I don't have a good relationship with my mother. Actually, I don't have any relationship with my mother. There is a lot to unpack on the reasons why so it's definitely not for our purposes here, but I should point out that I have always been a little envious of friends who do have those connections. I have heard stories of the visits and the talks, the reminiscences of family history over time. Granted not all of these relationships are storybook ideals, we all have some baggage remember, but I am still envious of the connection. As I wrap up my road trip today, it was fitting that for my final connection in Spartanburg, I would visit my friend Rich's mother, a Sunday ritual for him.
Elizabeth Terrell is a classic Southern woman, she fills the room with an air of dignity. She has raised many children, survived the loss of a husband, seen grandchildren and great grandchildren enter the world. She has traveled and born the history of her family and its upbringing over her entire life. Not every curve of her path has been happy, some have been painful, some have been contentious, but she has made it to the end with a smile and her head definitively held high.
Sitting in her living room is a bit of an odd feeling at first. I will probably never have this same experience and I am acutely aware of my presence during a visit from son to mother. Still, this feeling evaporates quickly and I am welcomed in to learn all of the tales of the Terrell clan. She talks about my friend Rich as a child, about hi hijinks in school and those idiosyncratic stories only family can really tell. One particular story involves a relative of Rich's furiously scanning him for ticks after he brought a load of pine straw home. Another child had died and the tick had not been found until after, so there was no way they would take a chance with Rich. I conjure an image in my head, of a much younger version of my friend trying to push hands away as he is searched for the tiny insects. The image helps me laugh like Rich and his mother do.
Beth and I spend a long time talking about Charleston, my current home and one of her former ones. We lived not to far from each other in terms of geography, but 50 years apart in terms of time. She asks me about the restaurants there now, which ones have survived, which ones have failed and which ones are the best. We talk of barbecue, fine dining, wine, parking and the narrow causeways of my adopted home. The hurricane is always a topic of conversation, it floats into talk of the city's problem with flooding.
The most fascinating part of the visit is the stories. I have said many times that our greatest currency with one another is our stories. They are the reflections of our history, shaded by our opinions and told as stories by the people we have become. Each on is precious, but they also change between tellers. When we hear enough sides of the one story, we begin to more fully comprehend its facets. Watching and listening to Rich and Beth opens some new insights on my friend, a man I have known for 12 years. It gives me insight into his past, into his heart.
When the time is done we head back out into the rain. It has been a family afternoon and I have gotten to tag along, to be a guest in the living room where a mother and her son reflect on joy and on heartbreak. We find adventures where we seek them. Often we believe that these endeavors must involve something grand or innovative, failing to remember that something new to us can be an adventure. I found one today in the home of Elizabeth Terrell, among her stories and our chat. As small a thing as this seems, it is something I may never do, and so I am happy to tag along and they are happy to have me.
We find adventures wherever we seek them, big or small however we choose to see them.
We return to Charleston tomorrow an continue 100 Connections. A very special thank you to all of our readers and to the friends who have helped us continue this experiment and not miss a single day, even in the face of a hurricane.