Headed north on route 75, passing the monumental Church In The Now (complete with school and acre-age), up by Friendly Village of Crooked Creek (I kid you not), Beaver Ruin and Shake Rag driving in the direction of Chatanooga (almost as fun to type as to say) lies the city of Suwanee. Just beyond that live Cory's cousins, Raymond and Lil Crabtree, descendents from the family who were raised in the Skulls and Schoals Woods. Raymond the only son to Sarah Crabtree (nee English) who was but a year older than Cory's colourful grandfather Owen English knows the family tree well. We were welcomed into their beautiful family heirloom-full home with warm Southern hospitality and treated to a lovely lunch and plotted history of the English clan. Cory is still bristling with excitement after his return to the woods alone yesterday to a. find missing hat and b. find more grave stones. He was disappointed on the hat front but glowing from the treasure hunt the lady from the chamber of commerce had sent him on. Turns out, Grandpa Owen's father, who died in an overturned cart accident in 1924 is buried in Woodville cemetery which is, quite literally, in a wood. On the map were directions of the two-paces-forward-skip-a-tree-look-right sort. We now have information dating back to Granandpa Owen's grandfather James English, who worked as a Justice of the Peace back in the early 1800s. Beginning to get a sense of where the acting gene came in eh?
Whilst Cory was on the hunt, Sam and I had a relaxed day at home with a quick foray outside to soak up the hot spell. Bitter-sweet reminder of spring before we hit the never ending snow of Michigan next week. I will always remember that Centennial Park day (built during the olympics of 1996) because it was the first time I ever saw Sam push another little boy, totally unprovoked down a slide of some height. Both his mother and I flew up to the two, she shaken, taking her boy away from my son, the 3ft agressor and I ushering said fella to a quiet part of the park to lay done the law in what I hoped would be a firm but gentle discipline. Fifteen minutes later, the Sam-man now into the lofty realms of hysterical tears is still refusing to apologise or at least acknowledge his wrong doing. Twenty minutes later, the boy and his mother have left, and so tykey ends up apologising to me instead for not apologising. Over my coffee and his muffin later, I broach the subject again. He tells me, all puppy dog eyes, after I have finished my piece, "I didn't hear that mum." I tell him, as kindly as I can, that I know he did. Its only when our wandering Dad returns and the first thing Sam tells him about is his transgression at the playground do I know the point has hit home.
Its no wonder then, after such a turbulent afternoon that the little fella conked out directly once he was strapped into the car after the show as the three of us headed out into the Georgian starlit night for a party at Shuler's family home (a.k.a the "creature" in the show). Twenty minutes out of the city, past a Marietta town's square twinkling with fairy lights but very much closed for the night we arrive at a pine tree lined drive, alongside National Forest where a coach load of actors and crew are unloading out into the crisp air. We reach the house and Shuler's brother greets us into his triple height ceiling'd front room where a fire is roaring and we move on downstairs to munch on an array of tempting snacks. Boy is schlepped down by dad in car seat. Fast asleep with the party babbling on around him. A hay ride is announced and in groups of about ten we bundle onto Shuler's father's hay wagon and he drives his tractor with excitable troupe on the back wobbling and giggling under the full moon doing their best not to sink into the hay bales. We chug into the darkness and after driving by the original stone family home we arrive at the bonfire. By a lake. Tree stumps are placed around it and on top of the largest is everything you need to make S'Mores. So called, I soon learn, because once you have one you just need.....s'more.
I watch the group fiddle with sticks and stab marshmallows, set fire to them and then smush them inbetween graham crackers (biscuits to the Brits) with a square or two of hershey's chocolate for good measure. The gooey, chocolatey, crunchy, toasty taste is sticky and delicious. I managed to stop after three. Any more sugar and I thought I might start leviatating. Cory arrives after the second load of hay riders, in our car, having schlepped the boy back up the stairs, still in seat. He is now in the back. In the car seat. Fast asleep.
We stand around the fire, munching, crunching, chatting. We stare at the flames, the moon, the halo around it. We learn that it heralds rain. We talk about preparing for the next month of packing and unpacking and survival in Detroit. Nothing but trees and stars about us. It is just what the doctor ordered. Shuler tells us all about running around the woods as a kid for sometimes whole days at a time. He and his brother's game of pushing over the dead trees. Swimming in the lake. The "grump" stump where the kids (or adults) were sent if they were in a huff (or in the dog house). Not difficult to see why he and his family look forward to being able to live there permanently one day. As we waved goodbye to the party and began our journey home Sam opened his eyes, gave me a smile and fell back to sleep.
He is now, once again in the land of nod and his mum will soon be joining him. Cory, in contrast is showing our relatives aroudn the back stage of the Fabulous Fox. Raymond and Lil's son and his family, two fantastically sociable young fellas of 14 and 20 treated us to dinner southern style. On the menu of the place they took us were Grits and Jambalaya. I opted for buttermilk fried chicken. It was crunchy and delicious. As too were the fried green tomatoes we shared for starters and the chicken livers and the huge basket of home made corn bread rolls. Cory's pork chop was tangy and tender. We all found room to share a few banana puddings and pecan pies. Then we scrambled into the freezing rain to make Cory's accustomed crazy dash to the theatre. Whilst they saw the show Sam did his best to orchestrate an intricate make believe journey of plane travel with me back at home, to various cities and hotels concluding with a cruising height of some feet at the dining area table, where we ate apples and yoghurts and generally put the world to rights.
"I miss London." he says.
The book we have read five nights in a row has one of the characters talking about missing people.
"What do you miss?" I ask.
"London." he answers.
I'm beginning to feel dizzy from the circular motion of this conversation when he adds, "I miss the plot mum." Better than loosing it I spose I think to myself, noticing how uncannily Sam has mimicked the exact way Cory and I had been talking about our little corner of vegetable land just a few hours ago. I think the sentiment is more an excercise in mimickry than an expression of what he really is aware of thinking. Another bite of apple and we are onto another "flight" to Florida this time with his "friends" Blue Ian and Silver Ian. i like those two. They know how to pack light.
London most definately feels a world away from out here. Digging is just going to have to wait Sammy boy. Just for a little while....