The occasion was an anniversary party, one of those events where you dress a bit fancier than Sunday clothes, but not as fancy as Saturday night shindig clothes.
"Oh my goodness!" Aunt Kathleen exclaimed when she opened the door and saw me in a below-the-ankle fuchsia color skirt and matching camisole. As an extra flourish, I had tied a flowing chiffon, hot-pink scarf over the skirt like a sarong. "You told me this wasn't formal." She looked down at the pretty red top with the sequined appliqué she was wearing. "I have a formal dress I could wear." She looked worried and I could tell she was thinking of changing.
"Oh, c'mon. This isn't formal. I just tied a scarf around it."
She nodded and sighed. "I know how you are." She picked up her purse and pushed open the screen door. "You can make a dress out of a towel."
An unexpected laugh escaped my throat for I knew exactly what that meant. She nodded firmly as she moved toward the car and opened the door. "That's right. You can. I remember when you did that."
For the record, it was a throw blanket not a towel. But they're pretty much the same.
I had taken up the repeated offers of Darrell and Stevie Waltrip to use their lake house in a remote section of Tennessee. Remote is almost an understatement. I was on deadline with a new book and looking for serenity, which I believed would inspire inspiration. Times had been hard. Death had rained like a thunderous storm on our family and I needed escape. The Waltrips had been offering their get-a-way place for a long time, so I accepted and planned a 10-day retreat. It was a good decision for the remoteness brought quiet, the quiet brought peace and the peace brought creativity.
Darrell, always the exceedingly thoughtful host, had shown me all the thermostats, alarms, lights, codes and then commanded, "Jump in the car and let me drive you around and show you the grocery stores and gas stations." The nearest grocery store was 20 miles away in a little, one-red-light town. As we turned back onto the gravel road that would wind its way back up to the lake house, we passed a tiny white-framed Baptist church.
"There's a little church you might want to visit," he suggested.
"We've been wanting to go some time when we're up here," Stevie chimed in.
As Sunday approached, I decided that I did want to go but there was one problem: I didn't have a skirt or dress to wear, and I have a strict, self-imposed rule of skirts only for church. Perhaps it's one of my many quirks, but my strong sense of respect for the house of the Lord dictates me to wear skirts or dresses. I searched the closets, thinking that surely Stevie or one of their two girls had left behind a skirt. No luck. I called Aunt Kath and explained the dilemma.
"What should I do?" I asked. "I've never worn slacks to church."
Aunt Kath behaves much as I do, so she wasn't letting me off the hook. "Go somers and buy ya a skirt." Well, that "somers" was at least an 80-mile round trip. I kept searching the house and found a green and black plaid lap blanket with fringe. Perfect for a kilt-like skirt, fastened with a safety pin. It could be downright stylish. So, I fixed myself right up and wore the blanket, uh kilt, with a turtleneck and boots and took myself to church.
That story made it home before I did and raced with typical hilarity through my family. But it does go to show one thing: If you think long enough and work hard enough, there's always a blanket solution to a problem.
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