by John Howard Farmer
Cake Eaten, Colors Fly, Diamonds Dance
A decade or so now spent I, by appointment, arrived at Grandma Rosie’s cottage back door. Our banker of choice was throwing a party at the two Northumberland branches of the Bank of Lancaster. They had scheduled a sacrificing of hot dogs, washed down by Northern Neck Ginger Ale and cake, a white iced cake with yummy ribbons around top and bottom. To sweeten the pot each bank was also offering daffodil and tulip bulbs to visiting old or prospective new customers.
Well now, over just a few bumps and dips here and there, over a creek or two and our matriarch and I arrived at downtown Callao. Wait a minute there’s a bonus here. The fire department had trailered their antique pumper and plopped it right down on the lawn of the bank. Red fire trucks can detour little boys. But mind you we were on a mission. Flowers, lunch (with dessert) awaited. Press on. With sufficient hands shook and pictures taken we pulled up a chair and munched away. Feigning discipline and restraint I offered as how I was avoiding dessert… at least until we arrived at the next bank, that is.
Grandma Rosie and I kissed our banker and bid adieu to the charming crew (borrowed and assigned). We still had errands to run. Straight the way down U.S. Route 360 I drove. Hands gripped the wheel. Sweat broke out upon the preacher’s brow. I would offer no apology to the next crew. We would grab another bag of bulbs, and I was going to do some serious cake ministry. No sooner had we parked the car than a former friend (Peggy Jo George) rushed from the door. With my diminished vision all I could see was a small plate and an outstretched arm. It was all I could do to pull Grandma Rosie from the car. I needed, I wanted to mount the sidewalk to receive whatever offering Peggy Jo intended.
I should have paid better attention. John Cardwell, Theresa Ransone, even Fletcher Brown were laughing. No matter: cake was the assignment. I should have perked up when I heard Rosie chuckling. My hand flew out and behold—cake was at fingertips. My taste buds were in overdrive. Finally I focused upon the plate. Then I refocused. I did it again. There planted mid-center was a sliver of cake and a morsel of candy corn. To put matters in perspective the sliver (better described as a crumb) of cake was smaller than the little candy corn. Peggy Jo, who had driven there ahead of us joined the sidewalk cadre in uproarious laughter. My banker wife and keeper had phoned ahead. She had instructed Peggy Jo to cut me a small piece of cake. That she did.
Oh don’t worry about me I soon barged into the bank. Paying my respects to the late Attorney T.A. Williams, I grabbed Mrs. Farmer’s tulip bulbs. I scraped extra icing from the board and piled it along side a serious slab of cake. I paid no heed to the whispers and smiles all about the place. I mean I have a missionary spirit and I strutted no apology for wanting the cake.
All dietary ministrations be hanged, the best part of the day was the hugs and kisses from friends and family at both places. Grandmother Rosie and I had enjoyed a championship day. The sun was glorious. The winds were calm. All along every country lane and highway trees launched color highlighted by heavenly offerings bestowed.
Every creek we crossed was dressed in formal array. The tides were high. Birds sang where marsh grasses bloomed. I counted my blessings and my blessings and my blessings.
I love living here. Our citizens are as fine as any I’ve encountered anywhere. Better than most places. Church identification is higher per capita than anyplace I have lived, or visited. I like to be amongst people who have time for God in their lives.
I just love the way God dresses the Northern Neck. I love the changing seasons. I have to claim fall as my favorite. The sun warms the landscape with tenderness. Nature is pulling back the covers.
Down the road from the Heathsville bank we turned at the corner by the Fairfields Methodist Church. We drove to downtown Ophelia, parked right opposite the gate to the Sunnybank Ferry. We were about to top off the day with a cruise.
Sitting there, gladly waiting the vessel (then named Hazel) and signal to aboard, I marveled at the leaves blowing all about the car. Colors wafted gentle amid the breeze. Out on the river diamonds danced. Every ripple sent a message theologically ripe for me. My environment is God breathed. Even a cursory inventory lists marvels beyond human construction. This community is a sample of the power, creativity and magnificence of a higher being.
“The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens He has set a tent for the sun…” (Psalm 19:1-4).
God is in this place. God is in the people here. Fabulous!
Here colors fly while diamonds dance; boys eat cake.