Carol is coming

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

When Carol responded to my e-mail message late last summer, we swapped autobiographies, compared memories of our early childhoods in Harrisburg, Pa., and marveled at how easy it is sometimes to find people from your past.

I knew the most rudimentary details of her life: that she was an Army brat, that we lived sort of across the street from each other, and we were in second grade together (she says) at Riverside School.

As we corresponded, I learned that she was a Registered Nurse until motherhood (of four) took over, and that she has done stunning geological research that formed the basis of at least one novel she has written.

A couple of times we’ve commented that the mileage between us – she lives in San Diego – would not make it easy for us to visit. Until the first of the year when she wrote and said she and husband Ollie were planning a week’s visit back east and could we get together?

I was delighted and looked forward to filling in the blanks and hearing how Carol describes our lives. My memory is full of holes and getting worse, so maybe she could help fill the gaps.

Her planned itinerary is staggering. They would visit a roommate in Marietta for the weekend, then come see us before striking northeast to see three more cousins (in West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, plus a lot of Civil War sites.) Altogether she names at least eight places she’d like to take in – while driving the Blue Ridge Parkway – and I added the Little White House, Warm Springs, Plains and Stone Mountain.

In a week.

Regardless of what she’ll choose or reject, we’ll make it work somehow. The thing is that my anticipation has dropped from excited and “Can’t wait!” to worry and “Why?”

I’ll be hosting two strangers. I really don’t know these people. Are they better-off than we are? They, too, are vegetarians, but how strict? Ollie’s family was Jewish; I’m really in over my head. And my cooking – what shall I feed them? My cooking, like my housekeeping, is rather indifferent. What if they are allergic to pollen? To certain foods?

I dust now and then, but when I look around the house I see the major stuff: The downstairs half bath that needs its wallpaper replaced. The big windows (that are smoky between the double panes) should be replaced. The places on the wooden screen porches, the garage eaves – anywhere the squirrels have gnawed and left bright gashes in the wood.

Gotta buy some flowers to brighten the deck. The first pollen-deposits of the season are already drifting in to cover the dark surface of coffee and corner tables. I can’t merely dust the surfaces. That would only emphasize the cobwebs in the beams overhead. Dave is good about helping clean up even though he can’t see what the big deal is. I may be pushing my luck with him.

Oh me, oh my. What was I thinking when I told them, “Come any time?” How long can we chatter about our days in Harrisburg? What if we just don’t like each other?

I “see” the child Carol as almost elfin, with flaxen hair flying behind her as she ran. She turned 70 recently. What color is her hair now?

What’s Ollie like? I have only the vaguest recollection of him: taller than Carol, wore glasses.

I told her she had planned a rather formidable itinerary, and she said such plans as they had made were just thoughts off the top of her head. “Mostly we are looking forward to having a nice visit with you, my ‘old’ friend,” she wrote.

Old friend.

And what if she finds The Citizen on-line and has read all this before she gets here?

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