My flight from Charlotte to LaGuardia was uneventful, and I was looking forward to dinner that night in the NYC suburbs with Lauren and Jayme, a married couple with whom Brooke is close.
Brooke met me outside of baggage claim, and we hugged as we loaded my suitcase into the trunk of her Mazda sedan. She mentioned, "Lauren wants us to pick up a patio table on our way to her house tonight." This made me laugh because Brooke said it so casually, "patio table" could have easily been replaced with "head of lettuce" or "bag of ice". The thought "How are we going to fit a patio table into this car?" flashed momentarily through my head, but it dissipated as suddenly as it appeared. It turned out to be rather prophetic.
We figured we'd walk into the first store we found, pick out a table, and head north for dinner. However, it seems that finding patio furniture in a northeastern state on the cusp of September is not all that easy. After visiting one Target and two Home Depots, we finally found a table at a gigantic liquidation discount store. We liked the table we saw on display, and we were delighted to find that there were plenty in stock AND it was on sale for 50% off! We looked at the box, looked at each other, and the question of "Is this going to fit in the car?" was introduced. Naturally, we had no tape measure with us. We examined the box from several different angles, and we knew it would be close. So we threw caution to the wind ('cuz that's how we roll) and decided to take a chance on it.
Brooke paid for it, and we pulled the car to the front of the store and waited for the table to be loaded. We looked at her car and decided that this would never work. The box was going to be too big. We shook our heads as we waited for the gentleman to bring the table out. We planned to tell him "Sorry, but it's not going to fit", get Brooke's money back, and head to Lauren and Jayme's sans table. A young guy rolled the table out with a hydraulic truck dolly, and another gentleman who appeared to be the manager came with him. Brooke popped her trunk, and the manager shook his head, saying "No, it's not going to work. It's impossible." However, his young employee was more optimistic. In a soft voice laced with what sounded to be an African accent, he stated that we could indeed get the table into Brooke's car. He tried to fit it in several ways, but it wasn't working. It was just barely too big, which made it all the more frustrating. We were standing around and shaking our heads when the young man asked, "What if we take it out of the box and load the pieces separately?" Our faces lit up as we enthusiastically agreed that this was a brilliant idea! Our young friend cut open the box with his box cutter, and we were cooking! Brooke and I tossed the legs, brace, and hardware into the trunk as the two men started to load the table top into the car.
Suddenly, it was no longer about the sale. It was no longer simply two employees trying to load a table for a customer. They turned into "guys" who now had a project. Come hell or high water, they were going to figure out how to get this tabletop loaded into Brooke's Mazda 3. They were driven by the challenge that had been set before them. Their eyes glazed over, and they went to work. Doors were opened and pushed to their maximum span, headrests were removed, seats were reclined, and billions of stryofoam particles were expelled. I was wondering where Brooke and I were going to sit if and when they did manage to get the tabletop loaded. I envisioned having to lay flat in the backseat while Brooke drove us to dinner.
And then somehow....somehow...the table slid in. They were able to shut all four doors and return both front seats to their upright positions. I clapped my hands and proclaimed that a miracle had just occurred. Her car reminded me of one of those bottles that contain a model ship. You don't know how the ship got inside, and you don't know how to get it out with breaking the bottle.
The drive up to Lauren and Jayme's was something of which Lucy and Ethel would have been proud. Bear in mind...the glass table top was balanced precariously on top of the headrests. One end was resting in the back window while the other teetered just behind our heads. Brooke tried to slow down when we came to tricky spots in the road, but it's impossible to dodge them all. I'd reach behind my head and brace the glass with my hands as we simultaneously yelled out "OHHHH!" each time we hit a bump or a dip. We'd cringe and listen for the sound of glass cracking, but it never came. At one point, I was laughing pretty hard. But only because the glass never broke.
We finally arrived at Lauren and Jayme's beautiful new home located just north of NYC. It's a gorgeous house set in an idyllic neighborhood...a perfect place to raise their new baby son, Alexander.
Lauren and Jayme's beautiful home
I finally got to meet little Alexander. He's the cutest and smilingest baby! His face is so expressive...he reminds me of Calvin from "Calvin and Hobbes". Everyone wanted to hold him. Lauren and Jayme were gracious enough to allow him to be passed around like a cigarette.
Brooke, Lauren, and li'l Alexander
Believe it or not, the tabletop came out of the car much more easily and quickly than it did going in (ain't that the way it always happens?). I will say, however, that the expression on Jayme's face was priceless when he initially looked inside of the car and realized we weren't exaggerating with the "model ship in a bottle" analogy. Jayme is the last of a dying breed. He is a thirtysomething guy who knows how to repair stuff and put stuff together. He had the table assembled in less than half an hour, and we were in business! The table looked great, and it even matched the four chairs that Lauren had bought earlier at a different store! I am convinced that this table was destined to live in Lauren and Jayme's backyard.
Jayme enjoys the fruits of his labor
Lauren and Jayme are the most gracious of hosts! Lauren brought out some chilled pink champagne and pita crisps while Jayme got the grill fired up. Remember how I said Jayme can fix stuff and build stuff? Well, he's also a grillmaster! He has it down to an art. He has all of those grilling accessories that nobody really knows how to use or what they're for...but Jayme knows! He cooked pork sausage links, hamburgers (to perfection!), fresh corn-on-the-cob, and peppers. Lauren prepared some tasty baked beans. We had quite a spread! I had never eaten grilled corn-on-the-cob before...it was truly some of the best tasting food I have ever eaten. I practically buried my face in it. It smells like popcorn when it's grilling. We ate it straight off the cob with the husks still on. It doesn't get much fresher than that, does it? It was so pretty, I took a picture of it. Yes. I'm that dorky.
We ate and ate and ate, and we shared wine, beer, and conversation. Sitting in this wonderful backyard on a breezy summer night while the sun went down and the crickets chirped, I thought of my childhood and how this used to be my favorite time of day. Brooke and I commented that we never saw lightning bugs anymore (the "do you call them fireflies or lightning bugs" debate ensued). About 15 minutes later, little yellow lights were flashing all around us. It was the most relaxed I have felt in a long time.
By this time, li'l Alexander was bathed and tucked safely into bed. Lauren, Jayme, Brooke, and I relaxed in the den and watched television and talked. It had been a long day for all of us, so we were all in bed by 10:00. We slept with the windows open, and I could hear the crickets chirping as I lay in bed waiting to doze off. I was asleep within 10 minutes, and I slept hard. It was a good good day.