Steve and I were invited to spend last Sunday afternoon to Tuesday morning in one of our favorite towns with some people we dearly love. As an added bonus, last Monday was my 71st birthday. Could that number possibly be correct?
In a happy-for-us set of circumstances, Steve's brother David and his wife Susie recently relocated to Auburn (Put your hand over your heart. The 4 of us are mighty proud graduates of Auburn University). They completely renovated and added significant square footage to a house in the historic district, mere steps from Toomer's Corner, the official gateway to the campus. We were very excited to visit. The house is amazing. No detail has been omitted. We knew it would be lovely, and it met every expectation.
Steve and David were the only children of their parents and go WAY back. :) Their stories, even the ones we've heard dozens of times, never fail to entertain and amuse us. These two were fearless adventurers growing up. How they lived to adulthood is still a mystery. But, in terms of perspective, David and Susie were (like Steve and me) dirt poor when they graduated from Auburn. David's degree was in building science, and Susie's was in nutrition. She worked as a dietitian, while David began getting experience with construction companies. I'll make a long story very short by saying that David met the right people at the right time, found a niche in the industry for which he was uniquely suited, worked extremely hard, and became incredibly successful. We remember their lean days. These are NOT lean days. The even better news here, though, is how generous David and Susie are, not only with their financial resources, but also with their time and willingness to serve. When we were talking about the church they've joined in Auburn, it was very "telling" that Susie mentioned she joined because of the outreach opportunities. She is already investing herself in two ministries that fit her spiritual gifts and passions. I like that and admire it very much.
I had two friends I really wanted to visit while we were in town, so Susie and I made plans with them, knowing the brothers could fend for themselves.
I first met Talitha when I was in the 7th grade and my family and I joined First Baptist Church in Huntsville, AL. Our common ground was music, so we found ourselves in the same choirs. Later we were both at Samford University at the same time. Then marriage and life in general took us in different directions until we happily reconnected via Facebook. Yayyy! Talitha has now lived in Auburn for 30 years, so I knew she'd be a good resource and friend for Susie in the days ahead. Plus, she's just such a fun, genuine, smart person -- the kind who attends a Bible study one day, teaches one the next, AND has her 91-year-old mother-in-law living with her and her husband. Such a testimony to her loving, generous spirit.
Talitha COULD have become a sad, bitter, self-centered person. Her first husband Jim, a successful oral surgeon, was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer and died when he was only 56 years old. They had 3 children together. Jim would miss weddings and the births of their 9 grandchildren. Talitha was able to keep going, keep pushing herself, keep moving forward. Several years later, she reconnected with a long-ago high school friend at one of their reunions, and she and Dan are now enjoying a happy, fulfilling marriage. I admire Talitha tremendously. (I can't believe I didn't get a photo with her. Sorry, Talitha).
My friend Angie lives in Auburn and will turn 80 on her next birthday. We were neighbors in Hartselle back in the mid-1980's. Her son Lee and my daughter Laura graduated from Hartselle High School the same year. When they were younger, we had a carpool and took turns carting each other's kids to school. I've always loved Angie's gift for hospitality, her tell-it-like-it-is and see-it-like-it-is ability to view life and relate to others, her dignity, her pride in her family heritage and in her two sons. While she was still in Hartselle, she suffered a stroke that greatly affected her mobility on her right side. With singular determination, she figured out how to keep right on going. She and her husband moved to Auburn in 1999, after he retired from years of working with the Extension Service (agriculture, animals, etc.) She got involved in teaching English as a Second Language classes through their church, and her husband was active in the Lions Club and the ministry of the Gideons. Angie is a Master Gardener. Her yard is a wonderland and has been on the Auburn Garden Tours in past years.
Angie's husband is now in a nearby nursing home. Covid made visits difficult, sometimes impossible. It has been a rough year for Angie. Then, most recently she learned that her beloved Judson College is closing its doors. Angie and her sister are both very proud graduates of Judson, so the closing makes her sad.
When I called to tell her I'd like to come for a visit (Angie, by the way, has nothing to do with computers and the like, so our communication is via phone calls, rather than texts, emails, or Facebook), she quickly said, "Great! I'll serve you and Susie a root beer float." :) Ever the hostess. :) We sat on her back porch, admiring the lovely setting, chatting about anything that came to mind, and sipped our floats. I would love to have stayed much longer. I admire Angie so much, and I'm very glad we're friends.
Throughout the day, I also received calls and texts from grandchildren. Matt wrote a blog post about me that you're welcome to read here -- https://mattpearsononline.com/the-proverbs-32-woman-the-book-of-ruth-naomi-and-my-mom/ At the end of the day, Laura sent a video of Nathan's performance at his piano recital (which, of course, thrilled my heart). Several days earlier, Julie had invited me to meet her for brunch to celebrate. I felt very loved.
From a travel and food writer perspective, the time in Auburn was good, too, with meals at Hamilton's on Magnolia, Brick & Spoon in Opelika, and Acre. Then there was a birthday snickerdoodle cookie and ice cream from Insomnia Cookies enjoyed around the fire pit at David and Susie's as the day wound down. What could be better?
The time in Auburn was good for observing, for listening, for gaining perspective, and for being inspired. Susie, Talitha, and Angie make me want to be a better person. They enrich my life.
I hope you have people in your life who spur you on to stay positive, invest in others, be an overcomer with God's help, and demonstrate Christlikeness. Better yet, maybe you and I can strive to be a person like that for others.
1 Peter 4:8-10 -- "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms."
Hebrews 10:24 -- "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,"
Proverbs 27:17 -- "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."