#WOMBATSDOAMERICA, Day 4
Blogging our recent trip day by day, four weeks after the event.
Friday 8th August – the Wombat dances.
Susan arrived early from Georgia, and further hugs were indulged. While she, Kim and Viv prepared for the evening’s shindig, Mary and I went with Sandy, Dave, Ellen and Jere for an hour in a southerly direction. Hot and sunny were the weather words of the day once more.
“Ooh, cows!” I shouted excitedly, seeing my first American cattle. I’m such a five-year-old sometimes. We drove to the small Amish town of Volant. It was extremely pretty, with a tumbling river beneath verdant trees and pretty houses. It was very touristy and, I suspect, not really typical of everyday Amish society, but we did see one family of five, mother and daughters all dressed the same. The shops were pleasant enough, although empty boxes outside one store showed us that many of the goods inside were of Chinese manufacture rather than Amish. This reminded me of the Canadian souvenirs on sale in Niagara that were made in Honduras. However, we bought a beanie cardinal (the bird, not the priest) for Kit. In one shop I was asked which part of Canada I was from.
After we’d taken many photographs we drove to a big mall at Grove City. Well, eventually we did, after an adventurous meander due to Dave missing a turn or two. Still, the detours did allow us to see more of ‘ordinary’ America, which was always one of our aims for this holiday.
“I’m looking at all these houses,” said Sandy, “Thinking about how I’ll never see them again.”
“Don’t worry,” I said, “With Dave driving there’s a very good chance you will see them again.”
My hubris was soon inevitably undermined when I gave Dave woeful directions to the mall entrance and we ended up describing a figure of eight to find it. We ate Chinese food in a busy food court, and then browsed the shops. I was looking for a Green Bay Packers shirt or hat, since Ellen had impressed me with the information that they were the only non-profit, community-owned major league professional sports team in the United States. No luck though: everything was Pennsylvania-oriented (no surprise there, I guess), garishly displaying names like the Pittsburgh Steelboys, the Penis Penguins and so on (sic). A security guard on a Segway described graceful arcs as he slalomed through the shoppers, a huge grin on his face.
Dave got us ‘home’ safely and directly, and shortly commenced an evening of fun and frolic with these friends whom I had never met, and oh, what an evening! I’m not at all certain of the order of things, so I’ll just fling out random paragraphs as thoughts occur to me and leave it to you to piece it all together.
Mary and I were asked to sit down in the ‘party garage’, wherein gathered all assembled Wombat Towers dwellers. Before we sat, I grabbed a quick chance to make an awkward little speech thanking Kim for her kindness, her hospitality and her dedication in making this holiday the best ever. After I’d STFU and plonked my arse, Sandy gave a short explanation of the gift that they had all made for us – a large, nay mammoth, scrapbook full of individual memories, messages and photographs. It’s a champion keepsake, and has space for us to add our own notes and photos.
I forced everyone to write something in my travel journal, whether they wanted to or not. Oh yeah, I’m a martinet. Maybe I’ll put those flattering notes in the scrapbook too. If ever I get around to putting these words into a printed book (called ‘Wombats Do America’ obviously, and likely a full colour hardback costing fifty quid), then I’ll add them as an appendix. There was something else about this presentation; it highlighted for me the way that Mary had been welcomed, accepted and loved by this gang of reprobates that I had known online for years. I believe that she had been a little nervous, but they all welcomed her warmly, and genuinely fell for her intelligence, wit, and passion about fairness and tolerance.
Once again copies of my books appeared to be signed. I’ll never get used to doing that. It feels very odd, and I’m always tempted to sign someone else’s name. “To Jody, sorry I murdered you so horribly in this book. Your friend, Enid Blyton”.
Jody, newly arrived, brought us all a gift, as had Susan. Jody had crafted personalised bookmarks and world globes that bore a shining pin to mark where each of us lived. The globes were small, so Mary and I ended up inhabiting the whole of Lancashire and Wales, but the idea was lovely. Susan had brought ‘Redneck Glasses’, made by her husband Evan – tall chunky glass goblets with a lid to counter drink spillage.
Susan had also brought Apple Pie Moonshine. Sweet Baby G, but it was strong. I made the mistake of sipping it at first, which set my mouth to twisting. Later in the evening I got the knack of throwing back a shot in one, which suddenly turned it into a most excellent drink. I really wish we could have brought some home with us, but I can just imagine the fun at customs.
The splendid Kim had worked hard on making the evening a success. For a start the music was a playlist of songs each of which was relevant to someone there. I danced. Did I tell you that already? I danced! Strictly Come Wombat.
More Kim-inspired fun came when she gave us a lengthy Wombat Towers trivia quiz, even though I had to pretend that I’d got more right than I really had.
Most moving of all, Kim had asked her lifelong friend Carla to bring along her old dulcimer. In the glow of the fire Carla played her dulcimer and sang Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case of You’ for me. Such an emotional song – I tried to join in with the final chorus, but my voice cracked and seized.
What a tremendous party. In the early hours we sat around the dying fire while soft music played and talked of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings and why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings.
“Hang a left, Dave!” – Wombat
“I don’t care what you do, Dave, as long as you get me there.” – Sandy
“Wibble!” – Everyone
“I’ll have two sliders, a grinder, and a skanky ho.” – Wombat
“You talk funny.” – Susan
“When Celtic music plays your soul dances.” – Viv
”I could drink a case of you.” – Carla
“I can’t get it to stand up.” – Kim
“I love Jody’s globes.” – Wombat
“Apple Pie hits me like a ton of bricks.” – Viv