Saturday, September 26, 2009


In the past 10 days, Judy and I have blessed with even more time with Brianna and Claire than usual. This blog post features some of our favorite moments with the two of them, some when they were together.

Brianna says, "To think, this was out of my reach a few days ago. I must be growing."

Brianna is also beginning to enjoy "Peekaboo."

"Here, Grandma, let me show you how this works."

"Okay, Grandma, here's the deal: I won't put you to sleep if you won't put me to sleep."

"Grandpa, if I can chew on this, I'll never need a nose-ring."

Grandpa searches in vain for a ticklish spot.

Amanda says, "Keep your eyes closed, Brianna. In a second you'll get a big surprise."
"Oh my GOODNESS! It's Cousin Claire!"
"And Claire's just as soft and cuddly as I am!"
"Honestly, Claire, you look good enough to eat!"

Amanda is as happy as can be to share her lap with Claire. And Brianna doesn't seem to care.

This marvelous little seat is called a Bumbo. And Claire is quite content to sit in it for extended periods. When she wants to.
"Oh--this is such a sad book! Is this real fur?"

"Maybe this one will suit you better. No violence in Veggie Tales."
"Uh--Grandma--looks who's playing with the camera again."
"Hmm. Nice material. I think I had a blanket like this once. . . Hey, this is my blanket!"

"Grandma, my newest trick is smiling. So I challenge you to a smiling contest."

"Nice try, Grandma, but try to beat this."

"Okay, let's raise the bar a little. Can you smile this big?"

"The winner and still champion. But don't worry, Grandma. At least you came in second."
Great Grandma likes to check on Claire every chance she gets, too.
"Claire, I remember when you were just a little baby!"
"Claire, you'll find out pretty fast, when you need something, just come to Great Grandaddy."
As soon as you have four teeth we'll start you on corn-on-the-cob. But we can go to the fish house sooner than that.
You have certainly figured this out by now: Claire and Brianna bring great joy wherever they appear. So the more often they 'appear', the happier I am!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Labor Day Gypsy Trip

Chances are, you won't recognize this sign or this old bridge, even though they are less than a one-hour drive from our house in Moore County, NC, and less than a mile off heavily traveled Highway 15-501.

You're looking at the OLD bridge which spans the Haw River at the town of Bynum, just north of Pittsboro. Bynum was once a thriving mill town, but is now the quietest of tiny residential communities.

A dedicated group of recreational and environmental advocates gained state park status for the Haw River several years ago. This sign neatly summarizes their philosophy.

No signs of the former commerce exist in Bynum today. But the Haw River flows serenely by, with shallow pools, islands, and rock clusters dotting its path.

We don't know how long this old bridge has been closed to vehicles, but it is now part of a pleasant and scenic walk.
A few hundred yards upriver is the new bridge, with cars and trucks zooming toward Chapel Hill, or back toward Pittsboro, Sanford, or other points south (like Moore County).

The bridge is so wide, our view changed dramatically as we ambled leisurely across.
This photo doesn't even look like the same river, but it is.

Two-thirds of the way across the river, we saw that our intrusion, however quiet, had been noted by one of the community's "permanent residents."
The deer watched us intently but calmly as we proceeded on in its direction. When we were quite close, I happened to look down. A fawn looked up at me trustingly. So that's why Mama Deer was checking me and Judy out so closely!

As the deer headed downriver, we noticed this old wooden bridge. Even if it hadn't had a NO Trespassing sign, I'm not sure I would have tested it.

Once we were across, we followed some old broken pavement which led to the now burnt-out mill. This brick wall was covered with graffiti, but not gang-like, more "artsy." It figures, this close to Chapel Hill.
This blackened wall of brick looked to me like one of "Sherman's Sentinels." Bonus points to any of you who know what I'm referring to. It looked as if one good push would send the whole wall crashing down.

This was the main building of the old mill.
Past the mill we found a trail that led to the river. As we followed the winding trail we were delighted with the splendor of wildflowers on every hand.

Heading back, our curiosity was aroused by the apparent sound of a waterfall. Following a side path we arrived at the back side of the mill, where water had once been diverted for use in the factory.
Truthfully, even with the beautiful surroundings, the thundering current and the desolate ruin of a building made me think of Frankenstein's castle! A strange association.
I would have a lot more pictures, but my camera battery said that was all for the day. But our adventure was far from over. We drove to the new parking area at the new Haw River bridge. There we consumed the PBJ's, bananas, and snacks Judy had packed for us. Then we began hiking the Haw River Trail which follows the river's north bank. Of course, our piedmont rivers are nothing like the mountain rivers of North Carolina. But they are the lifeblood of our land, and strolling beside a mighty river with the lush undergrowth all around is inspiring.
There were many families fishing and picnicking. We saw some canoeists paddling slowly along. There was an old dam that was a little fearsome. We'll make another trip sometime and I'll get photos of the things I missed. Our little gypsy trip confirmed for us once again that in North Carolina it's very easy to create your own little outing and have a wonderful, relaxing break from the ordinary.
How long has it been since you pulled out a state map, or maybe even a county map and ventured off on a gypsy trip? Judy and I heartily recommend it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Spontaneous Mini-Reunion at Grandma McKenzie's

When Judy and I first met in 1975, some of my best memories are of time spent with her and her family at her Grandma McKenzie's house. Recently, a spur-of-the-moment visit there turned into a full-blown "mini-reunion."

Jennifer, Judy, Thelma (holding Claire) and Elsie pose on the front porch.
(This qualifies as a four-generation picture, by the way).

Thelma holds baby Claire in the same room where her own mother once held her.

Amanda and Brianna arrive a few minutes later to add to the fun. Thelma and Elsie watch to see if she'll perform.

The answer is yes. She was quite intrigued by these new surroundings.
Judy gives Claire a little tour of the place. Judy spent many a night here at Grandma McKenzie's when growing up and has enough anecdotes to fill a book.

As usual, we play "Baby Fruitbasket Turnover." Amanda is holding Claire, Jennifer's baby, while I occupy Brianna.

Grandpa Ken likes to give Brianna a new perspective on the world.
We are all enthralled by some old portraits that have been dug up.
For those of you not personally acquainted with everyone in this picture:
Back row: Judy
Middle row: (left to right) Shirley, Thelma, Elsie, the McKenzie sisters
Kneeling: Amanda holding Brianna (her OWN baby!)
Standing: Jennifer holding Claire

This longer shot of the same folks displays more of the dear old house and its wisteria arbor.

Brianna says, "Cousin Claire, I can't wait until the day we can run and play around this place. How about you?"

Claire's response? "Lemme get back to you on that. I think I'll sleep on it."
There will be more good times at this place that is laden with history and cherished memories, that, I can promise you.