As you drive around Spartanburg there is one intersection that will jump out at you. On three corners it seems unremarkable, each one home to small clusters of retail shops, fast food joints and gas stations. It is the fourth corner that strikes you, almost out of time. It struck me two years ago on my first trip to this town and it struck me again as I pulled in on this latest visit. This massive brick home is Foster's Tavern, one of the oldest brick homes in South Carolina, dating back to 1807. Google the home and you can learn all about it. Time your visit to Spartanburg right and you might even get to tour the home. Each brick was hand made in this 211 year old home and every detail is remarkable, but there is something that you might not get to see on a standard tour. The greatest treasure in the house, Mary Ada and Gary Poole, the owners of the home, and keepers of some incredible stories
My friend Rich, who has been helping me meet some incredible people in Spartanburg, is related to these amazing people and beamed with pure joy as we drove over to their home this afternoon. We don't even have to knock on the door, Mary Ada greets us as soon as we exit the truck. It's not cold here, not by a long shot, but there is a genuine warmth that fills your heart when you walk in. It hits me like the smell of the cookies baking. It is a collection of smells and smiles all around. Mary Ada and Gary are both happy I'm there, happy Rich is there, happy to catch up and share some stories. We settle down on the porch, with rain gently falling outside, the death pangs of Florence moving across the state, and start to share.
Mary Ada is warm and kind, her voice is soft, not weak, just gentle and calming. It's like a breeze in June. Her smile is just as inviting. I feel instantly welcomed, immediately at home, as she asks what I'd like to drink and tells us she will bring us cookies. Mary Ada is a violinist, a brilliant one by all accounts. Rich talks about seeing her play when he was little. Her gift has graced many a symphony in South Carolina, even in my beloved Charleston. She is a keeper of her family's history, a keeper of the history of this historic home. Mary Ada taught music and orchestras, listening to her talk, to her way of sharing, to her generous heart and the warmth her company produces, I can see she was great at it. I long to hear her play someday.
Gary is a writer, one with a long career in radio, television, fiction, nonfiction, comics and any other medium you can write in. He is who I want to be when I am looking back on my life, a writer with reams of pages completed and several books. He tells me the story of how he got started, about the various work he did. From the Munsters to Golden Goes to The White House, from The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again to The Phantom, he has written so much and so much of it I have read. Gary and I love Mark Twain and he shows me his collection of volumes. We talk about how wonderful Hal Holbrook was in as the legendary author. Gary is also an illustrator, his works line the walls. At one point he shows me his studio, divided into parts for writing and art. For me it is a sacred place, shelves piled high with everything he has written, art lining the walls. It is phenomenal.
He hands me a copy of one of his books. Before I leave he signs it, because why would you give someone a book without signing it?
Mary Ada and Gary show me the house, Rich loves every minute and reminisces about our time in Germany touring historic sites. Things like this are what our friendship was built on. Hearing Mary Ada and Gary describe the house in such loving detail, you begin to see the massive structure as a member of the family, an ever present loved one. They can tell you so much, even though there is so much of the home still unknown. The history of the home comes alive, not a museum, but a lived in home. It is a magical place, an piece of what I truly love about South Carolina. It is a place of tragedy and joy, it is a home, like homes were always meant to be, a place where people live.
So many stories are shared. There is so much history in the home and so much more in Mary Ada and Gary. I could spend all day here and then some. The surface has been but scratched with these stories and stones, and I truly hope I will hear more some day. We take our photo and say our goodbyes. They are so happy we could make it, so happy they could share these moments with us.
As we begin to leave, Gary looks me in the eye with his eyes full of joy and life.
"Good luck to you, Keep at it and be persistent."
I wonder if he knows how much those words touch me and fill me with inspiration for my new path. I do not believe in accidents, do not believe in coincidence. Florence landed the way it did to show me something and it is in the eyes of this elder writer telling me that I can make it, that my dream of being a writer is very real and can absolutely be done. There are some moments in life so full of meaning and magic that they will stay with you forever, this is one of them. A great step in my path as a writer, in the path of my dream.
Favorite Animal: Cat
Why: They are so soft, friendly and independent.