Letters from Asheville & Beyond: “Enfin le Printemps”

Part Five: “Enfin le Printemps”

Dedicated to James and Patricia Benton Perry, Harold and Mamie Lou Morris Benton, Frank and Lucille Depew Perry

Letters From Asheville & Beyond

 

Dear Nicky,

My sweet grandson, I’m sorry it has been so long since I’ve written you a letter. But as you know, I’ve been busy moving! Thanks to my cousin Shelby and a bunch of people from our Sunday school class, me and my stuff that didn’t get bought at the yard sale got carted from Columbus County to Weaverville in no time flat. I stayed in an apartment for a little while until I could see about getting my house sold. It wound up that Mr. Hollis bought it for his no-count nephew, so the Lord only knows what’ll happen to your poor departed granddaddy’s homeplace – you’ll have to keep a eye out being right there down the street from it. But it don’t matter, I guess, either way. I’ve got a different life now and am betting on my new place at the condos near Lake Louise in Weaver-Vegas.

Speaking of Hollis, now that it’s getting close to Easter, did he ever take his sign down from Thanksgiving? DONATE A DEER FOR THE HUNGRY – BIG, LITTLE, YOUNG, OR OLD WE TAKE ‘EM ALL. I remember seeing that sign in January and thinking about how no matter their age or size or past or present, there’s something for everybody who’s brave enough to get on the road, try new things. Hollis’s granddaughter Brittany did that and is in California now! I’m so proud of her, and proud of myself. I’m 75 and happier than I’ve been in years.

One reason I feel so good is I have a group of women friends, and we go into town to do a lot together. Other day me, Eva, and Jenny all jumped in the van and rode to a bookstore called Malaprop’s in downtown Asheville. Christina had told us that her favorite writer, a feisty Appalachian mountain woman named Lee Smith from Grundy Virginia who is now world famous, was doing a reading there and I was excited to learn something new. All I can say is: WOW! That Lee Smith, Nicky… she’s sassy, funny, smart as a whip, don’t care what anybody thinks, can tell a story like they’s no tomorrow. Best of all she’s just herself.

Lee read some parts from her book Guests on Earth which takes place in Asheville, and then somebody hollered out asking her to read a piece from another one of her books called Fair and Tender Ladies. Well, Lee laughed at that and then one of the Malaprop’s people gave her a copy of the book they had for sale – it came out in 1988, Christina told us – and when she read about the main character Ivy Rowe’s daddy dying, I cried big old tears that wouldn’t stop. I cried and cried some more. Here’s my favorite part that Ivy says:

“For Daddy had loved the spring. He used to plow and hold the plowed earth to his face, he loved how it smelled, I recall him doing that when I was not but a little thing…He used to take us way up on the mountain in the wee early spring to tap a birch and get the sap, he cut off a big piece of bark for us to lick the inside, it tasted so sweet, I recall he said to me one time, Now Ivy, this is how spring tastes. This is the taste of spring.”

It was silent for a little while. Then everybody clapped for Lee, I wiped my eyes, bought the book, got Lee to sign it, had my picture made with her, and I’ve been reading about Ivy day and night ever since. Fair and Tender Ladies is so good, I can’t put it down.

After our Malaprop’s adventure Christina had the idea to start a book club over at the condos. I’m excited about our first meeting. She got me set up on the email and, knowing I liked that spring part in Lee’s book, sent me a message with a picture of daffodils popping up in her yard over near Flat Creek. The words Christina wrote in the email were, “Enfin le Printemps.” Nicky, did you take any French classes in high school? I didn’t, but over at Joe and Paulette’s house later we talked about what that meant. “Finally, spring,” Paulette said. “That’s the translation.”

It’s finally spring, Nicky. Just when I thought I’d reached the winter of my life, them daffodils came out and I can taste the birch tree sap and I know I have come home.

Much love to you and your mama,

Nannie

PS – I’ve got my guest room all set up in the condo. Come see me for Easter and we’ll walk in the mountains and sing Ivy’s daddy’s words like a church hymn. “Slow down now, slow down. . .this is the taste of spring.” Enfin le Printemps.

Post by Ellen J. Perry. Photo by Hugo G.