On what was the most frigid day of the year to date, I bundled up my car and my pal, Alice, and headed for Louisville, to meet up with friends, one of whom is leaving for France in a couple of weeks. Beth and her husband will be in Bordeaux for three years, for his work, and we feel so sorry for them.
Oh, the boring the vineyards, and the fruits they bear. The sea, the fabulous foods, all of old Europe on their doorstep, these two will suffer, I tell ya. Even so, it’s a big thing to pull up stakes and move away, so far away, for three years, even if you have the sea and croissants for comfort.
So, Alice and I came from the west, and three other pals traveled from the east, so that we might get as much of Beth as we could before she leaves us. The plan was simple, but elegant. We would meet mid-afternoon, visit—jaw, as my Appalachian friends put it. We would stretch our legs between eating and drinking establishments and jaw some more.
We started at The Eagle, on Bardstown Road for drinks, and little nibblies, including the Eagle’s signature pickle platter.
Apparently this is a thing. Has been for a while. Pickle platters. This one was artistic and charmingly curated, with three kinds of pickled carrots, pickled green beans, and a compote of just pickles, all lovingly brined back there in the kitchen and served on a little rustic board.
After an hour or so with pickles, and the sharing of grilled cheese and southern greens and artichoke dip, we pulled on our scarves, our hats and gloves and moseyed over to Carmichael’s Books, just across the street. Writers can be counted on for this, if for nothing else. We will flat do our part to keep a great bookstore going.
Carmichael’s is an independent bookstore, with two locations in Louisville, neither one large or sprawling. They are small, in fact. Which makes their impact more impressive. They don’t carry everything, but you don’t even notice, because, on every shelf, and everywhere you look, you see something you want to pick up and buy.
My friend, Jason, an Anglophile, led me to the tiny history section, and pulled out at least five books I might consider to further my education on the British monarchy. We lost ourselves completely, each one gravitating to a corner, soon to have our necks bent over the pages of a book, and when we weren’t standing stock still reading, we were seeking each other out to share what we had found.
Books and magazines bought, we wondered in and out of a couple of unique speciality stores, dropping money like breadcrumbs on this cool thing and that.
But now, really, it was time to eat again. So we headed to Douglas Loop to Migo, which specializes in small plates and tacos, and pitchers of grand drinks. We ordered one of those pitchers and continued our conversation, a quiet chat to the left, a group chat to the right, a story for the whole table.
There is something sweet about old friends that don’t see each other often but are never far from each other’s minds. I noticed the slow and calm way the day unfolded, with an ebbing and flowing as we changed seats to have a quiet word with each other, small conversations that settled in among larger ones, the nesting dolls of intimacy and affection.
We weren’t quite ready to bring the day to a close, so we toddled across the street to Heine Bros. for coffee, using the excuse of needing the caffeine for the drives home. Now we sat in companionable silence, much like we do in the mornings of our writing retreats, a little family, happy in ourselves.
Finally, though, we had to move. Kris and Beth were off to Chicago the next morning to get visas from the French consulate. A thousand tasks for such a move, and we were fortunate to find this one Saturday to see Beth before they leave.
And, really, no goodbyes. We love Beth and Kris, and three years is a long time, but I don’t think we were sad. There is such joy in this opportunity for them. Jason will see Beth in June. I plan a September visit. They will get home at least once a year.
The hugs and kisses flowed, and flowed again.
And so, they will go, and they will take our hearts with them. And I hope they know we will wait patiently for their return. That we aren’t going anywhere, haven’t gone anywhere. That we are all here. Right here.