Sun., Dec. 7, 2014
Savannah Morning News column
You know you are in Walmart country – northwest Arkansas – when the clerk at the airport in Fayetteville pooh-poohs Black Friday in the rest of the world and says, “That’s nothing compared to our Black Friday – when Walmart has its annual shareholder’s meeting.”
You know you’re visiting old friends – old as in circa 1976, when I moved to Eureka Springs, Arkansas and met up with a crew of misfits and outsiders I like to call my second family – when conversations circle around to what the grandchildren are calling you. My favorite? Glammy. I’m sure Marci wouldn’t mind if you wanted to appropriate this moniker.
It’s good to know sarcasm can transcend the decades, like the morning before Thanksgiving when a bunch of us, age seven to 73, were hanging around Rae’s kitchen table on Vaughn Street, drinking coffee, talking politics, talking life, debating gluten, thinking of new businesses like a tattoo-removal parlor for elders, and maybe somewhere in the process letting a few “F” words fly when the seven-year-old pops up and says, “Hey, I’m standing right here, you know.”
Little pitchers have big ears.
And small towns have big eyes. During the post-Thanksgiving grazing period when fingers replaced forks and Becca brought out her killer chocolate flourless cake, when everyone had traded seats about three times to make sure to talk to everyone and we’re all standing around, saying how much better we see signs on the highway after our cataract procedures, when we’re taking turns doing the dishes, debating whether or not silver forks and spoons can go in the dishwasher, well, that’s when an outlier confesses she went to a generic stop-and-go “on the highway” to buy Captain Crunch cornflakes for her potato casserole dressing because she didn’t bring everything she needed for her dish and who would know the difference, anyway, right?
“I saw that!” said Alex from Austin who thought he recognized Elaine from Little Rock’s look-alike sister. “You are busted!”
It’s hard to be pure in a small town, but it’s possible. The afternoon after I toss back a shot of freshly squeezed wheatgrass from Lucilla’s Hurom (a slow juicer) – the greenest drink you’ll ever have – I move my gear to Billy and John’s house in the country and say, “Got any chocolate?” Sure do. Green and Black’s organic dark chocolate, 85 percent, bought by the carton. Good chocolate: it’s everywhere.
They live off Rock House Road down from Dominic’s “shedteau” and near the neighbor’s fenced-in grape arbor where two white Great Pyrenees earn their keep by sleeping outside and fending off deer and raccoon. It seems to be working. Who knew? Deer: they’re everywhere.
It’s nice to have old friends but at the same time it’s hard to conceal things from them and even harder to reconstruct the past in their presence. They don’t let anything slip by. The good thing is we have a lot to remember and a lot of people helping us to remember.
“Yup,” I was saying to someone. “I moved away from here 20 years ago and we’re all still friends.”
“Um, it’s more like 30,” said Dina, who like the rest of us marks time by personal milestones. “You moved here the same month Susan did. You left after Lynda, before Manny and Vernon died, before Elizabeth became Booker and before we got Favio.”
I guess that about says it.
The most shocked Thanksgiving guest of all was Jerry, Susan’s brother.
“My whole team is here,” he beamed, kvelling at the sight of us. Jerry was the coach of our ragtag, somewhat over-the-hill, drama-prone, women’s softball team. We were a very popular team to play back then because Eureka Springs had bars (!) like the Wagon Wheel that sold alcohol (!), unlike the rest of Arkansas, which at the time was 99.5 percent dry.
“You had a good arm, Jane,” Jerry said.
I loved that.