For some reason, every time I’m about to leave someplace wonderful, the sky weeps for me.
It was pouring today as I said goodbye to Asheville. Chelsea and I woke up a bit earlier in the morning so we can go for one last walk together. We walked downhill to Starbucks and then back up again, shoes squishing and rain drops dripping down the rim of my Jarlsberg cap.
Rain splattered off our Starbucks cups. Rain streamed down Chelsea’s glasses. Rain slapped the windows as the Olaskys, Chelsea, Tiffany and I held hands to pray. Rain checkered the car window as I stared out wordlessly during the ride to the Asheville airport.
I wasn’t exactly sad, just solemn, but Chelsea kept glancing at me with a worried expression, as though she was afraid I would burst into tears or something. But I just had a lot in mind.
When I wrote my “Thank You” card for the Olaskys, and uttered my 8 minutes of prayer for them, I couldn’t possibly squeeze all the words and emotions that are buzzing in my heart. To say I had a wonderful time here at Asheville is an puny understatement. It’s not that the four weeks here have changed my life, but I think it has definitely left some kind of mark—memories, perhaps—that I will cherish for a very long time.
“I didn’t expect the Olaskys to show us this much love,” Chelsea said as we sat nursing coffee, croissant and Skittles at the Asheville airport.
“Of course they would—It’s us! We’re awesome!” I joked, but I was also agreeing that I felt God’s tangible kindness and love through them.
Life is a quilt of memories, in which some stitchings will be rough, and some patches will be stained. The patch I received here in Asheville would be…something mono-colored with few patterns, something that looks ordinary. But on closer look, it presents the most peaceful and warm pastel lilac color—a kind of beautiful color that stirs up delightful memories and feelings.
I will always remember the Sunday when we were invited for popcorn at Joel Belz’s home.
Joel Belz is the founder of WORLD Magazine. He’s this charming old man with a lush of silver hair and a youthful smile. His family has a Sunday evening tradition: popcorn for dinner. He invited us to join him and his family one Sunday evening.
We ate a light dinner beforehand, and then gathered at Mr. Belz’s indoor porch. That was when I tried eating popcorn the way Chelsea likes it:
Dunked in milk, like cereal.
Have you ever tried eating popcorn this way? I’ve dunked caramel popcorn into milk before, but never regular buttered and salted popcorn. It was interesting; Susan really liked it but I found myself preferring the regular way of eating popcorn: pop it directly into mouth.
But thanks for the experience, Chelsea!
Sundays must also get Susan into a baking mood, because she’s baked some kind of goody for us each Sunday. The first Sunday, she baked us peanut butter cookies from scratch:
Not only did she whip these peanut-infused, buttery, chewy cookies, Susan also had the most brilliant idea: “You should spread it with Nutella,” she suggested.
This woman is a genius is so many ways. And a terrific baker, too. Chelsea and I demolished at least five cookies each in one sitting. The third Sunday, Susan also made this amazing peach kuchen. I was an idiot and forgot to take a picture of it. We ate it topped with whipped cream.
I will also remember the evening in which we were invited to a neighbor, Coral’s, house. She’s the mother of Anna, the precocious girl who helped us bake Irish soda bread.
Originally the invite was to a “BBQ,” but it turned out to be a super healthy (and very Asheville) potluck of grilled vegetables, bean-and-corn salad and some kind of Mexican casserole.
I remember the mottled conversation about poetry, Dyslexic kids, and British TV shows. So much fun.
I will remember the hours spent at the Olaskys’ dining table. Sometimes Chelsea and I would be working silently on our laptops, with the only sound being the click-clack-clicks of our typing.
Other times we would be laughing and chattering as we edited each other’s work. At night, sometimes Chelsea and I would sit side-by-side; she would be writing into her journal and I would be reading a Tom Wolfe novel until one of us trudges up with a “See you in the morning!” And who can forget all the home-cooked dinners we had together at this table?
I will remember, too, the fragrant summer fruits and vegetables that Susan would lay out on the kitchen island every Saturday, fresh-picked from the farmers market:
There’s nothing sweeter and more delicious than a perfectly ripe peach in the summer.
Well, except ice cream, of course. One night, Chelsea and I declared that we have been eating “too healthy.” So we drove off to The Hop for a ice cream dinner.
The Hop is a popular creamery in Asheville, and I had heard a lot of wonderful things about this place. Susan had some basil ice cream from The Hop in the freezer and she’s told us it always stores interesting and unique flavors. Well, the interior is unique, too.
It’s almost set up like a kindergarten playhouse. I can imagine kids piling in here for a Curious George story read-along.
And then every Friday, we would go to the drum circle in downtown Asheville:
I need to write about this. It is the most awesome thing ever: citizens of Asheville gathering around in a circle, just beating their own drum—literally.
And then there’s this giant, sweaty, exuberant mesh of people dancing and hopping to the drum beat. I can’t ever forget this scene, or the sense of jubilance that bounced inside me as I stared, fascinated, at this weekly local party.
I can’t ever forget the last dinner we shared with the Olaskys, either. We went to the Mellow Mushroom—what a kooky name, eh?
A kooky name for a kooky place. There were Alice in Wonderland and mushroom themes all over.
I shall never understand this random flying pig though. What the what?
Over two kinds of pizza (Kosmic Karma and Mellowterranean), we discussed our childhoods and talked about Christians getting involved in politics.
Chelsea and I have always joked that the Olaskys are like Noah, because the three “daughters” living in the house come from three different race.
Guess who’s Shem, Ham and Japheth? But Marvin had another suggestion:
”You guys are Marvin’s Angels,” he said. We loved it. I also loved that he is culturally aware enough to know what Charlie’s Angels are.
Memories, memories, memories. I can go on forever and ever. These moments are gone, but what stays are the friendships developed during those moments.
Dear Olaskys, Chelsea and Tiffany, thank you for being in those precious memories.