said. Have fun. Live.

And I also picked up some gravelly rocks from our hotel in Asheville. I hope to bring them back when we move and put them in our yard. It may be several years, and I'm ever so happy to be here in State College doing what we do until then, but it's so very good to have a dream for our golden years, too. Especially when I thought my dreams were pretty well shot.

Rob drove us all over Asheville, through downtown, into little neighborhoods, through the surrounding mountains, and I was vibrating like nobody's business. Home.

Well, so there we are and here we are and next time we take a roadtrip we know where we're going! Back to Asheville!

But get this last leg of the journey, which really hits home the last revelation.

We stopped at a little place off the highway on the way home for lunch. The Choo Choo Cafe, in Erwin, Tennessee. "Are you up for it?" Rob asked. "Sure!" I said. He loves diners and out of the way places. So we took the exit into a tiny railroad town, crossing four sets of tracks to get to the Choo Choo Cafe.

I'll bet my last dime you've never eaten in a place like this. It's an antique store housed in a building that's over 100 years old, with a tin ceiling and tons of tiny trainset railroad villages set up, with all-year-round Christmas decorations and antiques for sale.

The Choo Choo Cafe
Let's eat in an antique store!
The Choo Choo Cafe is run by a woman and her husband who make home cooked food, German chocolate cake to die for, chicken salad, and other yummies, and this woman is very special. She's all about rejuvenating the town of Erwin, Tennessee, and their menu has foodstuff on the front, and history on the back. The story of the Cafe, the 100 year-old building, and fun facts to ponder.

I asked her about the elephants we'd seen driving in to this little town.

First little elephant we saw.
Here's her sweet little face.
Another little elephant we saw.
Okay, okay I'll put me in here, but that shirt is not all me,
even if I did eat Choo Choo's homemade chicken salad.
I know, right? You kinda want to put one of these in your yard or something.
Take it home with you. I definitely had to learn the story behind them. And wow, it's a winner.
So I asked the woman right before we left her lovely cafe what the significance of these elephants is. Here's what she said.

"There was an elephant named Mary who had a trainer that abused and mistreated her. One day when Mary was more interested in watermelon than performing her trainer let her know what he thought of that and she killed him. So the railroad, who owned Mary, decided she needed to be punished. They declared she needed to be put to death. So they looked all around for how to do this, they didn't have guns powerful enough to shoot her, and they decided to hang her."

Me: "Hang an elephant?!"

Sweet woman: "Yes. So they looked around for a place to do that and our little town of Erwin was the only one that had a crane strong enough to hold her. So they shipped her to us and hung her. But the chains that they used to do it broke, and she fell and broke her hip. She didn't die."

Hope sprang in my heart, soon to be dashed.

"They hung her again. And this time it worked and she went. So she's buried at the outskirts of town."

"The elephants you see," she said, "came about because we feel just awful about Mary's demise, and to make restoration, we thought we might ask artists to paint these elephants and auction them off one at a time. All the proceeds are going to be donated to the support of live elephants at the Knoxville Zoo, where they have a sanctuary."

And so went the tale of sweet Mary, the elephant who, despite adverse circumstances, continues to support her sister and brother elephants, through the heart of the townspeople of Erwin, Tennessee.

I know. It's a hard story to forget. Can't stop imagining the mound of elephant bones buried on the outskirts of Erwin. I'm glad it has a silver lining though, in the benefits created by the enchanting painted elephant auction.

And the thing is, here's the revelation behind this leg of our journey: Magic Mystery Roadtrip Revelation Number 12 - When one door closes, another opens, yes it does, even when you don't believe it's ever gonna be there. Keep the faith.... Don't give up.

I had not expected any kind of new dreams, just was staggering along amidst the devastation of my daughter's death, trying to rebuild, but I'd  - we'd discovered a brand spanking new clean page. Completely unexpected. A gift. Something to work towards.

Isn't it funny that the things we reject, the things we dread to do, sometimes bring us our greatest gifts?

When we arrived home after our roadtrip we realized it was our anniversary.

We didn't need a darn thing, but we bought flowers.
And we opened our cards, which sprang open sharing oodles of love.
Here's to all we do, together.

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