A Gift for Me? Why–Thank You!

The most popular question I get these days is, “Where are you?” The short answer: Schroon Lake, New York. Learning, yet again, to accept the generosity of others. In this case, a rent-free home with more bedrooms than I have holes in my head (visitors are very welcome!).

I know many of you marvel at my ability to seemingly “stumble” into such things. In this case, however, I stumbled into generous parents. My own. Accepting their generosity, however, has had its ups and downs.

1999: Parent as ATM 

“Where do you want to go next?” my father asked as we walked down Church Street in Burlington, Vermont, my mother window shopping not far behind us.

“Well, I need to go to an ATM machine.”

“What? Why? You don’t have any money?”

“I do have money, I just need to get it from the ATM.”

“No, don’t do that. Here,” he said, pulling a wad of cash from his pocket. “What do you need?”

“I don’t need your money Dad. I have my own. Just not on me.”

“You don’t have any cash on you right now?” he asked, sounding incredulous. I took offense.

“No. Nobody my age carries cash anymore.” His brows scrunched together as he tried to figure this out. How could I explain the convenience of ATM machines to a man who has never in his life used one?

My mother piped in, “Lou, leave her alone. Just let her do what she wants.” She could see my frustration rising.

“Well, I can just give you some money,” my father said. “Then you don’t have to get any.”

“I don’t need your money!” I yelled and stomped off ahead of them to find an ATM machine.

Now I’m not complaining that my father likes to give his children money. But as a twenty-something finally out on her own, I wanted to  prove I could support myself. Which meant not taking money from Dad. My mother understood this. My father did not.

“I just wanted to help you out,” my father said when I returned with cash in my pocket. I looked at my mother. She must have tried to help him understand. Couldn’t he just let this go?

“I don’t need your help.” I said with a growl.

“Lou, just drop it,” said my mother. But my father was never good at that.

2011: Love and Money

Years later a friend told me about the Love Languages.”You’ve never heard of this?” he said.

“No. What is it?”

“Well, this therapist has studied lots of people in relationships. He says there are five ways people express love. You can take a test to find what your top two are. The idea is that you and your partner have to know how to speak each other’s languages.”

“Give me an example,” I said.

“Okay. So one of them is physical touch. So let’s say that’s how I like to give and receive love. If you don’t like to hold hands in public, then there may be some conflict there. We have to learn to speak the other person’s language once in a while for it to work.”

That night I googled “Love Languages.” And read and re-read the language called “Receiving Gifts”. That wasn’t me. I lived quite simply and got rid of stuff any chance I got. But you know who liked receiving gifts? My father. Whereas my mother has determined she doesn’t need anything and loves when we give donations in her name for Christmas, my father still likes getting gifts. I read on and learned the way you like to receive affection is also the way you like to give it. And that, right there, explained my father trying to give me money. It wasn’t that he felt I was helpless without him. It was how he showed he loved me. I cried. And here I was pushing away his love all the time. Shouldn’t we all be so lucky to have a dad who shows his affection this way?

I told my mother about the book. “So the next time he offers me money, I’m just going to bite my tongue, and say thank you, and take it.” And that’s just what I did. And what I continue to do to this day.

2013: A New Approach

Dad, to his credit, has also changed his approach. When he gives me a fifty before I leave to go back home after a holiday visit he’ll say, “Now, I know you don’t need this . . . ” Or he’ll give it a purpose, “Here. The gas is on me.” Or “Get yourself a snack at the airport.” To which my mother says, “Or a couple drinks,” with a smile.

Then Dad avoided talking to me about it altogether:  after a three day visit to my home, I walked into the bathroom to find a bill sitting on the ledge below the mirror. He once hid a bill in the case for my iPad. Message received. No words needed.

2014: The Price is Right

And so it is that I’ve accepted Dad (and Mom)’s gift of a place to stay for a couple months. Or longer, if we so choose. I will get back Asheville eventually. But if Dad has his way, not too soon. He loves having all five children living in the same state.  I marvel at the irony of it all: I left New York three years ago saying I would never again live in a place that requires a person wear fleece in May. Yet here I am. Showing Dad how much I love him. 😉

An End and A Beginning

This time last year I took two weeks to drive from Hyde Park, NY to Brasstown, NC.  It was the start of my self-imposed sabbatical year.    My destination was the John C. Campbell Folk School.  There I would spend four months as a Student Host doing a work-exchange program that allowed me to take fifteen classes in everything from writing and cooking to woodworking and blacksmithing.  The drive between my hometown and the Folk School would normally take twelve hours.  But when you decide to visit nearly every friend you have on the East Coast on the way, it takes a little longer.

Today I find myself doing a very-much-abbreviated version of that trip.  I left Wednesday from Hyde Park, NY to head to North Carolina.  However, my destination this time is Asheville.  And it’s not temporary.

Why Asheville?  I like it there.  That’s the simple answer, and enough of a reason if you know me.  I like the people, the culture, the landscape, the community, the feeling I get when I’m there.  Did you ever go to a place and just have a sense that it’s where you belong?  That’s what I get when I’m in Asheville.  Dining there in February a waitress said to me, “Asheville is the kind of place that tells you when to come and when to go.”  It was telling me to come, so here I go answering the call.

I wanted to move to Asheville back in 1999.  I had just completed an internship in nearby Hendersonville and fell in love with the area.    What stopped me from going then?  A friend who lived there.  She said, “If you want to meet a man, you’re not going to do it here.  So if you want to get married, don’t come here yet.  Go meet your husband and then move down with him.”

At the time, meeting my future husband was something I was hoping would happen in short order.  I didn’t want to foul up my chances by moving to a place with a shortage of eligible bachelors.  The advice-giver was knowledgable on this subject.  This was before on-line dating existed and she had tried everything else to meet someone.  From personals to eight-minute-dates to joining hiking clubs and book clubs – she did everything every book advised and still had no luck.

So I moved instead to Boston.  The aforementioned friend came up to visit shortly thereafter and was stunned by the plethora of young single men.  Guess what she did?  Sold her house, quit her job, and moved to Boston.  While there, she met a guy, married him, and now they live happily ever after in Asheville.

I, on the other hand, did not find my husband in Boston.  Nor in Bethesda.  Nor in Hyde Park, Milton, Staatsburg, Italy or Spain.   But just like I never let lack of company keep me from traveling solo, nor am I going to let lack of a husband keep me from moving to Asheville.

So today is the day.  Arrival in Asheville.  Not as a visitor, but as a person discovering the place she’s decided to call home.