When I moved away from Texas, I left behind a dear friend with whom I shared a birthday. A charming widow who opened her home–and her teapot–to lone souls like myself, Katy was a woman who always inspired me.
To memorize poetry. To collect art. To tell stories. To invite people over for tea. To send handwritten notes in the mail. To pray. To use china.
When we said our goodbyes in 2008, Katy was excited for my new journey, though she confessed to being concerned about who would take over my trusted position in the alto section of our small choir–the one who faithfully pointed my pencil to keep her at the right spot in the music. I was sure someone would dutifully take my place, as Katy had quite a following in our community. She was beloved.
For the first few years after I moved, I received regular letters in the mail from Waco, Texas. Her beautiful scrawling script on the envelope made my heart sing, and I cherished her words, her encouragement, her wisdom. I wrote about her.
I tend to light candles in threes, which for me is a Trinity thing. And last week we watched the Ocean’s 11, 12, and 13 trilogy. Then on Saturday, a Stephen III was born in my family. This Sunday was the third Sunday of Advent, called “Rose Sunday,” when we light the pink candle and mark the half-way point on the journey to Christmas.
Ah, yes, three is a good number.
Still, a few weeks ago when I noticed a quirky Facebook friend from Texas add a Roman numeral III to her name, I thought it was kind of strange. I mean, you don’t suddenly become Jane Smith III. But this friend really is quirky, and I hadn’t talked to her in awhile, so I just chuckled and then forgot about it.
Until the next day, when I saw another Facebook friend add III to his name. And then another. And another.
This story is old, but it fits into this conversation. We decided to drive to the Grand Canyon (from central Texas) for a nontraditional Thanksgiving vacation in 2003, camping out along the way in state and national parks (awesome trip, by the way). We packed all the (free) guidebooks we could find because we were determined to read about every small town we flew by on the interstate, and we committed to eating at only local restaurants. We had a broad definition of “local”–basically, non-chain. One of the places we discovered was Red’s.
The truth is, I don’t remember what we ordered or much about the place in general. But this is what I do remember: from the moment we walked in the door, we were identified as outsiders, and yet welcomed anyway. As the waitress approached the table, her first words were “Where ya’ll from?” (a dead giveaway that we stood out like sore thumbs). There was a little old man eating by himself across the restaurant, and two large policemen came in while we were there, too. I felt like I had just walked onto a movie set. But it gets better.
After the old white-haired man had left (without saying anything to us, mind you), the waitress came over to us and explained that the man is known by everyone in town as “PaPa,” and that he had insisted on paying for our meal on his way out, and that he wanted her to tell us “Safe travels and God bless you.”
Wow, right? You can start revising your definitions of “community” now.
PS By the way, I was recently able to locate the restaurant through Google maps! Check it out. There’s even a good review about their burgers.
I drive a small, 2-door, hatchback, black Focus. Driving along a busy street in Waco, Texas, one day, a large pick-up truck honked his horn at me. As is my standard practice, I did not respond, but kept both hands on the wheel and looked straight ahead. I could see out of the corner of my eyes, though, that the driver was making quite a commotion, gesturing madly. I began to get concerned: had I left a book or my coffee mug on the roof of my car? No. Was my gas cap open? Glance out the mirror: no. Did I have a flat tire? It seemed unlikely. But I couldn’t resist not knowing what was going on, so I glanced to my right.
The man next to me in the pickup was holding a small key chain up to his window and pointing to it with his other hand (no hands on the wheel). What was the driver making such a commotion about?
It was a Steelers keychain. And we have a Steelers sticker on the back of our car, because my husband is from Pittsburgh. This poor guy just wanted some camaraderie. So I smiled at him and nodded, showing I understood, and he gave me a thumbs up before zooming by.