A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Purchase collections of Elizabeth Hudson’s columns at ourstatestore.com. My parents’ birthdays fell just six days apart — my dad’s was May 1; my mother’s is May 7. I don’t remember

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Purchase collections of Elizabeth Hudson’s columns at ourstatestore.com. My parents’ birthdays fell just six days apart — my dad’s was May 1; my mother’s is May 7. I don’t remember

Purchase collections of Elizabeth Hudson’s columns at ourstatestore.com.


My parents’ birthdays fell just six days apart — my dad’s was May 1; my mother’s is May 7. I don’t remember extravagant birthday parties or lavish dinners in our household. Aside from exchanging modest cards signed simply “Love, Phil” or “Love, Susie,” my parents were minimalists when it came to celebrating.

My mother never asked for any traditional gifts, nothing like jewelry or perfume or clothing. As the most practical person I know, she favored useful items that served a purpose, and my dad accommodated her preferences, one year giving her a 36-pack flat of impatiens for her flower beds. Another year, he surprised her with a set of Boston ferns, arranging them carefully on our front porch.

My perception then was that my parents really weren’t into gift-giving, but looking back, I can see that they found ways to weave tokens of thoughtfulness into their daily routines, celebrating the gift of their shared life in ways that didn’t require wrapping paper or ribbon.

After my dad retired and while my mom was still working, he took over the grocery shopping, packing her lunches — Oscar Mayer salami sandwiches on rye, a snack-size bag of potato chips, even adding a toothpick that he carefully rolled in plastic wrap. And always two Oreo cookies for a little something sweet.

They spent weekends working side by side in the yard, my dad mowing or hammering together a bird feeder he’d made for her, my mom weeding the hosta garden they’d spent decades building into the side of a sloping hill. After lunch — something simple, tuna sandwiches or ham and cheese — he’d serve the two of them bowls of ice cream, scooping butter pecan for her and chocolate for himself. Tiny gestures that added up to a contented life.

After my dad died nine years ago, I wanted to find a new way to honor my mom’s birthday, so she and I started taking trips together each May, just the two of us, finding peace in the beauty of nature and in the comfort of uncomplicated meals.

Our travels have taken us all over North Carolina, from Bear Island to collect sand dollars, to Blowing Rock to see the profusion of flowers, the ones planted into the side of the sloping hill on Main Street. We’ve watched the sun set over the Cape Fear River in Wilmington and then driven over to Carolina Beach for doughnuts after supper. I remembered: a little something sweet.

Last year, we marked her birthday in Hendersonville, settling in at The Horse Shoe Farm for a few nights. We brewed coffee in the farmhouse-style kitchen of our two-bedroom cottage, and in the mornings, she and I rocked in the swing on the porch, breathing in the honeyed scent of sweetshrub blooming nearby. Your daddy sure would’ve liked it here, my mom said, and I could imagine how much the two of them would’ve appreciated the panorama of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance, the early-morning fog lifting from the freshly mown grass.

I gave her my card — “Love, Elizabeth” — and even though it was her birthday and not mine, I’m the one who closed my eyes and made a wish.

 

Elizabeth

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Hudson
Editor in Chief

 

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This story was published on Apr 29, 2024

Elizabeth Hudson

Hudson is a native of North Carolina who grew up in the small community of Farmer, near Asheboro. She holds a B.A. degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and began her publishing career in 1997 at Our State magazine. She held various editorial titles for 10 years before becoming Editor in Chief of the 88-year-old publication in 2009. For her work with the magazine, Hudson is also the 2014 recipient of the Ethel Fortner Writer and Community Award, an award that celebrates contributions to the literary arts of North Carolina.