WOW! WNC Woman has been around for 15 years now. Congratulations, Sandi, and best wishes for many more years.
I believe I’m the only columnist who has published with the magazine for nearly every issue since then. Perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe Lavinia was around back then, too. At any rate, 15 years is a long time.
Matt and I moved from New York to WNC on September 11, 2001. Not New York City, but upstate. Anyway, we left NY to drive here on September 10 and slept on a blow-up mattress in our house in Fairview that night. When the moving truck pulled up the next morning, the drivers told us what had happened in New York City. We had no radio or TV in the house yet, so we knew nothing.
So, September 11 will always have a bittersweet connotation for me. Here I was beginning a brand new life in a brand new place, while other New Yorkers were mourning dead fathers, mothers, and children.
Like most Americans, that day changed our lives forever.
I was fresh from excitement that year at being accepted in the New York Writers’ Institute juried novel-writing class taught by John Montague, poet laureate of Ireland. That class, under the direction of William Kennedy, opened my eyes to the possibility that I might now begin a second career as a writer/author.
It also nearly destroyed my self-confidence. I was one of two women in the class, and the critiques were brutal – some of them singed my hair. Not that I blame my gender for that. No, but the guys, without exception, were writing brutal vendetta stories about the Catholic Church or the Vietnam War. The other woman, a lesbian, wrote about her abuse as a child.
And here I was, trying to write something about a good girl gone bad.
But we all must write about something we know, right? And I was neither gay nor a veteran. I didn’t figure my motherhood would fascinate these hard-boiled souls.
In early 2002, Peggy Millin, a local writing teacher, told me about a new magazine that was looking for contributors. Hmmm…
That night about three o’clock, I woke up with three words plastered on my brain.
funny, isn’t it?
I figured that could be defined either with comedy or irony, both of which were right up my alley. So, I submitted.
In memory of all those columns, I decided to offer an oldie but goodie. It’s not the first, but close.
funny, isn’t it?
Another story with an “adult” advisory attached. That doesn’t mean it contains sex or violence. However, it does have some scatological references which might be offensive to your highly refined sensibilities because you have an intelligence level slightly over twelve years old.
So did I, until my summer vacation with John.
In all truth, it wasn’t exactly a vacation. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t even remotely a vacation. It was a constant and continual effort to keep four teens and one pre-teen fed, watered and occupied. You see, I had five grandkids visit for one week in August.
One of the kids was a friend of a grandkid. My granddaughter didn’t want to be the only girl in the pack, so she brought a girlfriend. Three of my grandkids (plus the friend) came from Raleigh, one from California. There were two sixteen-year-olds, two fourteen-year olds and one eleven-year-old. And therein lays the tale… the eleven-year-old.
His name is John and he is unquestionably one of the funniest human beings I’ve yet encountered in my many, many years of inhabiting this planet. He is firmly entrenched in his “potty, poopie, peepie” phase of language. All boys go through it, I’m told. Some actually never outgrow it. My own Matt who is in his sixties can lapse into it again at the slightest provocation, especially when he is around my friend Kathy who loves fart jokes better than chocolate.
During their visit, my first objective was to wear them out while surviving myself. Not an easy feat, but I was determined. We climbed Chimney Rock and stood under the waterfall, slid down Sliding Rock twice (I didn’t, after I saw some old guy fall on the rocks and crack his head open.), tubed in the French Broad River, ate pizza at Mellow Mushroom, jived at the drum fest in the park, saw two movies, one with Will Ferrell (John’s personal idol), the other, a horror movie about a group of women who go caving and encounter slimy grey monsters with voracious appetites for female flesh. All in all, a fun and satisfying week… and, wonder of wonders, I am here to tell you about it.
But back to John. I was driving the Raleigh foursome of them to Winston-Salem to deliver them to their mother. John insisted on sitting up front with me. Along about Statesville, he made the following statement.
“Grandma, you need to learn to rap.”
“John, I have no interest in rapping.”
“But you have to learn it… for me, please.”
Now, how could I resist such a sweet entreaty… especially since it was followed by the please word?
After a time of rehearsing various rap rhythms, he declared loudly (John never declares anything softly), “You know, grandma, you’re not bad, for someone SO OLD!”
“What are you talking about, old? I outlasted most of you climbing Chimney Rock.”
“Good, grandma, good, you’re dissin’. Rappers always diss. You’re right on track for your career in rapping.”
My career in rapping? I know there was a rapping grandma on some God-awful summer replacement television show, but that’s not how I’d planned to spend these golden years. I had in mind becoming a famous novelist, appearing on Oprah and maybe winning the Pulitzer. Oh well, I guess it’s always good to have a plan “B”; and I must admit I’m a pretty decent rapper.
A minute later, someone in our car passed gas, silent but noxious. Funny, isn’t it, how frequently that seems to happen in a car loaded with teenagers… and John!
Midst echoes of “not me” and “I didn’t do it” from the backseat, John turned to me.
“Grandma, did you fart?”
“No, John, I definitely did not do that.” I still have trouble even saying the word, let alone admitting to it. But I swear that I was not the offender in this case.
“Grandma, never be ashamed of farting. All rappers fart. Let it go… it’s good for your career.”
So, dear reader, as we enter the fall season, I am imploring you to buy my book, Shanty Gold, when I finally get it published. Otherwise, I may have to revert to plan “B” and that could get ugly… smelly, too.
NOTE: John is now attending NC Charlotte. He hasn’t changed a bit – thank God.
Jeanne Charters is a New Yorker blissfully relocated to Asheville. She lives with her husband, Matt Restivo, and their dog, Bucky. Her novel, Shanty Gold, is available at Malaprops and Mountain Made in Asheville, at Highland Books in Brevard, at Blue Ridge Books and News in Waynesville, at The Book Shelf in Tryon, and, of course, Amazon. Her second book, Lace Curtain, will be available soon. Jeanne invites you to enjoy her blogs on Irish jokes and historical tidbits at www.jeannecharters.com. Contact her at email@example.com. She loves to hear from readers.