Tag Archives: family

Why Build Less When You Can Biltmore?

Just another one of my options for places to rent

Just another one of my options for places to rent

“So did you ladies see the bear?” The grey-headed shuttle driver peered at us in his overhead mirror.

“Bear?” I said. “We could have seen bears?”

“You just came down from parking lot A6, didn’t you?” I nodded. “Well, half the security guys are headed that way because of a bear sighting.”

I looked at Mom. “I wonder how much the tickets cost that included the bears?”

“Whatever they cost,” she said, settling her purse in her lap, “I’m glad we didn’t get those.”

After touring such opulent establishments in France last year such as Chenonceau and Villandry, I knew that no trip to Asheville would be complete without a perusal of the Biltmore Estate.

The shuttle twisted and turned as it made its way to the grand house, and all the while the driver spouted interesting details about the history of the estate. “Forty-three bathrooms, ladies. That’s how many are in the house, but you can’t use a single one of them. You’ll have to make the trek back outside if you need facilities.”

No bears and now no bathrooms? What kind of scam were they running in this joint? Fifty bucks couldn’t even get you a decent potty break? And how cruel to show someone indoor plumbing and then tell her to hoof it back down four flights of stairs. Thank goodness we didn’t have a toddler with us. They have a bladder the size of a pistachio and it’s extremely vulnerable to the power of suggestion.

The inside of the home was lavishly decorated, but at times the lighting made it hard to see certain pieces. This was of little consequence to me; but for Mom, whose love of antiques has burrowed so deeply into the marrow of her bones that she bleeds mahogany wood stain, the visual handicap was borderline criminal. She stood over one piece in particular, squinting at the intricate wood design, murmuring, “I wish I’d brought a flashlight.”

Of course, the afternoon was filled with adrenaline surges as Mom, in eager anticipation of the antiques around the next bend, tried to fall down a small flight of stairs. Twice. So between lunging, yelping, and losing a few years off my life, I walked around the mansion with my eyes peeled wide for a number of reasons. Ooh, look, an indoor bowling alley. Ooh, look, an indoor pool. Ooh, look, Mom’s about to crack her thigh bone and need an ambulance.


Once outside, the gardens were just as impressive as the house, and for the 6,000th time, I wished I could grow something other than mildew on a shower curtain. But we all have our skills, and mine seems to be keeping septuagenarians out of trouble. Or at least the ER.

gardens 2

© 2014 – Traci Carver

Roads: They’re All the Rage

Let the games begin!

Let the games begin!

I hate driving. I didn’t always, but now that I’m older and driving is simply the process that must be endured in order to transfer your body to a new destination, I view climbing behind the wheel as a task akin to a booster shot: let’s just get it over with. So while my trip with Mom to Asheville was fun because of the location, navigating from point A to point B was another matter entirely.

First of all, there are the roads surrounding that delightful town. Three different interstates converge to form the perfect storm with corkscrew on-ramps that spit you out into the flow of traffic doing 35 miles an hour. The first thing you notice once you’ve straightened the steering wheel is the succession of three semi’s bearing down on you doing 70, and suddenly you understand all the fuss about high performance cars capable of going 0-60 in three seconds.

Once you’ve cheated death and exited the freeway, your next test of womanhood is to steer with one hand, follow that blue dot on your navigation system with the other, and keep a calm demeanor so your passenger doesn’t realize you’re about one car length away from a stomach ulcer. I was doing a decent job of this until Mr. I’m Local and You Tourists Really Get on my Nerves got behind me on the four lane.

My first crime against humanity was to drive the speed limit. This really torqued the fellow following so closely that one glance in the rear view mirror told me that he had broccoli for lunch. He decided to extend his fury through his horn just as I was trying the decipher the road name on a tiny green sign the size of a lasagna noodle (uncooked). Then, as if I hadn’t already qualified for a capital punishment sentence, I looked over my shoulder, turned on my blinker, and then moved into the right lane since there wasn’t another car coming for eight miles. This aggressive act of vehicular maneuvering incited another series of rash horn trumpetings.

At this point, I started an internal tirade: Hey, buddy! What’s your deal? Are you illiterate or just choosing to ignore my Florida license plate? Is it just possible that the plate gives you a clue that I may not be familiar with the area? That I may be chauffeuring my mom around to another cleverly hidden antique store? That your bullying horn antics make me want to say something unladylike because you’re jumping on my last nerve?! HUH?!!

Mom threw a glance over her shoulder. “Boy, he sure has his Fruit of the Loom’s in a twist about something. I’m glad you’re so calm when you drive. I’d be a nervous wreck. Oh, look!” She swiveled her head and tapped the window with her pointer finger. “Village Antiques!”

© 2014 – Traci Carver

Needing Chutes and Ladders

Beautiful Albemarle Inn of Asheville, NC

Beautiful Albemarle Inn of Asheville, NC

“You know what used to drive me crazy as a kid?” Mom asked as we made the journey by car to Asheville, NC, for some R&R.

“Grandmother telling you that you were going to get cataracts if you hung your head out the car window?”

Mom paused. “Well, that, too. But no, what really worried me was that God didn’t have a birthday. When the preacher would say that God has always been, it worried me. How can you not have a birthday?”

“Or a belly button.”

“A belly button? Glad I didn’t think of that one when I was eight. I wouldn’t have slept for days trying to figure it out.”

We still had an hour and a half to go when the rain hit. And then the hail. We didn’t talk as much then, unvoiced fears of four car pile ups, jaws of life, and a dinged paint job on a car less than a year old hanging thickly in the air. And yet I’d wager that even with the Brillo pad hail and the water pressure like that of Niagara Falls that we’d still have love bug guts on the grill of the car when we stopped.

The rain had finally slackened enough for us to see a few yards off the road when Mom spotted an antique store. I followed her pointer finger and yelled over the noise of the rain, “Don’t think we’ll make that one!”

“We’d need Noah’s Ark to get over there!”

“And even then there’d be the concussion to deal with from the hail!”

“Last thing I need is for someone to hit me on my weak spot!”

After this jolly banter at volume 42, we rode in silence until the rain finally abated. We pulled into the inn’s parking lot at a little past six and stretched from the long ride.

“Look at that,” Mom said with disgust. “There’s still bird poop on the windshield.” If only the betting windows had been open an hour ago.

Inside we found a room worth the ride and deluge. “Look at that carving on the bed!” Mom exclaimed, as she knocked her fist against the headboard to test the quality of the wood. “That’s good stuff,” she declared, but then she took a step back. “How in the world are we supposed to get up there?”

“I think we’re supposed to use the steps.”

Mom took one look at the wicker aid and said, “Yeah, when I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, I’ll break my neck on those. Take those away.”

I put the offensive baby ladder in the small sitting room and returned to find Mom with one leg scaling the bed, one arm wrapped around the hand carved post, and the other clawing the air for a grip on the headboard. She finally made it with an Oomph! and then leaned over the side to gauge her altitude.

Alley oop!

Alley oop!

“If I roll off in the middle of the night, I’ll be in full body traction until I’m 80.”

I took my own turn in climbing up the other side, and without those baby steps, it was quite a challenge for the hip flexors. That nautilus machine in the gym doesn’t do half the number on your hip that taking a nap in this bed does.

After an hour of watching TV, I heard Mom sigh. “Great. I need to get down. I guess I’ll just make like a fireman and use the poles at the end of the bed.”

I watched with amusement as she maneuvered along her side until she dropped over the edge and I heard her feet make contact with the floor.

“Bend at the knees,” she said and padded off.

© 2014 – Traci Carver