How did you celebrate your independence? I cut myself free of my everyday life and went on a trip back in time, and due west in space. I went to beautiful Black Mountain, NC. After locating an old friend on the web,and a 35 year absence from the annual July 4th celebration in Black Mountain, my name was once again on the guest list.
I have dim memories of a communal effort to make pounds and pounds of cole slaw some 35 years ago on July 4th in the old location of this party– The White House. I remember our young faces, and the good feeling I always had being with this group of people. It meant a lot to me to be joining them again for the celebration.
Nowadays we look substantially different from our 20-something incarnations, but the spirit is the same. I really do believe our young selves are still alive, wrapped inside our current selves. The girl is not gone– she is at the core of the woman. The humor was just as loving and gentle and knowing as I remember it. The friendships have held true among this large group of people, and the thread that connects me to them is as strong as if I had nurtured it. They are of such a loyal and inclusive stripe that I was, even in long absence, at least a little bit present, it seems.
Just like long ago, I still enjoy the quick wit, the practicality, the earthiness and the loving hearts of my Black Mountain friends. And they really know how to throw a party. Their fourth was conceived of as a three day affair, in a big open field in the valley, beside the Swannanoa River. Sobol, Sneed and Allison masterminded a projection screen for movies, a volleyball net, a pond for swimming, and an bunch of barrels for their own unique sport: gocart bowling. There was a grill, lovingly tended by Pate, covered in pork coated with a secret barbecue sauce he’d imported from Alabama which was, I swear, magical. The Barbecue Brain Trust of Black Mountain has apparently spent years attempting to decode the recipe, but it cannot be done. Sneed says Thomas has Pate bring him a gallon each year which he hides away. Sneed is pictured on this year’s White House tee shirt, and Patty, his wife organized the Eleanor Roosevelt luncheon for the ladies as well as the tee shirt production and marketing.
These people, the souls of hospitality, erected a huge tent and a smaller tent, brought in a refrigerator to hold the food, and must have shopped for days. I can’t begin to list all that went into this amazing extravaganza. But there was barbecue, corn, marinated cucumbers, savory baked beans, and slaw, so lovingly prepared they’d make you swoon. And at the same time, we enjoyed live bluegrass music, a bonfire, kids chasing each other, 80 year olds dancing, tiny babies being cuddled and old friends’ memories ( or lies). And this was the 36th time they’ve done this for 100 of their closest friends.
That night I got to sleep at Patty and Sneed’s with the window open, beside a creek that rushed through my dreams all night. In the wee hours when it started to rain the noises were even more beautiful. In the morning my last view was of small fat white clouds breaking up against the blue green mountains. It was really hard to point my car east and slip back down that mountain.