I learned that a windshield for a 1992 Ford E series Econoline church van will run you $300 plus installation. A Garmin model r-23 GPS plus mounting bracket will run you $89.99 plus shipping and a Christmas tree air freshener and the rear-view mirror it was attached to is another $47. And in the great state of North Carolina I found out it is possible to get a traffic citation for an improperly stowed and/or poorly secured Christmas tree. $267. Well, Merry Christmas.

I’m a flat lander to be sure (I grew up/live in Florida) but not by choice. Ultimately, I guess maybe so, but really, we all have dreams/desires that never come true because life just happens, because we do or don’t make a choice and on we go. When I was in high school I saw an article in the paper about Asheville in the travel section and I knew that’s where I wanted to live. Mountains and rivers. Fall colors and snow. Bluegrass music and antique shops. That southern twang when you hear “Yes ma’am” and “No ma’am” and the smell of wood smoke in the foggy mountain air. Beautiful. “Mom, I’m movin’ to Asheville.”

Only, I didn’t. Irony of ironies, my brother did though. Choices choices. But at least we have an Asheville connection. He and his wife moved there to open a furniture store, ended up with 3, sold them, then built and now operate Asheville Cottages. 15 beautiful cottages in Asheville located only minutes from downtown. They carved out a good life. In MY city....

“Why don’t y’all come up for Thanksgiving? We have plenty of room!” We have 5 kids, they have 4, plus mom and dad so ‘plenty of room’ is a bit of an overstatement but we loaded up and headed up and what followed was nothing but pure family magic. I know a lot of families don’t get on but ours surely does and for that we are all grateful. We played in the mud, hiked, shopped, ate, of course, told stories and ate some more. Sat in the front porch rockin’ chairs in the early morning in our flannel pj’s with a hot cup of coffee, the smell of chimney smoke and the sound of silence. My highlight tho was the trip to Nesbitt’s Tree farm over near Waynesville. The Nesbitt family was amazingly pleasant and their farm had the most beautiful Christmas trees I’ve ever seen,  

My Charlie Brown penchant be danged, I found the perfect Christmas tree! Clouds parted, a light shone down and angels sang when I saw it and before you could say lickety split I had that thing cut down and tied to the car and the next day we headed home. “Shouldn’t we strap that tree down better?” my wife asked. Women. “Honey, that twine has a tinsel strength of 600 lbs and besides I doubled it up. It ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

A good strap down job is only as good as the weakest knot it turns out, to which the ladies from the Honeywell 1st Presbyterian church can attest. The ladies, according to the Spartanburg News and Herald, “...were heading back from a good overnight at the Tribal Bingo in Cherokee, when Marion Tender, 74, of Honeywell S.C. found herself dodging, unsuccessfully, an 8-foot fresh cut Christmas tree which had come unstowed from a maroon Dodge Grand Caravan with Florida plates. “You could see it weren’t properly tied for miles but it hung on so I quit payin’ it any mind until it lifted off and came right through my windshield. Scared us to death as you might imagine and woulda taken Betty’s head off there in the middle seat if she hadn’t been laid down nappin’ one off.” Officers on scene said it was a miracle no one was hurt and reminded the public to make sure their loads are properly secured. The driver of the of the Dodge Caravan, was cited.”

All’s well that ends we I guess. We took what was left of my pride AND the tree back to Florida and had a good Christmas despite all. I buy my trees here now, lesson learned and we still go to Asheville to visit as often as we can. In a cargo van with plenty of room...inside. Just in case...