My Life A Bit South of Normal

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Invitations Were Sent

On Thursday invitations arrived to a fundraising dinner for the Historical Society Pearce was hosting at Cre Uisce Aer. It was not a big guest list and everyone on the list had been informed a month earlier to 'save the date'. Bunny opened the invitation as soon as it came in the mail. She was reading it as she walked into the house. Mike was already home preparing steaks for the grille. "Mike, look at this." She held up the invitation.

"What's this?"

"It's the invitation to the Historical Society fundraiser next Monday. Remember, I told you that Pearce called weeks ago and asked us to save the date." She continued to peruse the engraved card she was holding. "Oh, it's formal, black tie for the men."

She handed the invitation to Mike. He read it and looked up at Bunny. "Hmh. I say the most impressive thing is the Phinnigan Coat of Arms embossed in color on the cards."

Bunny looked at Mike, "That? Oh, I thought that was just decoration."

Mike continued salting and peppering the steak."No, the Phinnigan family was an old family in Ireland." He flipped the steaks. "Of course, I am sure the Fitzgerald crest is as impressive."

Bunny, moving on, almost oblivious to what Mike was talking about, started pulling vegetables and greens from the refrigerator. Mike handed her a glass of wine he had poured earlier. "Let's go sit on the porch."

Together they took their glasses and walked out onto the front porch. As they were sitting down, Bunny asked,"I guess I need a long dress for dinner next week."

"A formal one? Yes. No doubt you have a closet full of gowns to wear."

"I do, but I never can figure out what looks good on me."

Mike reached over and gave her a kiss. "I think I can help with that."

"Will you?"

"Of course. But not now."

Together they talked about their days. It was Bunny's favorite time to be on the porch. The sun was setting on the river and cast a magical glow across the lawn at Ivy Lane.

Pearce was excited about hosting the dinner. His mother had taught him how to entertain on a grand scale as well as for an intimate meal, all with her southern style. He was also very proud of how Cre Uisce Aer looked. The restoration was finally finished. When he ran into the Colonel one day in town and found himself in an enjoyable conversation about Gallagher and the all the history of the area. That meeting gave Pearce the idea of hosting a fundraiser.

After setting a date, the Colonel suggested, since Pearce was hosting that he put together the guest list. Pearce offered to handle the guest list as well as the invitations.

When Haynes got his invitation, he immediately called Colleen to tell her about it. "I know you have something to wear. If you don't, let's go shopping."

"What I wear is not the problem. Attending is my issue."

"Colleen, we have already talked about this. I'll be right by your side. Remember, I told you this is when you learn who your true friends are. And, trust me, if there is any problem Bob and Parker are prepared to take care of it."

Colleen smiled to herself. "I never thought of Bob and Parker as my knights in shining armor."

"Oh, they are. I'll pick you up at 6:30 Monday evening. And don't forget we are going to Dot's tonight. I'll pick you up at 6."

They talked a few minutes more then rang off. Colleen took a deep breath. This was it - what she had dreaded for a while. She had to remember she was strong. She could do this. Then she remembered what Haynes had said. If there was a problem, Bob and Parker would take care of it.

The talk at the Tea House was the fundraiser and what everyone would wear. "Oh, I love going to a black tie event. I rarely get to dress up," commented Adair. She added, "I have a dress I got on sale that I have never worn." She took a sip of her tea. "God, I hope it still fits!"

The ladies laughed. "Maybe we should wear long white gloves. I always feel like Audrey Hepburn when I pull mine out of the drawer."

"I don't think long white gloves, a tiara, and loosing 30 pounds would make me feel like Audrey Hepburn," laughed Charlotte.

Dixie, being haughty as ever. "Has any one seen the guest list. I was told it was small - only a select few are invited." She paused and when no one replied, she added, "It is so sad. This is the kind of affair Hayne's late wife, Blair, would have enjoyed." She buttered a biscuit and gently placed the silver butter spreader on the edge of her bread plate. "I know Haynes will not attend. Who could imagine he could be tricked by that  'Colleen'." She paused, "Certainly she will not be there. How humiliating that would be for Haynes."

Charlotte was appalled, as were several other ladies at the table. She spoke up, "Dixie, if you are going to be so ugly about this, perhaps you should not attend to event."

Always wanting to have the last word, Dixie replied, "Well what else can you expect from Haynes. After all look how his son, Bob, turned out."

Stella had also had enough. "Dixie, I don't think I have ever met someone like you. Even if you feel that way, you can keep your thoughts to your self. Do I need remind you who's picture was on the front page of the Afternoon Daily Press."

Most of the other ladies murmured in agreement.

Dixie kept on, "Ella, certainly you agree with me. After all, you remember the days when everyone was proper and knew how to behave themselves."

Ella was offended that she was selected as Dixie's next victim. "Dixie, personally, I think Colleen is lovely. I enjoy her company. After all, it is so nice to see Haynes happy." She paused and laughed, "I just wish I could find someone that would make me that happy." Everyone at the table laughed out loud.

Charlotte spoke up, "My only issue with Colleen, is how regal she always looks. I have never seen anyone as stylish as she is."

Adair agreed,"And worse yet, she can wear anything and it will look elegant."

The conversation continued, although Dixie stayed quiet. 'Stylish?' she thought. What was happening to these ladies.  Most of whom had been raised in fine southern homes, were willing to even speak with Colleen, much less defend her. Why is she still here? Their entire culture was going to Hell, simply because of this Colleen. She wished the woman would just disappear.

Stella considered the conversation, especially 'Miss Ella's' remarks. True she enjoyed Hollis's company but how long would that last. If something happened between Colleen and Haynes - which single man would Colleen's dupe next. Something about her made men comment about her style every time she was around.

Later that afternoon at the Starlight Cafe, Bob and Parker were having lunch. 'Miss' Ella walked in and spoke to them. Both Bob and Parker stood up and asked if she would join them. Ella always enjoyed their company.

After she had ordered, she entertained Bob and Parker repeating the lively conversation from that morning at the Tea House. Needless to say they were both humored and surprised at Dixie's comments. The meal came and the conversation continued.

Parker offered, "I am most surprised at 'Miss' Dixie's comments. Even if she feels that way, why would discuss them with that group of ladies?"

Bob laughed, "Well, all I know is I am pea green with envy when it comes to Colleen's wardrobe. She makes the rest of us look like we are wearing seed sacks. I feel like the second fiddle every time I am around her and Dad. As long as she is around I cannot compete."

Parker added, "I guess so. Then you could regain your title of 'best dressed' in town."

At that time, Ella's cell phone rang. She looked at the screen, "Oh, boys this has been delightful but I have to leave now. As she answered her phone, she pulled a ten dollar bill from her purse. Placing it on the table, she mouthed 'for my lunch'.

Parker tried to give it back to her. "Let us get this."

Ella just waved him off, smiled, and walked away talking on her phone.

"She is a piece of work. It is sad she never found anyone after 'Mr. Howard' died, commented Bob.

"Well, there are only so many single men in town and most of those are taken."

They finished their lunch and stood to leave. As they walked out Bob told Walter, "Best burger in town!"

It was about 6:30 that evening when Haynes, Colleen, Bob, and Parker arrived at Dot's. As they greeted Ike, he asked, "Regulars?"

"Yes sir," answered Haynes. "I think we will sit at that table," he said pointing toward a table for 4 on the side of the room.

"Where ever you want," Ike answered as he busily prepared their drinks.

There were a few people in the bar when they arrived. Some they recognized, 1 or 2 they didn't. No one paid any attention to Haynes' group as they got settled at their table.

Ike brought the drinks over, white wine for Colleen, a red for Bob, bourbon and Coke for Parker, and a glass of scotch, neat, for Haynes. They chatted with him as he served their drinks. Bob looked at Ike, "Ike, let me tell you - you were the sharpest dressed at Kathleen's reception. You wear a dinner jacket well."

Ike thanked him and commented about how much fun it had been.

Parker followed up, "Personally, I found the suit you wore at Bunny's wedding very sharp."

Ike just smiled, "For an old man, I try."

He made his way back to the bar and the group took the first sips of their drinks and started chatting. "I think I am going to wear a dinner jacket to the party at Pearce's."

"That's a little much," laughed Parker.

"Well it is black tie."

"Whatever. Since when have I tried to give you fashion advice?"

Haynes shook his head. "Boys, you both know you are going to look sharp, whatever you wear."

"But Dad," Bob said, looking at Colleen,"the bar has been raised once 'Miss' Colleen here arrived. I've got to step up my game."

"Please Bob, really?" Colleen asked faking annoyance. "Okay, would it make you happy to come go through my closet to see if there is anything you want to wear."

"No, dear, that will not be necesary." Bob smiled. "I've got a plan."

Everyone at the table laughed at Bob who continually acted as if he was terribly concerned about Colleen usurping his long held place as most fashionable.

Several friends came in while the group was there. Most stopped by the table to talk. All in all it was a pleasant evening.

Pearce had selected a catering company, well known for their unique menus. He selected special wine from his wine cellar, as well as champagne and craft beer. The gardens were in full bloom, so he engaged Lavenia to come out and use the estate's flowers in arrangements for the dinner.

To make the evening more special, he had cleared all the furniture from the middle of the main hall and living room. In it's place were 7 or 8 round tables, covered in fine Irish linens and set with his mother's sterling flatware. Pearce had found a very good jazz trio, he had once he heard at a club in Mobile. At that time, he had asked them, if he ever needed them, would they come out to Cre Uisce Aer. Needless to say they were more than willing. After all, who could resist Pearce's Irish charm.

As he reviewed his lists and saw how good the house looked, he was pleased. It was going to be a success. Everyone would have an enjoyable evening. Being careful, he knew there must be something he overlooked. But that was not something he could worry about now. Nothing was going to go wrong.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Mary's Garden Redeux

"I didn't realize there were so many different kinds, or that they bloomed."

Mike just shook his head, "Neither did I. Where were they shipped from?"

"California. It has taken a week for them to get here."

"How did you ship them?"

"By truck - see the u-haul." She was so excited Mike just watched her as she started tearing the brown paper from the pots.

As more plants were revealed, Mike asked, "Honey, I don't think anyone would ship something, especially live plants, across the country in a u-haul." Mike looked over the hundred are so pots. "And, you paid for shipping?"

"Only the cross country part. The seller was so nice, he said he would pay for the part from Mobile."

"It's your money and I hate ask, but how much was the shipping?"

"Oh, a little over $1000."

"How much over $1000?"

"Oh, sweetheart, don't worry. You know I have good business sense. I thought the seller was very reasonable. The final bill was $1800 for the shipping. Bunny paused, "The seller set it up so they were shipped to a place in Mobile. Then these nice men picked them up and delivered them to me."

"And, the price for the plants?"

"That's the best part, these are all very rare species, and I got them for $40 each." She could tell Mike had more questions. "Don't worry, I did some research. These same rare types sell for over $60 other places."

"So the ones the seller had pictured matched the rare types you found while looking for prices?"

"Mike, this grower is so famous, that when I looked up the rare types on other web sites, they had used the picture from his site in the article. Now that tells you he knows what he is talking about, if they used a picture of his."

"So, he said the picture was from his garden?"

"Well, no, he didn't answer that question when I asked. But, he knew what he was talking about. He told me they were from a garden at an old house. He was very lucky, he bought them from the estate. I told you, he is an expert."

Mike looked over the plants that he could see.  Most of them were privet hedge - the same as the bushes behind the house that had to be cut down constantly to ensure they did not overtake the backyard. Bunny continued unwrapping the plants. One took a while due to the amount of paper around the plant. When she finally finished with the paper and could see the plant, she was a bit surprised. Instead of a small bush, it was a 6 inch seedling. Seeing Mike's reaction, she said, "Well, he said some were miniature."

"Miniature or immature?" asked Mike.

"Miniature, in fact he said most were a miniature variety."

From what he could see, most of the seedlings were English box woods. Mike remembered working with the gardener one summer at Belmont while he was planting new hedges. The gardener had taken time to teach Mike how to identify the different varieties among seedlings and the characteristics of each. The plants at Belmont were definitely English box woods, a variety that was very slow growing.

Before Mike could say anything, Bunny pointed to a corner in the garden, "And over here is where I am going to put the fish pond."

Mike looked toward the corner she was pointing to. "Fish pond?"

"Oh, I can't wait for you to see it. I didn't want a black pond, so the dealer found me a pink one. That will add color to the garden. Don't you think?"

"It definitely will.  No doubt it will be quite the conversation piece." He just smiled. "Where is the pond coming from?"

"Well to get the 'special' pink one, I had to order it from China."

"And. . . who sold this to you?"

"Another seller on eBay. He also just happened to have some rare Koi." She paused. "You know the fancy different colored fish you see in garden ponds."

Mike nodded his head as he envisioned a pink Koi pond in the corner of the garden.

"But these are a special type of Koi. They are gold - all of them are gold - gold over. The seller said the solid gold ones were rarer."

"And, more expensive."

"Mike," Bunny said exasperated, "He sent me pictures of the fish. They really looked orange to me, but he said as they grew, therir color would change. I've never seen gold Koi before. Why, my pond will look like something out of a James Bond movie, don't you think so?"

"Definitely. I imagine it will be much more 'special' than Mary's original garden." Mike put his arm around his wife's shoulders. "Honey, I feel certain your 'special rare' box wood garden and your pond will be quite unique."

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Any Mother Would Totally Understand

It wasn't long after Charlotte's departure, that most of ladies at the table followed suit. That left only Adair Butler there with Dixie. Immediately Dixie reverted to her 'Motherzila of the Bride' persona. "What was that all about? Imagine Charlotte Beauregard lecturing me. Of all people - everyone has skeletons. Of course my only embarrassing moment was after I had way too many glasses of champagne. I was not responsible for my actions."  Dixie took a sip of her tea. "Everyone knew I had just learned my only daughter got married behind my back." She looked at Adair. "Any mother would totally understand."

Adair had had enough of Dixie. Before Adair said anything ugly, she excused herself. From Dixie's smug countenance, one would see that she assumed that Adair agreed with her. Either that or she acted as if Adair didn't know any better. Dixie followed a few minutes later. On her way out, Dixie noticed that both Blanch and Caroline were polite but not engaging.

Down at the courthouse, Mike and the Sheriff were at Tula's hearing. No surprise, Tula was dramatic as ever. However the Judge had little pity on her. Her attorney argued his best, but the Judge took little pity. He agreed to release her on bail with the stipulation that she would wear an ankle monitor. When Tula protested, the Judge looked over his reading glasses, "Miss Wells, I wouldn't push it if I were you. There is always the women's prison in the next county. I am sure they have room and I would think orange looks good on you."

Finally, reality hit Tula and she realized that she best stop while she was ahead. The Judge dismissed them and called the next case. Leaving the courtroom, her attorney told Tula, "I need to go arrange your bail." He paused as they walked down the courthouse hall. "This will have to be quite creative. Lucky for you, I know a bail bondsman who owes me a favor." He looked at Tula, "But our first stop is the Sheriff's Station so they can take care of the ankle monitor."

"Are you sure that you can't handle that? Of all people, you know I am not going anywhere."

"Of course I can," said her attorney sarcastically.

Tula was thrilled, "I knew you would take care of me."

"How do you like orange?"

"Seriously?"

"It's your choice Tula."

Reluctantly, Tula accompanied her attorney out of the courthouse to the Sheriff's Station.

Mike and the Sheriff returned to the Station. "You think an ankle bracelet will keep Tula at home?" asked Mike.

"Not a God damn chance," the Sheriff laughed.

Mike shook his head.

Later in the day, Cordelia called Collen to check on her.

"Cordelia, you were right. Haynes was as sweet and understanding as you said he would be."

"I told you."

"However, Belva was not. She informed me that she told Wells I had died in an accident."

"I called Belva. After, we had a little talk, I think she understands," Cordelia paused. "Oh, she is not thrilled but she understands that, just because the two of you are not on the best terms, Wells should be able to make his own decisions."

"Thank you so much."

"Oh, honey, this family is like herding wet cats, but someone has to do it." Cordelia said matter-of-factly.

They spoke for a few more minutes and then rang off.

That evening, Bob and Parker were having supper with Haynes. When they walked into the house, Parker gave his father a big hug before he even said hello. "How is Colleen? We have been thinking about her but were not sure whether to approach her or not." 

"She would appreciate any support she can get. She's a tenacious woman.  It won't be pretty, but we will get through this."

Bob laughed, as he poured 3 glasses of wine, "All I've got to say is that she is one of the strongest women I have ever met." He took a sip. "Not to mention the best dressed ever."

Haynes laughed, "Well there is that."

"I just remember the afternoon you saw her for the first time." Parker said with a big smile, "You were totally smitten."

"I was." Haynes accepted a glass of wine from Bob and continued, "I still am."

After a glass or 2 of wine, the men moved into the dining room for supper. Haynes had prepared quail and asparagus. There were even hot biscuits. Parker picked up a biscuit. "Now, I'm really concerned about you." He looked over at Haynes. "I was impressed with your new cooking skills but biscuits! Dad, as much as I pride myself as a skilled cook, I have never been able to make decent biscuits."

Bob added, "Damn, these are good," as he buttered one.

Haynes laughed, "I'm not about to take credit for the biscuits, you can thank Hattie"

Bob looked over at Parker, "Now, we have the family secret."

"I'm impressed you thought of getting biscuits from Hattie. I would never have considered that."

"Hey, I know my culinary limits."

They chatted over dinner about the recent weddings, sports, business, etc - anything but Colleen. As soon as dinner was over and the dishes were done, Haynes announced, "Let's go out on the patio. This weather is ideal. Scotch, either of you?"

Both accepted his offer. As soon as the drinks were poured, they walked out onto the patio. It was a beautiful southern night. They sat on the plush sofas and chairs Blanch had used to decorate the terrace.

"Okay Dad, I've had enough to drink. What are your plans with Colleen?"

"As far as I am concerned nothing has changed. I fell in love with the beguiling Colleen, not her past. Of course, it is not something I ever considered - getting to know a transsexual, much less fall in love with one." He laughed quietly and shook his head. "I don't care what people say. Well, I care when they hurt Colleen's feelings. And, unfortunately, I feel like the gathering storm will be pretty rough."

"Jeez, Dad. Remember I put you through more. You and Mama caught Hell when I came out."

Haynes laughed, "Well, let's just say we learned who our friends were."

"Hey, you would have never known me. And, that would truly been a loss," Bob could not help but offer.

Parker suggested that the 4 of them go out Friday night. Bob agreed, "We haven't been to Dot's lately."

Haynes said he and Dixie would meet the 2 of them there Friday evening around 6:30. It wasn't long before Parker and Bob had to leave. Haynes thanked them for their support. Parker's comment was, "Dad, did you think we would do anything else."

Bob gave Haynes a hug, "God, I only hope Parker grows up to be someone like you." 

Parker, shook his head, "Now I know it is time to go home."

Haynes watched the tail lights as they went down the driveway, slowly vanishing into the night. At least he knew he had Parker and Bob's support.

When Mike got home that evening, there was a u-haul truck pulled up next to the house, unloading dozens of plants. Each pot was wrapped in brown paper, so he couldn't tell exactly what they were. He was walking towards the truck when he heard Bunny. "Sweetie, they are here. I am so excited. Come look."

Mike followed her into a garden on the side of the house. "Harrison, loved this garden, but he couldn't bare to work in it after Mary died. So I decided to make it my next project," Bunny said with that innocent excitement Mike was so used to. As they walked through the gates, Mike was surprised to see an additional several dozen plant pots sitting there."

"Aren't they gorgeous? I'm so excited."

"Flower? This will look nice with something that blooms? It looks like it was a flower garden before."

"Oh no, it was a boxwood garden. And, the ones I bought are 'lush, green, rare boxwood like plants'. Just wait, it will be gorgeous."

Mike and Bunny had to step aside so the men could bring more plants into the garden. "Honey, just one question, where did you get all these from?"

"eBay, of course. I checked HSN first but they didn't sell them. I found a gardener who wanted to sell his entire collection. It was a deal - the price was very reasonable. I just paid for shipping." Bunny stooped down and removed the brown paper from one of the plants." She was silent.

Mike just said,"I'll agree, what you have here are 'rare boxwood like plants'. I've never seen any quite like these."

"See, I told you?"