Quiet Woods by Aunt Marilyn (Marilyn Byrd Darling)

Quiet Woods
Aunt Marilyn, Sept. 6, 1989
Dear Rists,
We enjoy the Rist family letters so much, I decided I’d better, at least let the letter writer know of our appreciation before I get crossed off the list! Shall include all the Rists just as she does.
Carol, we particularly enjoyed the beautiful letter about the Galapagos Islands trip. It makes us eager to go there. I’ve read it to many of our visitors and sent copies to Kath and Laurie as well as the article about Carl and Lisa. Have enjoyed your political and environmental reports. Yes, the news in Western N.C. portrayed the Pepper replacement race very much as you reported it.
Well I’ve celebrated my retirement on various occasions: at the party my faculty threw for me, on the last official day of work, on the day I actually finished my work and got out of the office AND just recently on the day that the teachers went back to school this year. We figured that was really the important day, as I’ve always been out for the summer. Phill even took me to our finest restaurant in Maggie Valley to celebrate (don’t laugh, it’s actually one of the best in the area.) Curtis rather felt that I would miss teaching but he doesn’t realize that when I started teaching it was supposedly only for the period of time before I started my family. Somehow 30 LONG years passed and I now have approximately 25 years of working double time to make up for. It sure isn’t difficult here in the mountains, as it takes at least 1/2 hour to get to anywhere you’re going. With any sort of activity between the time you leave and get back you’ve pretty much shot a day! I had so many things planned to do that I was, as Phil puts it, “running around like a fart in a windstorm” trying to get started with them all, Having accomplished relatively nothing, I decided to limit my goals. The first, of course, is to relax and enjoy myself which, in my case, basically entails reading, hiking (which is tied into the “keep myself fit” goal), not being enslaved to the 5:30 A.M. alarm clock, going new and interesting places (or old and interesting places), visiting with friends and, for the present at least, cooking (which also fits into the “fitness” goal as I have to figure out menus with no cholesterol.) Much of our time has been spent with guests which has been very pleasant, as that is the time when we visit our interesting places. Vikki and Doug Peterson (Phil’s daughter and son-inlaw) were our first guests of the summer. They purchased a new Volvo station wagon from a dealer in N.Y. (thereby saving quite a bit of money) and flew up to pick it up, Stopping by on their way home (without children.) Betty and Jim Hill from Plantation spent 4th of July here and on July 21st I hosted an annual reunion of five grade school friends: Dodee Willis Weir from Boca, Jean Forhan Berry from Morganton, N.C., Jann Verhey Bennett from Jesup, Ga., Joanny Vaughan Kratzert from Ft. Wayne, Ind. and myself.
Carol, I don’t know whom you might remember except Joanny (H.L.’s sister) and probably Dodee. This is our 4th year to reune so we’ve come to know each other quite well and each reunion is more fun. We have just decided on a name for our place (Quiet Woods) so I ran the reunion as “Camp Quiet Woods”, painting matching t-shirts, etc. High point was the whitewater rafting trip on the Nantahala. Immediately thereafter came the news of Kathy and David’s fire. I was sorry not to be here longer while Curtis and Julie were here but was happy to get to have them over to the house for dinner along with Margaret and Lynn. Later in the week Curtis made good his “day’s work” Christmas present by picking up building materials in his truck and helping prepare them for the building of a walkway to our lower grounds. Phil did finish the walkway, Curtis, which looks very nice and certainly is serviceable. Thanks so much for your help. On the first of August I went to N.J. to help out if I could. In a large nutshell, here is what happened to the Bianculli family: David was on one of his frequent trips to California where he previews the new TV shows, meets the actors, etc. Kathy went out to dinner with a girlfriend having taken Kristin and Markie over to the girlfriend’s house to stay with the baby sitter there instead of hiring a sitter. When they finished dinner the girlfriend suggested Kathy just leave the kids at her house overnight, so Kath went home alone about 11:30. The entire neighborhood was filled with firetrucks and hooks and ladders and Kath’s house was swarming with firemen. I he neighbors surrounded it almost in shock for they thought Kathy and the children were inside as usual (one of the cars was out front.) When a neighbor told the firemen she thought the family was inside they immdiately put ladders to every window, broke them in, rolled inside the burning smoke filled house and started feeling around for them. They found the cat which was a large, obese creature and were afraid it was one of the children. Needless to say, everyone was relieved to see K. and to hear that the children were not in the house. The firemen had come from many surrounding communities due to the fact that the Cherry Hill fire dept. is a volunteer one and needed help but also because the other departments don’t get to work on real fires very often. Many of the men who entered the house were not even equipped to do so and some had to be treated for smoke inhalation. The house had been struck by lightning during a storm around 9:00. Most of the houses an the block had suffered some kind of burn-out, such as telephone or T.V. It was not until several hours later that the neighbors saw the flames coming from Kath’s house. One very wonderful neighbor, Linda Makris, stayed with Kath through the night, called a security guard to come stay at the house and took Kath home to bed after the firemen left. She called to have the windows boarded up the next morning and the husband of one of Kathy’s friends arrived first thing in the morning to go down with Kath to see what remained of the interior and furnishings. What with the soot and the water damage even the things that didn’t burn up were a total loss. David came home from Calif. and the family moved to a hotel. Laurie, who as most of you know, lives in Trenton, met me at the airport, took me to the house to see the damage, took me to the hotel to see the kids, then we went to her house in Trenton for the night. The next day I joined the Bianculli’s at the Makris’ house which they were able to use while that family went skiing in Colorado. I was able to help with the inventory and the children (who were not allowed to go into the burnedhouse.) We found a condo for them to rent, rented furniture, did the grim inventory. Boxes on boxes from friends arrived at Linda’s house with clothes, sheets, pots and pans, makeup for Kath, T.V. critic books for Dave, etc. Just coordinating the stuff that arrived was a Job in itself. We did, however, decide to go to New York on the 5th of Aug. (my birthday) as originally planned. Long ago K. and D. had made reservations to see Jeronme Robbin’s Broadway. Laurie was Just about as bent out of shape over the fire as K. and D. Not only is she essentially a part of the Bianculli family and surrogate mother to the children but had quite a few family heirlooms from both sides of the family stored at K. and D.’s. So she said it would give her a lift to go to N.Y. and made reservations at the Waldorf Astoria for the night for the two of us and got tickets to the Heidi Chronicles, another award winner and excellent play. The following day Kath, Dave and the kids came to New York and we all went to see J.R,’s Broadway which was awesome, then to FAO Schwartz where each child selected a treasure to replace a favorite toy. Since I’ve returned home Kath’s friends have given her a “shower” and the family has moved to the new condo. Kathy has started a new job and the kids have started school – Markie’s first year. The stress of settling the insurance claim, rebuilding the house, and replacing everything is still ahead of them. But, Kathy and the children are, rather miraculously, safe and I am extraordinarily thankful.
Since my return, Greg Darling and his girlfriend, Valerie Collins, have visited. We always enjoy being with Greg who is a very agreeable and helpful young man. He was on break from what he hopes is his last semester of college. (I say “hope” because he’s taking a huge load of courses to be rid of it all.) He plans to go to Raleigh, N.C. after he graduates and to look for a job there. Valerie is district manager for Mead Johnson Drug sales and has a home in Raleigh, She’s a nice, enthusiastic, intelligent, energetic gal with many interests and might be someone Carl and Lisa would like to know but I can’t be a Judge of that. She lives at 7033 Sandringham Ct. and her phone is 919-787-0198, I know she would like to meet you as she is very gregarious.
I got off the track of relating my limited goals for the present (undoubtedly to the relief of my readers but I will not be deterred.)I want to learn watercolor painting and to take up tennis again. I Joined a tennis league in July and was active as time allowed but have just started up again. (This also fits into my “fitness” goal.) The watercolor decision was a serendipitous one, as Margaret Yawn is taking lessons from a master teacher near Asheville and asked if I wanted to go. M. did tell me that she had already had 3 lessons and hadn’t painted anything. I couldn’t believe it. Now I’ve had 5 lessons and just did my first painting which was a disaster. This woman is really good (again, I’m not kidding.) I did watercolor long in the past but it was more or less draw a picture, fill in the blanks with a color. With”Teddi” we must have composition, correct values and hues, etc. I may never be good, but at least I’ll be able to talk a good game, appreciate good art, and recognize just how bad I am!
I had been looking forward to traveling in my retirement. I had suggested to Phil that I would like to drive through the east coast-, Baltimore to see the new harbor set-up and Phil’s cousin Ilse; Delaware to see Phil’s ancestral digs; Cherry Hill, N.J. and Trenton to see my kids; New England in general and Maine to see Phil’s cousin, Paul, a retired college professor; (Should you wonder why all the emphasis on Phil’s background- at the time I planned the trip I thought I would be delving into writing rather than art and wanted to write about his family.) Last but far from least (in fact a high point of our trip) we planned to visit Andrew in Amherst (I hope you’re still there!) However, pending things here (teeth, glasses, repairs on house, etc.) seem to be jeopardizing the trip as well as the fact that Phil does not really want to leave his mountain. However, very sadly, his cousin, Helen Johnson, in N.Y.C. just died and her service will be held at a later date and I’m encouraging him to keep family ties by going to the service which might mean we would expand into my proposed trip. If you think I am a hopeless pleasure seeker and diletant, let me say you are right, but give me a break! I have joined the literacy council here and will plan to become active next year if it should be so designed to allow me to really be of service. If not, I shall look into other options. Retired life is such an exciting, intriguing existence, I have much research to do before settling down (if ever.)
Thanks once again, Carol, for the wonderful letters. As for all of you, especially Carl and Lisa who are about 5 hours away, you are welcome at the Darling household in Maggie Valley while we’re here (probably leave in late late Oct.). We would love to see you and catch up on your lives. That goes for everyone else in the family too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *