She has always made a joke of it.
"We met in a church," she would say.
And people who know us would do a double take. "In a church?"
And of course, it was almost true.
You see, in our quaint little midwestern town there was an old church building which had been empty for many years. About 15 years ago a fellow with some interesting business ideas purchased the building and opened a musical instrument store at the back of the former sanctuary and a performance music hall in the former sanctuary. His sales concentration was on acoustic instruments like guitars, bass guitars, ukuleles, mandolins and banjos, and the supplies pickers needed for them. He offered group practice rooms in the basements and regular lessons were given there also.
But the part of his plan that is pertinent to our story here is that the old sanctuary became a showplace for country, folk, bluegrass and gospel music. The platform had been enlarged to a stage for musical groups and on the weekends townspeople and folks from quite a few miles around joined for the Friday night jam sessions and the once or twice monthly special shows on Saturday nights. He attracted performing groups from quite a ways away and almost always filled the little church for their shows.
On that Friday evening when Sarah and I first met I had just returned to town from a trip to New York for a meeting with some of my financial advisors. It was about 6:30 when I pulled into my garage at the lake house and went into the house to turn up the heat and drop off my carryon suitcase. I hadn't bothered eating after getting off the plane about an hour ago and had decided on the drive up here that I'd grab a couple of slices of pizza at the back of the Music Hall at the 'half-time break', as it was referred to.
I handed my three bucks entrance fee to the guys sitting inside of the door at the top of the outside stairs as we greeted each other, and then went to the store section of the place to buy a bottle of water. The Music Hall opens at about 6 o'clock on Fridays (give or take a little) and by 6:30 the first folks are usually on stage. By 7 Clint usually has a good idea of who's going to be on. When there isn't enough variety to make a full show the regular groups generally move into a 'sing-along' mode, sort of what was called a hootenanny back in the 60's. (And yes, I remember them!) Tonight the groups who were going to be stuck making the rest of us sing were two folk groups and a gospel music group. I found that out when Clint grabbed me before I could get to a seat and got me to help hand out the song sheets.
These have been around for several years now, copied and recopied periodically as the old ones got too ratty to hand out anymore. I'd contributed to the last reprint effort when the copy I'd received one night was literally unreadable. There were three different song sets: Folk, Country/Blue Grass, and Gospel. That night he handed a couple of us the Folk and the Gospel sets and shooed us down the aisle to hand them out. Most folks knew what getting them meant: they'd be doing quite a bit of the entertaining themselves that night. Those same folks were grinning at each other when the song packs started down each row of seats because most of us here love to sing and hold back only out of respect for the groups working the stage. This 'sing-along' evening generally happened two or three times a year and is much enjoyed by the regulars and by most of the guests, too.
When I had handed out all the song sheets available for my side of the music hall I scanned for a seat for myself. There were only three that I could see as empty on 'my side' of the room and I made for one of them. It was down about three rows from the back and was either the third or fourth seat in on the left side of the east aisle. When I made motions over the stage music that I'd like to get into one of those seats the two people between me and the seats both moved over one and left me the aisle seat. That was fine with me as I like being at the end of the row.
Looking at my seatmates as they moved I had recognized the lady who was now in the number three seat as Dort, the wife of one of the players on stage right now, playing the first set. Her husband, Fred, plays a good bass guitar and they were regulars at the Music Hall. They also live just around the lake from me. The three of us were good friends. As I nodded hello to her she introduced the young lady between us as Sarah (no last name), a first timer here at the Friday Jams. We're pretty loose about audience silence here so we went through the usual 'Hi, I'm Cal' and 'Hi, glad to meet you, I'm Sarah' routine before settling down to watch the show.
I might take a minute here to tell you that my name is Cal Meyer and that at the time I'm talking about I was just 50 years old by about two weeks. Dort was Dorothy Gibbs and she and Fred were both about 60. She had streaky grey hair reaching around her shoulders while he was bald on top and usually shaved off the rest. We knew each other from our lake association, from the Music Hall, and from the fact that I sometimes jammed with Fred and some of his friends.
Dort sings a clear, crisp soprano line but will often carry the line of a male high tenor to make some great harmony with us guys. Fred sings tenor; I sing bass and baritone. We all like the same kinds of music and like to sing together on occasion. The three of us think we sound pretty good after two or three beers. We've often sung together without the beer too! Most often we did that here at the Music Hall.
Sarah, of course, was an unknown voice to me as we sat through the sets that had been planned by our three groups of the evening. But, you can see the almost truth of her statement that we met "in a church!"
Clint went down front after the gospel group had finished their planned material and explained to everyone there what was about to happen. The gospel group would lead us through four or five songs and then we'd take about a 15-minute 'half-time break'. After everyone had a chance to hit the restrooms in the basement and get something to drink or nibble on the two folk groups would lead us for about 45 minutes and then we'd call it 'a night'.
The gospel group is good! They started us out with a Gaither number called 'One More Mountain' and segued that into 'Lonesome Valley'. These two songs started Dorothy and I off singing together as we were used to doing. And then, after a brief moment, Sarah joined us. With a beautiful, strong and clean alto voice. By the time we started 'I Saw the Light' (Oak Ridge Boys) the three of us were actually leaning in to mix our voices together better. We sounded GOOD!
We grinned at each other in that feeling of doing something together really well. And then the group called for their last number before the break: 'Amazing Grace'. Dort and I looked at each other and stood up, dragging Sarah up with us to sing one of our favorite songs. Others must have felt ready to stand too because we turned out to be starting a ripple of risers that went on through the entire place.
I'm not too tall at 5'6, in fact Dort is taller than I am and Fred is taller than she is. Sarah on the other hand was a bit shorter than I am when we stood up to sing. I guessed her at about five feet three and eventually found out that I was right on the money. At least when she wore those heels! Otherwise she was an even five feet.
That song is a great one for all parts of the score and before we had finished the first unneeded line printed on the song sheets Fred squeezed past Sarah and me to stand and sing with Dort. Adding his tenor voice we were sounding GREAT! It was the kind of blend that can make your back shiver! We weren't the only ones blending really well either because the group up front called for a reprise of the first verse for the audience's own encore, before announcing the break.
Leaving the group with a quick 'see you in a bit' I took off for a much needed visit with the aforementioned restrooms. An airplane ride, a car drive and the most recent bottle of water had me moving fast to stay ahead of the crowd. After the rather much needed visit to the Men's I headed back upstairs to claim my supper for the night.
Grabbing a couple of slices of pizza and making them into a sandwich, I picked up a Diet Coke and handed Melanie the required three bucks. Backing out of the throng at the counter I started looking around to see who else was there that evening. After visiting with a few other regulars I started heading over to catch Fred, who was talking with the other members of his group and visiting with the other folk group at the back of the auditorium. Before I got there Dort stopped me.
"Hey Cal, that pizza had better be history before we go down there to sing!"
(Chewing and swallowing on my part.) "It'll be gone! Can I bring my Coke?"
"Sure thing, as long as you don't try to swallow in the middle of a verse! And it had better not send you off to the head as fast as you left just now! Hey, how do you like Sarah?"
"She's got a great voice! And it fits right in between the three of us! She seems to have good timing, too!"
"She moved into that double-wide rental across the street from us about three weeks ago. We've just been getting to know her a bit and when she heard that Fred was playing tonight she said she wanted to come along. She just went outside to make a call home to find out how Geri is doing."
"And who's Geri?"
"Oh, Sarah's a single mom and Geri's her 6-month-old little girl. Cutest little thing you've ever seen! Here she comes."
Dort and Fred have never had any kids so they have a tendency to adopt some of the ones around the lake. But their newest adoptee was certainly a cute one. Oh, I had noticed when we were singing together but now I got to see her as she moved from the entrance over to where we were standing. Now it was obvious that she was wearing heels to make up some of that guessed at 5'3 of height, her face was oval with two big brown eyes shaded by the bob-cut dark hair, which was nicely highlighted with a very few blond streaks. She struck me as rather pretty. That evening she was wearing dark brown pants that were very full and loose fitting, almost looking like a skirt when she stood still. She a semi-fitted tan top with an art pattern on it that showed (I thought) a rather large bust for her height. It was accented by the fact that she had a very small waist. She wasn't beautiful, but she was very easy on the eyes!
Altogether scrumptious to look at! And fun to sing with! To this unattached male the only things against her were her age — she looked to be about 25, or about half my age and too young for me. And the unknown of being a 'single mom' with a little girl by what male of the species? Who could leave what the surface showed to be a very attractive young lady?
Anyway, as she got to Dort and me I was just finishing my pizza and Clint was flashing the house lights to tell folks to get back to their seats. So with a little small talk between the ladies and me and a longer conversation with Dort about 'how Geri was doing with the babysitter' the three of us headed back to our seats.
As we reclaimed our songsheets and sat down Sarah was busy explaining how this was Geri's first extended stay with a babysitter and her (Sarah's) first real time away from her daughter since her birth. Then she had to know where I lived on the lake and about that time Fred's group started up on stage.
Their first number was 'This Land is My Land' patterned after the Weavers version and I was pleased to find that Sarah not only had the lyrics down pat without the songsheets but that her alto fit perfectly with my baritone voice on the song. By the time we started the next number, 'If I Had a Hammer' (Seeger/Hayes) Dorothy had joined with us and we were leaning in towards each other again. Some of the folks in the rows in front of us were turning around and looking at us as we belted it out.
Well, I wouldn't bore you with the entire song list from that evening, even if I could remember it. But I can't describe the fun it was to blend voices with those two ladies and when Fred finished on stage and came back to join us it was even better. At the end of the evening's entertainment the people around us were asking Fred if the rest of us were going to join him and the boys in their group. We all said no, but Fred got a kind of absent look on his face as he started packing up his guitars to leave.
It was obvious that Fred needed more time with the guys before they left so Dort turned to me and asked if I could take Sarah home. I looked at her and since she didn't seem uncomfortable with that arrangement I, of course, said "Sure, no problem, but then I won't be coming back to the bar afterwards!"
We usually adjourned from the Music Hall to the bar section of the restaurant in the old grey hotel building on the corner. That was generally good for an hour or more of continued musical enjoyment. But if I went back the few miles to the lake to take Sarah home I figured I'd be just too tired to handle the return. With Dorothy's nod of approval to that statement Sarah and I headed for my pickup parked on the other side of the street.
Since I knew exactly where she needed to go our conversation was mostly about our evening. We agreed that the four of us had sounded great and that we seemed to like the same kind of music. We spoke briefly about her not getting out by herself for the past several months and that reminded her that the babysitter needed a ride home. She really had no option but to ask me to do that job. When I agreed (I knew the girl and she lived between Sarah's place and mine — no problem!) Sarah's conversation was full of 'thank you's' and the like. I assured her that I knew the young lady and that it would be no problem. And after arriving at her mobile home and letting her out to be replaced by Marion it was in fact no problem to drop Marion off at home before driving into my own garage.
I was glad to be back at home and quickly crashed in my bed (wisely preheated by my electric blanket!). It had been quite a day. I slept well.
The next morning I awoke ready for a day's worth of 'at home' activities. It was early spring and here at the lake there were always a large number of springtime jobs that needed doing before the warmer days of summer could be appreciated. I started out with a cup of coffee as I fired up the wash machine and took care of the week's well-traveled laundry. I also rooted through the freezer to find something for lunch and supper today and tomorrow. As the domestic activities continued themselves I took my coffee and walked around my small lot figuring out what was on the docket for the rest of the day.
Suffice it to say I stayed busy with picking up the twigs and tree branches that had dropped over the winter, burning them in the fire pit. I also raked the last leaves from the previous fall and created clouds of smoke by throwing them on the burning material in the fire pit. During the day I talked for a while with the neighbors on either side of my place. Steve and his wife live on one side of my place. They're senior citizens who live full time here on the lake. Jim, who is about ten years younger than me and lives on the other side, is a weekender and only during the non-snowy months. I hadn't seen Jim or his wife since last fall so we spent about an hour catching up on things.
By the time I quit for the day I was tired from doing more physical work than I had for quite a period of time. After listening to the 'A Prairie Home Companion' program on local public radio I settled down to some CD's, a fire in the fireplace, a good drink and a good book.
You'll notice I've said nothing about Sarah in the description of my day. That's because aside from a few stray thoughts of how well we'd sounded last night she wasn't really on my mind. Yet. My mind was clearly expecting to be uninvolved because of that age difference between us.
The next morning I started to get my dock ready to put back in the water. I'd need help actually placing it but I could get all the fenders and mooring lines in the right places before that occurred. I also launched my little fishing boat and got the motor and gas tank set up for the season. Since it was in the water and the day was clear and somewhat warm I grabbed the required life preservers, fired up my 50-year-old Evinrude 10-horse outboard and took off for an early season swing around the lake. It was colder out on the water and I was glad I had been wearing a jacket when that little jaunt started.
Our lake isn't too big — about 460 acres — but it's not very densely populated. There were two dredged channels added about 35 years ago that are quite heavily housed, but otherwise most of the lots have at least several hundred feet of lakeshore. My wife and I bought our house, a simple ranch on a slab, some 12 years ago, before she succumbed to a galloping case of breast cancer.
God, I hate that disease!
But this isn't the place for my usual rant on the subject. I had been alone for about 7 years at the time of this story. When she passed on I kept both the lake house and our condo back nearer the city. I saw no need to sell either. I just lived in either place alone now.
After she died I didn't care much about the business we had been putting all of our efforts into, so about the recommended year-and-a-half later I sold out to three of my best employees. The amount of money I received from the sale, plus the life insurance on my wife, plus our 401Ks had me financially set for life. I'd never have to work another day in my life if I didn't want to. So I lived at the condo near the city during the winter and put my time in as a daily volunteer at a local charity organization that operated a 'Resale Shoppe' somewhat like the Salvation Army or Goodwill Industries. Then I spent the summer months at the lake doing 'fun' stuff and entertaining out-of-town relatives and a lot of friends. I was actually quite busy during the summer.
But, back to our story: the lake!
I always find a ride around the lake to be very relaxing. I go slowly along the occupied shoreline and in through the channels and then open up the motor and speed along the unoccupied (and unbuildable) state forest land that takes up one entire side of the lake. I only slow down when I get to the first cove on the 'far' side of the lake and then because that cove, like my own, has been designated a 'no wake zone'. At the far end of that cove was Fred and Dort's cabin. As I headed down the side of the cove I could see them both working in the yard, probably doing 'pick-up-sticks' like I had been doing yesterday. When they recognized me they both came down to their shoreline and waved me in.
"Hey, Cal! Dort made up a whole crockpot of Italian chicken— how about coming over for supper and a few hours of jammin'?" hollered Fred while I was still a little ways out.
"Yea! Come on over about 5:30 and let's eat and sing tonight!" added Dorothy.
"OK, you talked me into it! What can I bring?"
"Just yourself, your appetite, a six-pack and your guitar," said Fred.
"I'm pretty much out of practice right now! It stayed up here while I was down at the condo and then in New York. I'll have to do some time with it before I come over! Just to sound halfway right."
"Right! You do that — it's too early in the season to be out boatin' anyway. Turn that little thing toward home and do a bit of warmin' up. I had my acoustic bass out last night and I want to throw it against your pickin'! Just a night of fun for the gang!"
"OK guys, I'll see you about 5:30 and I'll bring the beer! See you then!" and with that I pulled the starter cord, flipped the motor into reverse and backed away from their beach. I didn't let their invitation stop my tour of the rest of the lakeshore, but I didn't dilly-dally about it either. When I got back home I beached the boat and tied it off to the usual tree that I used when the dock wasn't in. Then I headed into the house for my appointment with my guitar.
I hadn't had it out in at least the last three weeks and when I pulled it out of the case I realized that I needed a couple of new picks. There was nothing else to do but to head down to the music store (in the back of the Music Hall, which was empty at this time of the week). I quickly picked up a new collection of my favorite finger picks and headed to complete my shopping chores before going back to the house. I know, I know, you aren't supposed to use thumb and finger picks on a nylon strung classic guitar, but I liked the sound and figured that if it was good enough for Willie Nelson I wasn't in bad company. Not that I think I play anywhere near as well as the maestro does! Since I had promised to bring the beer I made a stop at the grocery store and picked up three different kinds in six packs.
As I was on my way to the checkout I spied Sarah heading for the produce aisle. After reacquainting ourselves she introduced me to her daughter, Geri. She was riding along in the shopping cart supported on one side by Mom's purse and the other side by Mom's hand. A cute kid, but at six months not really too talkative. She did have a great grin for me though. Sarah looked at my cart carrying 18 bottles of beer and nothing else and quipped, "Got a little drinkin' planned for this evening, Cal?"
"No, despite what it looks like this beer is meant to be shared. I'm going over to friends for dinner and this stuff is going to lubricate our singing voices afterwards."
"You wouldn't be going to Dorothy and Fred's place, would you?" she asked with a grin.
"You got it in one! I've been invited to do some eating, some 'pickin and grinnin', and to exercise my vocal cords a bit."
"Well, I'm on my way to pick up salad fixings for the meal Dort has planned. They invited me and Geri to crash the party tonight too! Since you're going to be there too tell me what your favorite salad dressing is!"
"Sounds good! Mine is either Ranch or blue cheese. And I'll see you there too, young lady," I said tapping Geri on the chin and getting another grin in response. "See you in a little while then, Sarah!"
Back at the house I set up and wore my fingers out for the short run, doing chords and riffs that were familiar but out of practice. I've played guitar since my freshman year at college, but have really been concentrating on it the just past few years. I've been trying to learn the underlying concepts of chords and notes because when I originally learned all I learned was to how to pick out and strum the songs that I liked. I think I've gotten quite a bit better in sound and in picking quality. For the playing that I've been involved in lately there has been very little strumming required. I've had to be much more accurate than that!
At about 5 o'clock I packed the instrument back in its gig case, grabbed a quick shower, covered my bod with some clean and presentable clothes and started out to the Gibbs' place. I pulled the beer out of the fridge and put it and my guitar case into the back of my little Ford pickup and headed around the lake. It's no more than a five-minute drive and soon I was doing the reverse process and putting the beer into Dort's fridge.
"You brought too much of that stuff," she was saying. "If you guys drink all that your playing will go all to hell and nobody will be able to sing!"
"It's just to give everybody a choice, Dort! I'll be expecting to take the full ones back to my place when I leave."
"OK, but I'll be keeping an eye on the number of empties there in the family room! I'll probably only have one and Sarah probably won't have any so I still think you brought way too much for the four of us."
Well, that was a surprise. It was only going to be Sarah and Geri who would be joining us! I had really expected the guys from Fred's group but Dort went on to explain that two of the other guys were out of town. And I was also told that the reason Sarah probably wouldn't have a beer was that she was nursing Geri and probably wouldn't want much beer in her system to 'taint her milk'.
Fred had grabbed my guitar and taken it into the family room and set it next to one of his guitar stands. So when I got in there I uncased it and he and I set down to the business of tuning his six string and bass and my six string. That didn't take long and pretty quickly we were on our way with a favorite — 'Freight Train' — played the way I had learned it about 35 years ago. Fred had picked up the bass chording and the three of us had worked out the parts some time ago. Fred started it with his five string bass and I was picking the lead almost immediately.
Dort was setting the table at the kitchen end of the family room and when we started the song she started singing along with us. Fred and I moved over to the end of the table and we were doing a pretty good job of the song while Dort kept setting the table. Along about the end of verse three another voice joined us as we moved into the chorus again.
Sarah had arrived.
And she looked pretty happy to join in the song. But then again she had probably been listening to most of the song to this point and it's a standard. We ended up in a combination of all four voices very neatly fitted together
As she sang that final chorus with us she was hugging her little girl quite close and smiling at her as she moved with the music. A smile came out on her face as Fred launched into 'Froggy Went A'courtin', and she chimed right in with her strong alto. By the time we ended it Sarah and Dort were leaning against each other and both were bouncing the child in time with the music.
That was the beginning of a great evening for the four of us, from the great meal to the great picking and singing. We all had a fun time, and I got to know the little tyke named Geri well enough to sing a couple of lullabies to her as she started to yawn her way toward sleep. At one point Sarah pulled back to sit on the couch and, covering herself and Geri with a child's blanket, she nursed Geri for about 15 minutes. When she finished the little tyke was asleep and stayed that way when her mom laid her down on the couch and rejoined us nearer to the fire. Now I knew why her tops were a bit tight around her bust and that didn't stop my admiration of that bust in the least.
And I was much impressed by the young lady herself. She seemed very competent in her care of Geri and obviously loved her daughter very much. I learned that she had recently taken a secretarial position in our little town. Since it was much easier to live here than to commute up from the city Sarah had packed up her possessions and moved into the rental double-wide as soon as she had found local daycare for Geri. I was much aware of how attractive she is.
About 10 o'clock, after about an hour of more talking than singing, Sarah said she should probably be getting Geri home. Actually, since Geri was awake at the moment, and getting attention from the rest of us, what Sarah was most likely doing was trying to put Geri into an environment where she could fall asleep for the entire night. Anyway, that statement started us all into packing up mode. Guitars were cased, beer bottles and coffee cups were put away properly and I hauled my 12 unopened bottles back to the pickup along with my guitar. The three of us who did drink beer tonight had each had only two, but we had sampled through all the different types, so I still took home a hodgepodge. Sarah had taken a couple of sips from each of mine, but she did try to 'not change the flavor of Geri's meal' (her words).
As I came back into the house to say goodbye Sarah was juggling her salad bowl and a box of dressings and fixings. It was evident that she would have to make two trips unless one of us helped her, so I scooped Geri up off of the floor where she was playing.
"I've got the rugrat and her toys! I'll carry her home for you."
"Great! Dorothy and Fred, thanks for a fun evening. We both enjoyed ourselves tremendously! I haven't done anything like this since she was born. See you tomorrow, maybe!"
And with that we headed down the driveway and kitty-corner over to the driveway in front of her double-wide mobile home.
At the door Sarah put the bowl down, got her key out of her pocket and unlocked the door. After holding the screen door open for me so I could bring Geri inside, she picked up the bowl and headed inside to the kitchen where she had left on a light. She put down her burdens and came to me to take her daughter. I'm happy to say that her daughter didn't want to leave me immediately, showing that I hadn't frightened her too much with my singing during the evening.
As she took Geri I turned toward the door. This time it was me she thanked for the fun evening, again with the comment of not having much social activity since Geri was born.
It was a spur of the moment thing, I swear! I just, almost automatically, asked "Would you and Geri like to go out for dinner at Ed's tomorrow night?" Ed's is our most popular restaurant in town. Picture a small town Denny's and you'll have the idea. It's a mixture of neat, clean facilities and basic good food served by folks from your neighborhood. The invitation must have surprised her as much as it did me.
It took her all of about 5 seconds to get over the shock and she looked at me with a grin.
"I think we'd really enjoy that! When should we be ready?"
We set it up for about six the next day, after she had the opportunity get home from work, to nurse Geri, and get them both ready to go out. Plans set I made my departure and headed home to think about what I had just done.
I must be crazy! What in the world was I doing asking out to dinner a woman who was probably only half my age, a single woman with a child in arms?
Well, if nothing else, it would be a chance to get to know a neighbor in a setting uncluttered by other people being with us. Of course, that was the basic idea of dating anyway, but I wasn't going to let that occupy my thoughts too much at the moment.
The next day was taken up by more chores getting ready for the coming summer season. I generally had a lot of visitors over the months from May through mid September. As part of the setup work for the season I spent most of the day power washing the outside of the house, the sidewalks and the fairly large collections of resin chairs that would occupy the deck all summer.
I knocked off at about four and started cleaning up. I built myself a manhattan because Ed's didn't serve any liquor and I figured I needed at least one before this evening would be over. A shower was followed by the choice of some casual but good clothes; a shave and a shoe polish completed my preparation for the evening. At 5:55 I took off in my sedan for Sarah's place.
When I arrived and prodded myself up to the doorbell, I quickly found out that Geri was not a happy camper this evening. Sarah was ready to go but Geri was having a bad time of it. I have no idea what had set her off, but it was quickly evident that Sarah was approaching her limits. So, I picked Geri up and started talking to her, in baby talk of course. It seems that I'm very proficient in that language because she very quickly settled down. Her mother stared at me like I was a miracle worker. I guess the kid had been that way since picking her up from child care, and the quiet that followed my picking her up was the first peace that had existed in that mobile home since they had walked in after work.
Sarah pantomimed a task she had to complete and when I nodded agreement she picked up a child's car seat and headed out the door to my car. About five minutes later she returned and said "It's in and if you bring her out to the car I'll try to get her into it without restarting world war III."
I complied with her orders and it really worked out quite well. Geri was buckled in, facing backwards behind my seat so that her mother could watch her while we drove the one and a half miles to the restaurant. She accepted this rather quietly and grinned and talked to me through the open door as her mom went back into the house for her jacket and what I guess was a diaper bag. When she got back to the car I ended my conversation with her daughter, closed that door, made double-time around the car and got the other back door open on Sarah's side to put the bag on the seat. And then she stood back while I got her own door open for her.
"Thank you, kind sir! And I'm glad that my daughter's behavior hasn't put you off the idea of this outing! I hope she stays this way for the rest of the evening because I don't want her to pull that behavior in the restaurant. I hope you can deal with the uncertainty of it all!"
"I think I can. If not, she's of the age where we'll get frustrated but not angry. But I would hope that she cooperates so that her mom can have an enjoyable time!"
Geri did cooperate, even in the fairly noisy environment at Ed's. It's a very much visited restaurant and it seemed that everybody was there that evening. But in the midst of it all Sarah and I were able to eat a very good meal while Geri scooped up Cheerios from the tray of the highchair she was in. All during the meal she had both of us paying attention to her at the same time that we spent time getting to know one another.
I learned that Sarah was 26 (to my 50). I learned that Geri was the result of a sad time with her college sweetheart. They had dated for several years after finishing school and were talking of getting married when he was diagnosed with a fast moving case of pancreatic cancer (there it is again, the nasty 'Big C'). He was gone in just over three months but in that time she had deliberately seduced him for their first time together. And she did it at the peak of her fertility so that she knew she would be pregnant with the child of her loved one. When he passed she wasn't sure that her plan had worked. He had been gone for just less than fourteen months now.
At the time she had lived in another state and after his death and funeral she had moved to our nearby fair city for the rest of her pregnancy. She was quite well reconciled to his death and very happy with their daughter. Her family was all gone, he'd had none, and she was now alone except for Geri. She had been relying on her Junior College secretarial training for jobs and after she had recovered from Geri's birth had been very happy to get one up here in our small town. She was also pleased with her rental housing, even if it wasn't very fancy.
She learned about my semi-retirement, my two living places (she had driven by my lake house, checking it out), my reason for being single, and my love of music. That turned out to be something we very much connected on. For a while we discussed Fred's group and the local music scene.
Oh, I haven't described her appearance. You know she has brown eyes and blond streaked brown hair that circles her head in a bob cut. Tonight she wasn't wearing heels so she stood an even five feet tall (I asked her — awkward, but I was nosy!). She was wearing a pair of tight blue jeans (they fit perfectly — she had gotten her lower figure back just fine! Little woman = little butt!). Her top was a multi-colored beige paisley — very 60's in appearance. It was tight because she was still nursing but gave evidence that her waist had in fact become once again quite slim. I again found her to be quite attractive!
We spent about an hour there, eating, drinking decaf coffee and talking. I'm not repeating all of the conversation because it was basically beginning small talk. We were two people getting to know each other. But the talking was easy for us to do. Geri, of course, was part of the conversation the entire time, even if she didn't have too much to contribute. We finally left when she started to get bored (if you've had kids you know that reads 'got fussy'. Hey! It comes with the age of the kid!)
When we got back to her place she unbuckled Geri and I unbuckled the car seat. Each of us with our burden walked into the house. This time I took a look around. It had been sparsely furnished by the owner, and while not exactly new it was neat and clean. There were toys in evidence but none of the mess that often comes with the little ones.
I was invited to stay for a while, but I knew that Sarah needed to be busy with Geri for awhile and so I made my adieus. We both agreed that we'd had an enjoyable time and that we'd have to do something again soon. I did make a point to get her phone number and program it into my cell phone. Actually, she was using one also and so we swapped that information.
Back home a few minutes later I built a fire, started up the CD player and sat down to check my emails. And just like that my activities list for tomorrow was made. The past few years I've hired the neighbor's teenaged son to help put in the dock and launch the pontoon boat and paddleboat. The email told me that their family would be up the following afternoon and that he'd be available to help if I was ready.
I made it a point to be ready! I got the pontoon boat out of mothballs, reinstalled the freshly charged battery and changed the lower gearcase lube in the outboard power unit. I stripped the cover off of the paddleboat and re-rigged its mooring lines. About the time Kyle came over in the early afternoon to help I was ready to go. It takes a bit to keep up with the kid, but he does good work and quite a bit of what needed to be done takes at least two people. With 30 feet of dock in the lake and leveled, the pontoon boat securely tied up on one side and the paddleboat and fishing boat tied on the other, the last bit of work was to carry my two kayaks over to our shared rack and lock them up. A number of years ago Jim and I had built a combination canoe and kayak rack right on the property line with an attached box for paddle and life jacket/cushion storage. After Kyle and I put their canoe on the top of the rack we locked everything up with a chain and a padlock that both families had keys to. We had shared the equipment fairly comfortably for the past few years.
While Kyle went to work with Jim on their cleanup chores I fired up the pontoon boat's engine and let it warm up to operating temps. While it warmed up I checked that the tools were in their proper place, the life jackets hadn't had any winter mouse nests built among them and then poured five gallons of fresh gas into the fuel tank. With everything 'shipshape' I let go the mooring lines and idled out of our low-speed cove.