Thursday, May 3, 2007
The Topsail Retreat.... (very long)
I set off at 6:30 AM PST in San Diego and landed in Raleigh/Durham at 6:30 EST. As I was wheeled off the plane, Carrie was right there waiting for me. It was so lovely to see her smiling face and get hugged, Southern-style. She drove me to her lovely home only 15 minutes from the airport where I reintroduced myself to her great kids and later, her wonderful husband. So after an evening of much great conversation, Carrie and I drove to the airport and met a smiling and joyous Carol. When we got back to Carrie's, Carol and I immediately went to bed in the girls' room, where we talked into the night until almost 3 AM.
The next morning, we were in Carrie's van and starting the three-hour drive to Topsail Island by 9:15. We were talking so much that we missed a shortcut and got a bit confused by the Google map. But Carol navigated us well, and despite waiting for the drawbridge over to the island for 15 minutes, we found our way to Paula's GORGEOUS three-story beach house by 12:15 PM, just in time for lunch. There we met up with the other eleven ladies who had arrived the day before: Paula our hostess, Becky, dali, 7of9, Donna/Lawgirl, Karen/2nd Opinion, Rachel, Jess, Katrina, claire, and Laura. Claire and I roomed together on the first floor due to our health issues so we wouldn't have to tackle the stairs.
The talk was instantaneous. The view was so lovely; the beach visible from the bay window, and the weather was gorgeous. 7 and I discussed how much we missed Vera while dali worked on a lovely pastel of the beach. Cameras popped out at every moment as ladies snapped photos for 365 blogs. Several went for long walks down the beach, and others sat chatting in the sun. Much chocolate and a nice amount of wine was consumed, as usual. The ones not here were sorely missed, but we enjoyed those who were present. 7 made us a lovely dinner of grilled chicken, rice, and green beans. Later we did a personality quiz from a 1927 book called I Got Your Number with Paula calling out the questions. The wording was hilariously frank as 7 read the perceptive but caustic results. Much laughter ensued as Rachel couldn’t find a description that fit her and Karen found that she was “savage.” I was found to be “timid” and “loyal” in both of my closest matches. After the personality quiz, we proceeded to the white elephant books. Everyone had brought a wrapped book (I brought [u]Middlemarch[/u], which I call “Middlecrawl.”) At one point, I had an early Anne Lamott book in my hands, and then later a selection of books on the British Isles, but I ended up with a 1930s biography of the Brontes. Now that I have three biographies of that family, I suppose I ought to read one sometime. Much laughter ensued as books were opened, snatched, and stolen. Then Karen presented a film version of a staged production of Sondheim’s [u]Into the Woods[/u] which presented fairy tales musically and with interesting moral twists. A few of us stayed up talking until after 2 AM.
The next morning (Saturday), we were treated to a real Southern breakfast, and I had my first experience with grits which I liked very much. So grits, biscuits and sausage gravy, eggs, and sausage patties, made by Paula and Becky, started off our morning. Then dali, Paula, and 7 got out the earring-making beads, pins, and hooks. Dali, 7, Jess, and I were the main earring factory, with Carol laptopping a spiritual gifts survey with dali while we worked. Others (Becky, Rachel, Donna, etc.) stopped by the bead table and made a few pairs. I ended up making wooden earrings for Karen and black-and-whites for someone else (I forget for whom). I created two pairs for me and several pairs for others not present. I think I made about eight pairs all together, as did 7, Jess, and Dali as we chatted away the time. We earring stalwarts even stayed home from a restaurant scallops lunch in order to keep working. I called Vera partway through, and 7 had a chance to chat with her, too. At one point, Katrina and I took a short walk down the beach with our cameras, snapping photos of shells, the beach house, etc.
Later, we all piled into three vehicles and drove to a local hangout called The Green Turtle. I was in the front seat of Carrie’s van, and as we drove around, trying to find the restaurant (with a bit of backtracking), she regaled us with a Southern-mountain accent and monologue that had me laughing so hard that I was gasping for breath and begging her to stop, please! We also passed a couple signs that claimed that everyone should visit “Dr. Rootbeer’s Hall of Foam.” (I was amused, never having heard of a “Hall of Foam”!) We found The Green Turtle at last, and the proprietor insisted on shaking all of our hands as we entered. Immediately after ordering a lot of shrimp baskets and other seafood, Carol, 7, dali, and I walked outside the restaurant and around to the deck, where we took some great shots of both the scenery and of each other snapping photos. Dinner was very good, and it was amusing that the introverts had somehow managed to take the middle of the long table while the extroverts took over the ends. So we introverts listened to great conversations on either side and took part as we felt comfortable.
We then exchanged our white-elephant gifts, going in order from eldest to youngest. Much laughter, of course, especially as Carrie told the story about her phallic-shaped salt and pepper shakers she received as a wedding gift. Laura kept my British tea towel, and I got Carrie’s bookplates. Again, much stealing, swapping, deal-making, and laughter. Later, a contingent of women got into the jacuzzi and talked while others sat inside and chatted. Some were filling out Meyers-Briggs questionnaires, and I went outside with dali to chat with Rachel at the spa. Rachel was talking about how it is to be a “P” on the scale and very seriously stated something about how everyone seems to view your “P-ness,” which of course sent dali and I off in gales of laughter at Rachel’s “faux pas,” the second phallic reference of the night. Again, I stayed up past 2 AM, trying not to wake claire as I sneaked into bed.
After a quick breakfast, Katrina and I took another walk down the beach with 7, snapping photos again while Laura, Karen, and Carol braved the very cold ocean. (I have a great photo of Carol in the ocean, but she begged me not to take it, so I won’t publish it, even though she looks lovely in her swimsuit.) By noon, several of our number had to depart: Becky, Paula, Jess, dali, and Donna. Later, claire, Carol, Katrina, Carrie, Karen, and I (with my lame voice hidden behind their lovely voices) sang acapella hymns, including “A Mighty Fortress,” and my favorite, “Be Thou My Vision.” Later on, claire, Katrina, Karen, and I were sunning ourselves on the back deck while singing John Denver tunes and some classic songs, including my recent favorite, “Bridge over Troubled Waters.” Carol, Karen, claire, and I tried the jacuzzi, but it was a bit too cold and we didn’t last long. After a wonderful dinner of chicken chili made by Carrie, we settled down to watch [u]Elizabethtown[/u], after much debate as to movie choice; after all, we had over a dozen to choose from! I headed to bed at the early hour of midnight, and claire and I had a chat before bed about our health issues.
I felt horrid when I woke up the next morning, nauseous and dizzy and weak. Part of the problem was jumping out of bed waaaay too fast and blacking out for a minute or two. Another part was consuming a lot of foods my body wasn’t accustomed to over the weekend, especially sugar. Claire fed me and someone (don’t remember who) helped me to the van, and off Carol, Carrie, and I went, leaving Topsail at 8 AM in order to get Carol to the airport in time for her 12:30 flight. Carrie and Carol chatted the whole way while I listened and rested. After hugging the stuffing out of Carol at the curb and saying our goodbyes, Carrie introduced me to the wonders of Chick-Fil-A for lunch. We went back to her home, and I had the opportunity to chat with her kids and with her. She is such a warm and lovely woman, and I just admire her mind and her heart. Back to the airport we went three hours later, and Carrie hugged me as we said goodbye. It was hard to leave; I really wanted to get back in her van and go right back home with her!
It was a lovely, healing, time spent at Topsail with the very lovely ladies of the Lamp Post. I only wish that the entire group could have attended – it was the only thing that could have improved this beautiful weekend.