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Birney Imes: Small blessings close to home


Birney Imes



If on Thanksgiving morning you were in charge of the first meal and you knew the second one was going to be a feast, I suppose you could be forgiven for resorting to donuts on your watch. As best I could tell, we had three options. 


Shipley''s topped the list because son John said it was Jeff Horton''s favorite donut source. Jeff is a neighbor, who like many of the residents of South Third Avenue, defies easy description. For starters, think friendliest surfer dude you ever met. 


The other day one of the kids was talking about the array of characters who live on our street. Within two blocks of us there is a scion of the old South, always impeccably attired, who until a house was built on it, practiced his fly fishing technique on the vacant lot across the street. There''s a poet whose day job is house painter; a scholar, whose obsession is Scottish literature; a Korean math professor and a Catholic priest. That''s just a representative sampling of the people we happen to know. Oh yea, the fly fisherman is married to a woman who has been described in these pages as Tennessee Williams'' best friend and who could have been one of his best characters. 


Wal-Mart for donuts on Thanksgiving morning seemed worthwhile simply for the spectacle that is Wal-Mart. A flour-dusted attendant behind the bakery counter said the donuts had been made at 4 a.m. Hoping for just-baked like we used to get late nights from Donald Freshour at Hardin''s Bakery 40 years ago, we set out for Shipley''s. The selection there was meager; we bought a dozen for good measure and doubled back to the Donut Factory because the driver was obsessive about finding the best donuts, and being in the company of two loved ones, a son and grandson, he was in no rush for the expedition to end. At the younger passenger''s insistence, Kings of Leon provided our soundtrack.  


After the donut buffet, we fumbled around in the backyard in the gray and balmy morning; some sat and talked while the 4-year-old and I rooted around in long-neglected flower beds. After a discussion about oak trees, we planted four acorns in a flower pot. We''re expecting a tree or two by next summer. We also found an unfortunate frog whose hibernation was interrupted long enough to get passed back and forth between the 4-year-old and his little sister. 


After awhile everyone went their separate ways to get ready for lunch at Nanny''s, and the 4-year-old and I went inside to find something to read. After one false start, we settled on L. Frank Baum''s "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." Having seen the TV version countless times, I''d never read the book. My companion, who had not met Dorothy, the Lion or the Tin Man, seemed quite taken with the print version. 


Later that day, after a lunch that offered turkey, smoked and deep-fat fried, and cranberry sauce, spicy and mild, I set out on a much-needed walk. The drab light was perfect for the late autumn palette now featured on city streets. I''m not sure if this year is an anomaly or if age have made me more attuned to the glories of autumn. 


The yellows of the gingkoes and sugar maples have been brilliant as have the crimsons of the Bartlett pears and the reds and oranges of the crepe myrtle. Though around here they are as common as stray cats, you have to love the crepe myrtle for its unceasing effort to please: The tree puts out beautiful flowers all summer long; has nice foliage in the fall and throughout the year displays its peeling rust and tan bark on twisted trunks. 


The scent from a row of sweet olives between the homes of Bill and Annis Cox and Gail and Chance Laws made me stop and retrace my steps. So did a purple hedge next to the driveway of Helen and Rob Hardy ... really, purple blossoms and purple leaves. The sugar maple at the south edge of David and Cherry Dunn''s home on Second Street was vivid in the fading light. 


If you''re like me, you are too often only slightly aware of the passing scenery. But on this afternoon, our official day of thanksgiving, that was not the case. The important things, family and nature, were center stage. Just as they should be. Every single day.


Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.


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