Monday, July 25, 2011

A Weekend to Remember


Jim and I recently enjoyed a retreat. We traveled to Nashville, TN, to the Hermitage area thinking we’d be staying with a dear long-time friend, Ruby. However, we were unable to do so because of a death in her late husband’s family, and instead were invited to Ruby’s brother and sister-in-law’s home.

Even though Paul and JoAnn Odum live only minutes from a sizable shopping center, we felt as if we’d ventured deep into the countryside when we arrived. The foliage grew lushly and trees dipped over the narrow highway from both sides of the road, shading our drive.

Their red-brick house sat at the crest of a hill reached by a gently curving driveway. After parking in front of their home, we climbed steps that led still further upward. Borders of pink roses and nandina bushes flanked both sides of the walkway, the roses perfuming the air as we walked between them. The outdoor staircase ended at a welcoming porch adorned with granny rockers; they seemed almost to beckon us to plump down and “set a spell.” We resisted somehow and tapped on the door.

In moments Paul greeted us with a smile and with blue eyes twinkling, ushered us into the living room. JoAnn soon joined us from her work in the yard, and we began our most pleasurable weekend with the Odums.

Paul and JoAnn bought their place in 1993. The original dwelling was a log house, and after consideration, they decided to preserve it. Now that wonderful piece of history is imbedded within the additions they made, resulting in a supremely comfortable, beautiful home which they delight in, and generously use to delight others.

We feasted on meaty burgers for supper, grilled for us by Paul and JoAnn’s son, John, and eaten in a little gazebo-shaped dining area of the porch. Stuffed, we sipped homemade grape juice and talked till after dark. The tree frogs tried to outdo each other, gurping loudly from nearby trees while we became better acquainted, fellowshipping in the Lord.

We were privileged – and I was excited - to sleep upstairs in the loft. We ascended by way of a narrow staircase (installed by the previous owner) and rejoiced that we didn’t have to access our night's lodging as the first proprietors had - by clambering up a ladder by the fireplace. The loft. Right out of yesteryear! How many feet have tread upon that pine floor laid so long ago - how many conversations have the walls been privy to over the years? And the roof: how many weary folks have been lulled to sleep as rain tap, tapped on it?!). The Odums have stashed a spacious, modern bathroom at the back of the loft room, which made our stay absolutely perfect. I loved this loft from by-gone days, but love modern conveniences also; I do not grieve the demise of the outhouse associated with that era.

Everywhere I looked something bloomed or produced – fruit trees, grapevines, flowers, garden veggies, strawberries (the berries struggle a bit, but that’s between JoAnn and me). Honestly I can’t begin to remember everything we saw flourishing on both sides, behind, and in front of their home. After the shower the following day I almost could believe we had somehow been transported to a rain forest - the view from the window was lushly and luxuriantly green and moist.

Their creek at the bottom of the hill brings up visions of busy little boys, perhaps pint-sized Huck Finns and Tom Sawyers. Little boys would never, ever want to leave once they built their first dam or fort, or took a dive in the little pool. Or once they explored the woods surrounding this Tennessee Shangri-La for small people. Perhaps the two paddle wheels would capture their imaginations for hours of fun. Paul has worked hard on this enterprise, and has even more plans to implement in the future.

Our Sunday dinner (not a sissy luncheon) was a throwback to my childhood when the preacher came to eat with us: table loaded with everything under the sun, best dishes, lip-smackin’ desserts, and lots of good laughter and conversation. We were thrilled Ruby was able to come, and delighted not only in catching up with her, but also with other old friends we last saw 31 years ago. What a blessing!

What a weekend. What hospitality Paul and JoAnn freely gave to us. Especially so when they had such short notice that a couple they really did not know was going to invade the premises. Now that's graciousness at its finest. Thanks, friends.