An Evening with an All-American Family

I arrived at Jim’s house at about quarter to seven. Difficulties with my navigation system had thwarted my attempts having a leisurely beer while Jim and the boys were at baseball practice. After I parked I told Thor to wait while I figured things out, double-checked the address, and knocked on the front door, a cute tween waved. For some reason I walked on in, and just as I was trying to figure out what it is you say when you walk into someone’s house and realize you don’t really know whose house it is, a striking brunette walked up, said my name, and gave me a hug. Apparently I was in the right place.

Fairhope, Alabama, appears to be a small, affluent community near Mobile. According to Jim, it’s about 20 miles from the coast, as the crow flies. I, for one, have never seen a crow at the coast, but there is much that I do not know about matters aviary or nautical. This house is a stark contrast to my friend’s place in New Orleans. It’s on a quiet street with lawns manicured, but not fussy. There’s pleasant entry hall, and dining room, a 30×40 living room and other things you’d expect for a family of five.

I was pleased to be included for family dinner. My hostess apologized for the menu, as it had been chosen by a seven year old who’d had a birthday the previous weekend. (I think this might be the 21st century equivalent of “If I’d known you were coming I’d have baked a cake.”) Dinner included tortellini with red sauce and creamed spinach. I’d have thought that a seven year old might have opted for hot dogs and tater tots, or the the baloney sandwiches that I remember his father eating. Since I had invited myself to dinner barely six hours earlier, I couldn’t much complain even if I’d had a complaint. And I rather like tortellini. We ate outside, where Thor and their dog had been playing since just after my arrival. They were fast friends.

After dinner the kids got a tour of Walden. I showed them the sink and stove. They asked about a bathroom. I made them promise not to tell their mother, and showed them the two-quart Nalgene jar that I use as a urinal. And it was only half empty. (I think this is a time when neither half empty nor half full is especially good.) They, of course, enjoyed getting up on the top bunk.

As the kids went to bed, another old friend whom I hadn’t seen in a decade or more came by. We played guitar for a couple hours, mostly the same songs we played in the mid-80s. Strangely, even sober, Jim could still come up with those incomprehensible lyrics to obscure Grateful Dead songs.

My hosts had suggested all along that I should stay in their home rather than in Walden. I was still on the fence. Would spending a night outside of Walden make the trip less valuable? Besides, I wasn’t going to make The Poodle sleep outside in a strange place or in the camper without me. Then I saw their dog in the house! That meant Thor could come in too, so Thor and I, for the first time in nearly a week, slept in a bed. I admit that it was pretty comfortable. I’d already interspersed my laundry into the 24/7 washing cycle that is a reality for this family of five, so I pulled off the comforter and covered their sheets with our fitted sheet and said “up!” Thor didn’t need to be told twice. We slept really well.

I think that when I stop moving, I’ll be tempted to replace the expensive Tempur-Pedic mattress that I lost in the fire.

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