Home by Design

The Stuff That Really Matters

When one closet door closes, another kind of door opens

By Cynthia Adams

Meet The Minimalists: Two childhood pals named Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus.

They took Marie Kondo and her sparkling mantra about the joy of clearing and cleaning straight to the trash bin.

Millburn and Nicodemus upped the ante. They want you to quit stuffing your life with, well, stuff and heal your stockpiling-shiny-baubles-like-a-magpie miserable life.

The Minimalists know Kondo beat them to the movement, but their message is different. Organizing and streamlining is not enough.

Nor do they want to sell you nifty organizing bins and accessories, like Real Simple magazine or Kondo.

A nice reorg misses the point. Millburn and Nicodemus say most of us need a life reboot. A new way to make and find meaning — and, spoiler, it won’t come in an Amazon package. It is derived through community and connection.

Tucked into their minimalist philosophy is a scary warning from neuroscientists. It’s the message we’ve been avoiding since we began earning a paycheck. Whenever we troll for goods, whether the perfect white shirt, wine glass or running shoe, we are responding to an ancient evolutionary drive to hunt and gather. Except, this biological imperative no longer serves a purpose; famine is not at the door. Nor is the saber tooth tiger, but you wouldn’t know it by the way shoppers trample others during a Black Friday melee.

That stampede to be first inside Target’s doors? It has never been about the bargain TV. It is about our biology.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon, MIT and Stanford used fMRI to study the brains of test subjects while clothes shopping.

There were two interesting takeaways. The nucleus accumbens — aka the pleasure center of the brain — lights up when a subject is shown something they desire. The greater the desire, the greater the brain activity.

The greater the prospect of pleasure.

The Minimalists insist our biology is not our destiny. “If poisoned by excess, more poison will not save you.”

Perhaps you’ve discovered The Minimalists on Netflix. Or heard their podcast and began rooting out nearly identical jean jackets, purses and t-shirts stuffed in the closet. Maybe you couldn’t give a happy hoot about minimizing.

But thousands do relate to Millburn and Nicodemus, whose shared quest began with crisis.

In the same month, Milburn lost both his marriage and his mother. (He was reared by a single mother who wrestled with alcoholism.)

Nicodemus, however, who rejected the family business to chase corporate success, successfully navigated the corporate labyrinth. In fact, he was promoted again and again. Yet his victory felt hollow. He was miserable. Meanwhile, Millburn, who had lost everything and ought to have been miserable, was strangely exuberant. Why?

He told Nicodemus he had lost touch with himself, while chasing after shiny, sparkly, things.

He began sorting and evaluating his possessions, wanting fewer possessions and more joy. Remember Marie Kondo’s advice that your belongings must “spark joy”?

Well, have you ever wandered through your home, evaluating an object with that in mind?

Our 1926 house has tiny closets, whose doors the Realtor avoided opening.

A century later, closets tell the story of modern life — repositories for pleasures that flickered briefly before dying in the nucleus accumbens.

My jammed full closets seem to reproach me for my magpie ways.

The Minimalists are opening an entirely different door. OH

Cynthia Adams is a contributing editor to O.Henry.

Home by Design

Better My Biscuit

A mother and daughter come together over a happy meal

By Cynthia Adams

Mama was a big reader, and we talked books until her end. Her bedroom was overtaken by John Grisham novels. Yet cookbooks and cooking became her favorite topics of conversation.

Digesting cookbooks is a distinct pleasure. Writer Ruth Reichl beguiled the most reluctant cooks with purring, perfect prose, that lured us into the kitchen.

Our family kitchen was a soul-killing level of ugliness, with appliances, counter tops and linoleum flooring all matching in a lurid avocado-green. The wall phone was the color of canned peas. Stark fluorescence meant none of that greenness could hide. Still, Mama failed to see the point of modern, sculptural kitchens — ones with cavernous fridges, sky lights, waterfall counters and commercial stoves “But nobody cooks!” she would splutter.

What Mama saw were hot ovens and years spent rolling out biscuit dough and making gravy.

Our kitchen was poorly equipped, given that she produced as much food as the equivalent of a small cafeteria: No double ovens nor toaster oven. No microwave, because, well, radiation. The fridge was small, requiring manual defrosting. When the dishwasher died, Dad refused to waste good money repairing it, claiming “we have plenty of dishwashers” — giving us daughters a hard stare.

Otherwise liberal, he was a chauvinist pig on the topic of women and cooking, once lamenting I would never marry unless I found a man who did not like to eat.

“Or find someone much older,” he advised. “A lot older. He won’t expect you to cook.”

Mama had married a man who did expect cooking. On rotation were dishes meant to sate hearty appetites. She made her version of spaghetti sauce, supplemented by glugs of catsup when low on tomato sauce (also deployed in meat loaves that bobbed in bubbling fat). She concocted vats of chow mein, a peculiar church cookbook interpretation no Asian person would recognize. Pot roasts, chicken and “stew beef” were tenderized in a pressure cooker.

Mostly, Mama fried fish, chicken and pork, seldom draining fat. On Saturday, Dad grilled marbled steaks, giving her a break. By the time Dad’s arteries shut down at age 61, Mama had already moved on, done with life as a short order cook. She later moved to a Cornelius townhouse nearer grandchildren, acquiring a galley kitchen painted a buttery yellow. At 91, Mama now survived on Boost, ice cream sandwiches and dainty cubes of Cheddar cheese impaled on toothpicks. We began bringing her McDonald’s biscuits over her protests. When my brothers visited, she still felt the urge to pull out the rolling pin and make biscuits. Mama grew so slight and weak, she sometimes fell backwards opening the oven. One visit, I mentioned that humorist Rick Bragg was in Athens, Georgia while I was working there, promoting “The Best Cook in the World,” honoring his own mother, Margaret.

Mama shot an arch look. “So, I know you don’t think I’m the best cook in the world,” she said, fishing. Clearing my throat, I recited her greatest hits: chocolate cake, ambrosia, corn soup and the McClellan family vegetable soup.

“You hate my biscuits,” she accused.

“I’m not a biscuit person, Mom,” I said — a rookie mistake.

“I’m not either,” she retorted testily, “but that didn’t stop me from getting up and making them for five children. Every. Single. Morning.”

Years ago, I blurted out my preference for — wait for it — toast.

“Your mother made canned biscuits, because real ones were too much trouble,” I ventured. But Mama was not in a fighting mood. Instead, she laughed over Bragg’s devotion to the cuisine of Possum Trot, Alabama.

“You know,” she confided, her voice quaking as if she was about to betray a state secret. “McDonald’s sausage biscuit is really not bad at all. I actually like them.”

Her eyes widened. And we collapsed into giggles as if this were easily the funniest joke in all the world.  OH

Cynthia Adams is a contributing editor to O.Henry.

Home by Design

House Proud, Hard Core

They don’t want your stuff

By Cynthia Adams

It took a pandemic to convince my friends that their kids didn’t want their stuff. Which is especially cruel, knowing what we have learned lately thanks to millennials out there in increasingly nostalgic Internet Land.

Sequestered at home — albeit beautiful ones — the house proud of a certain age dusted, cleaned, preened their gardens and behaved like the house-proud people they are. House proud in Southern-speak means those who don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink for tomorrow. They buff lipstick marks off wine glasses. They vacuum under the fridge.

But mortality was breathing down our necks during what a writer friend calls “the late unpleasantness,” lingering like an unwelcome houseguest.

Raising the question: When the house proud decamped to Valhalla, who would want their stuff? (In the South, there’s always a lot of stuff: china sets, crystal, flatware, porcelains and photographs. Also, treasured oddities like Grandpa Bingo’s wooden radio.) As it happened, nobody belonging to their family tree agreed. Grasping this truth, my friends nearly fell off a branch.

Three of them persisted. Two kept storage units (!) to store things they no longer displayed. Another tried her ever-loving best to beg her offspring into accepting antique furniture and art.

Still no takers. 

Personally, it hadn’t taken a Swedish death cleanse to convince me of the hard facts, having floated the “Interested, anyone?” question when good friend and attorney Charlie Younce updated our will.

Would anyone want our nostalgic curiosities?

True to the cliché, our loved ones’ silence was deafening.

Seemed minimalism was their new thing. Closets curated by Chairman Mao containing 10 white shirts and 10 black pants. 

Mine bulged.

Nevertheless, I purged, stopping far short of becoming a minimalist. Minimalism forms a disconcerting void.

One reforming pack rat friend reported he wanted to cry after all but emptying his home after staging it for sale. “It’s just awful,” he moaned. “It echoes when I walk across the floor.” This was too much to bear. He yanked it off the market and restocked his bookshelves.

Writers wrote and bloggers posted about people like us using derisive terms. “Maximalism,” a recurring euphemism, barely hid disdain for “brown” furniture, chintz, wallpaper, valances and draperies. If attempting to be kind, they dubbed it “Bohemian.”

Yet Bohemian conjured up tacky bead curtains and tie-dye bedspreads.

That was last year.

Without warning a worse décor term popped up, making me cringe: “granny chic.” Turned out, it was code for a maximalist revival. The young suddenly embraced old fashioned style with a strange fervor, even macrame and spider plants.

Then dropped another term: “millennial chic.” It looked, at least to my eye, exactly like “granny chic,” but, seems it was only a trend if millennials were in on it.

Nobody actually photographed grannies in busy chic interiors only hipsters doing macrame.

And then this appeared: “grand millennial” style. Which means well, I am not exactly sure. It seemed maximalism was being rebranded, better suiting the aesthetic of hip young art directors. Granny chic didn’t quite do the job.

Hence a new moniker started popping up in design pubs and blogs: not old fashioned.

Bold fashioned!

Gah. Suddenly, millennial designer Rudy Saunders promoted all things prep, crazy for needlepoint and Lilly Pulitzer. He loved color-saturated, Dorothy Draper/Greenbriar resort interiors.

Which leads to another, stupendous, design trend: cottagecore.

(Also, I fear, known as grandmacore. Sigh. Seems millennials love their grandmas. And British style.)

Cottagecore, or grandmacore, is what designer Brit Rachel Ashwell dubbed Shabby Chic. Which is what Brit Laura Ashley of twee prints and a lifestyle brand owned for decades, from 1954 until her untimely death.

Now Brit Paula Sutton, a charming British Hill House blogger, is coming on like a freight train, and her Georgian dream of a house made me tear up with, well, happiness.

Best of all? She’s middle aged. With “brown” antiques and cushy pillows and china! And nary a word uttered about grandmas, nor cottagey porn. It’s simply beautiful and cozy.

And, so sorry, kiddos, but it’s too late. The will is already written.  OH

Cynthia Adams is a contributing editor to O.Henry.

Home by Design

Eccentrics of
Latham Park

Public grounds along Buffalo Creek
entertain a cast of characters

By Cynthia Adams

Living in sight of Latham Park affords premium viewing (for free!) of 24-hour reality programming.

At the onset of coronavirus-fueled frustration, park going surged.

Lots of posing occurred in the park, with professional photographers forced out of studios. Women and men leaned into gnarly trees as pros and amateurs snapped away. A girls’ sports team pirouetted on a small rise, one long favored by golfers who perpetually have ignored the “No Golfing” signs. They air hugged, bumping elbows, posing while socially distanced.

Romance, too, played out on grass-stained quilts. Couples lugged cold drinks and takeout to make-out exhibitions putting Love Island to shame.

For some reason, Latham Park, among Greensboro’s first, has never been funded at the level of the city’s other parks, despite its age and popularity. No lovely plantings nor gazebos, no special features whatever except for a trail and rusting old exercise stations.

Beyond that, nothing but a few old benches.

Occasionally, gang members tag the park signs. Pranksters even lugged away two bolted-down benches. We were stunned one morning to find one abandoned near Elm Street and Buffalo Creek.

This bench had a pervy history. A flasher once stationed himself there. Now, only the concrete pads remain. Kudzu, another local pest and natural predator, further menaces the trail.

After lockdown, the surge receded as suddenly as it began. The park returned to its usual tempo and a rotating cast of walkers, joggers and occasional eccentrics.

A couple of tuba players rehearsed on a remaining bench, bleating and booming on their unwieldy instruments. Tubas are the manatees of the music world, seldom glimpsed in the wild.

An agreeable cyclist we call Beep repeatedly shouts “Beep!” as he often bikes with orange peel covering his teeth like an orthodontic retainer.

Beep began hailing us as “Sarah and Abraham!” when my husband avoided haircuts during lockdown.

Miata Man chugs cautiously around the park perimeter on area streets before securing his car in a parking lot, carefully storing the tag in the trunk.

We don’t know Miata Man, but we would like to.

Butch recently moved away. He cut through the park on forays to the service station for snacks. Like us, Butch walked in all weather — even in moonlight. He kept an eye out for suspicious behavior, frowning on drugs and littering. He regaled us with stories about the mayor, whom he phoned to keep apprised of such things. We miss Butch.

Mysterious Patchouli Girl walks past with an instrument on her back, wearing folk costumes. The scent lingers in the air, once she has passed us.

Sometimes, the truly weird happens in the park. One dawn, a yellow tent appeared near Buffalo Creek. The camper’s breakfast bacon smells drifted through the air. The park floods, mind you, and we were alarmed by their perilous campsite. It happened more recently when an orange tent pitched up.

But this year, a doozie.

As I tugged at a weed in our courtyard, hubby appeared, eyes wide, furtively motioning. He hissed, “Big, fat man in sheet!”

I could only stare back.

“Golfing! Hurry!” he urged, motioning toward the park. “You can see his skimpies!” (Skimpies are unmentionables where he grew up.)

As I crept to look, a very large man was negotiating his body into a sedan.

Was he wearing a sheet?

He sped off. Was it, perhaps, clothing? Tie-dyed? Nope, hubby said.

“Like he cut a hole in a white sheet and — wore it like a caftan!”

Had he ever seen him before from his park-facing office?

Apparently, yes, but — normally the man wore nothing.

“I mean, no shirt. He usually comes to the park with a club in hand, wearing skimpies. Undershorts.”

But golfing in a sheet? I spluttered. 

“I was on a work Zoom, or I would have been able to get your attention before he was leaving,” he retorted. “It was a sheet.”

Puzzled, I tugged at the weed, whose roots extended to Middle Earth.

What to call him? Toga Man? Sheet Man?

The root would not surrender: It whispered, “Just a park goer, you fool. A weed in the garden of life.”  OH

Cynthia Adams is a contributing editor to O.Henry.

Home by Design

Meet the Turnip Toffs

A little salt, a little pepper and a brave new sense of adventure

By Cynthia Adams

I am a Turnip Toff. In fact, both my hubby and I are Turnip Toffs, a derisive term typically reserved for hoity-toity Brits.

We are neither to the manner born nor to the manor born.

Nonetheless, we are Turnip Toffs of a different variety. Here’s how I know for sure: We grew giddy over a bag of turnips from Farlow Farm’s CSA last spring.

What is a CSA, you ask? It stands for Community Supported Agriculture. If you are a farm-born person like me, Community Supported Agriculture is an amazing concept. For a membership fee, you get a share of the farm’s locally grown produce. The farmers grow it. You pick it up — in our case, from the Greensboro Farmers’ Curb Market. Located in nearby Archdale, Farlow Farms is one of a small handful of farms offering CSA memberships in the Triad area.

Never did I imagine that I would be so excited about lowly turnips.

Last spring, if not for picking up our CSA vegetables on designated Saturdays, we wouldn’t have had any plans at all. Our rendezvous with the vegetable kingdom included one-on-ones with kale, colloquies with collard greens, bonding with broccolini, sashaying with spring onions and Swiss chard, and quiet evenings with strawberries, potatoes, eggplant, squash and cucumbers.

Home from market, we got intimate with our new friends in granular detail on the tiled counter, like a CSI for a CSA.

“Which do you think — is this collards or kale?” My hubby asked, holding something green aloft.

Given my farming background I bluffed, but for all I knew it was chard. “Kale.”

“Hmmm,” he said. In the end, we’d consult the farm’s email for a positive I.D.

“What are we going to do with it?”

“I’m thinking we will make kale chips,” I peeped. “And salad.”

Mind you, I had never eaten a kale chip. But I had spent much of my pandemic free time watching what people ate on the internet.

So, we fired up a YouTube video then prepped the kale. It was a two-person job.

First, we washed it. Then we dissected it, cutting the tough kale ribs away before drying and dicing it. After anointing the rugged leaves with olive oil and sprinkling them with sea salt, into the oven they went for a good bake.

“Hmmm,” hubby said a quick 12 minutes later.

“Is that a good hmmm, or a bad hmmm,” I asked, hovering.

“Just a hmmmm. As in, it’s not a potato chip . . .”

We were amazed by how many vegetables we had never before eaten. Like bok choy, which I had only ever seen in Chinese takeout.

Once we found things we could do with this cute little vegetable, like stir frying it in garlic and ginger, we discovered that we liked it.

Score 1 for bok choy!

Summer rolled around and squash and eggplants came to visit our home. “What is that?” hubby asked suspiciously, pointing to the crockpot where squash, tomatoes and onion roiled.

“It’s ratatouille. French. You know. Like the children’s film,” I offered defensively. “Ratatouille sounds so great, doesn’t’ it?” I asked with enthusiasm I didn’t really feel. Look, I am no Ina Garten. 

He nodded with noticeably less enthusiasm.

“Looks like vegetable soup,” he said, stirring it with the large wooden spoon.

I chopped an eggplant, pointedly ignoring him, then tossed the meaty chunks into the pot.

His mouth twisted ever so slightly sideways. Ruefully.

Once sacrificed to the dish, he wasn’t wrong: the caldron of summer’s bounty looked exactly like vegetable soup.

I wilted just a little myself, reclaimed the spoon, stirred the brew energetically, then covered the pot and ordered him out of the kitchen.

That evening, ratatouille filled two fetching Seagrove pottery bowls. We were not in a Paris bistro with a baguette on the table, but it was ratatouille showtime.

“This needs salt,” I admitted, tasting.

“Maybe pepper.”

His eyes stayed fixed upon the steaming bowl.

The first spoonful passed his lips. Then another.

“Maybe France,” he added.

Then, wordlessly, he smiled, refilling our glasses with a Trader Joe’s red that I reserve for lower expectation occasions.

We sipped, slid our soup spoons into the ratatouille, slurped — and most importantly — shut up.

But Turnip Toffs being Turnip Toffs, we couldn’t help ourselves. We signed up for the CSA again this year.  OH

For more information about local participating CSAs, including NIMBY Gardens, Emmaus Farms, Pine Trough Branch Farm and Handance Farm, visit www.gsofarmersmarket.org/what-is-a-csa/

In case you were wondering, O.Henry’s contributing editor Cynthia Adams won’t, in fact, be sharing her ratatouille recipe with the public. But she does recommend an extra pinch or three of salt. 

Home by Design

Simply Irresistible

Bitten by the design bug

By Cynthia Adams

Skimming the auto classifieds recently, an ad set in a retro font called Courier New tripped the circuitry of my brain to a repressed memory. I froze, slopping my morning coffee as I recalled another ad entry from the past, under “Antique Cars” (with a nod to the Robert Palmer song).   

SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE. 1971 Volkswagen Convertible; electric blue. New paint, top and tires. Restored. Garaged. Winston-Salem. 

The price, a gulper, reflected its merit.

My eyes raked over the thumbnail-sized picture. The unfurled soft top combined with its rounded wheelhouses made me nostalgic for the, well, freewheeling days of the counterculture era. Not to mention the near indestructible, classic four-cylinder air-cooled boxer engine — a tribute to German engineering for sure — strategically placed in the rear of the car. It was love at first bug bite!

As I dialed, hand trembling with excitement, I feared it was already gone. 

The owner, who sounded elderly (ah, perfect!) said I could see it that afternoon. 

He had fielded several inquiries. If serious, “bring cash. Not many cars like this.”

“She’s anything but typical,” I heard Palmer singing in my head.

At that, I scurried off to withdraw the exact price (“nonnegotiable” the owner made clear), shivering with excitement. 

I had long wanted a vintage VW convertible — what our architect friend, Greg Koester, jokingly tagged “a bitch bucket.” This was the one!

I hummed, “She’s a craze you’d endorse,” from Palmer’s song.

Leaving the bank, I called my husband. “I need for you to take me to Winston- Salem in a couple of hours.”

He agreed.

On the drive over, he negotiated. “Don’t do it,” he pleaded. 

“Nonnegotiable,” I replied sassily, quoting the seller. Then I sang, “She’s a craze you’ll endorse, she’s a powerful force/You’re obliged to conform when there’s no other course.”

He gripped the wheel. “Look, it’s an old car. I think it’s a bad idea.”

Unfazed, I felt bubbling anticipation.

The owner’s hip bothered him, so he took a while ambling out when we arrived. He retreated to the garage, reappearing in the adorable blue car. Exiting stiffly, he patted the pristine white top.

“Cute, huh?” 

He didn’t need to sell me, as I was silently singing, “She used to look good to me, but now I find her/Simply irresistible . . .”

As my knees weakened at the sight of her, the seller mentioned he was a Shriner. 

“We take an oath; we cannot lie. Truth is, this car is worth a lot more than I’m asking.” 

While I didn’t buy that line wholesale, I was still thinking of Palmer’s lyrics:

“It’s simply unavoidable/The trend is irreversible.”

“Can you drive a straight?” he asked, interrupting my silent singing. “Wanna drive it?”

I grinned.

He handed me the key. 

I slowly circled the drive, singing, “She’s all mine, there’s no other way to go.”

“Hasn’t been out much,” he observed when I rolled back, having never gone faster than a few miles per hour. “Needs the carbon blown out.”

Of course, I thought, the old guy probably hadn’t driven it since 1975.

With that, I shook his hand and we were off to handle the transaction. My husband, looking beyond perplexed, tried again.

“You need to check it out,” he pleaded.

“He’s a SHRINER,” I repeated. “He can’t lie.”

My husband glowered.

The bundle of cash, all hundreds, was exchanged, for the title. 

Back at the Shriner’s, I climbed into the car and cranked open the window.  (A crank! How deliciously retro!)   

“See you in Greensboro!” I shouted gaily, fumbling to find first gear. It had been a while since I’d owned a straight shift.

As I advanced uphill toward the road, the driver’s seat shot backward. It was all I could do to keep control of the car.

My heart pumped. When the car crested and I headed downhill, the seat suddenly shot forward, giving the adrenaline rush of Disney’s ill-fated Rocket Rods. When I pulled over to examine how to lock the bucket seat into place, I discovered it was not anchored — nor could it be. 

It slid freely to and fro. 

(No big deal, I thought. Missing a screw.)

On the open road, I tried to familiarize myself with the clutch while also trying to keep the seat from rolling back so far on hills that I couldn’t reach the accelerator. 

I held onto the door in order to steady my seat, like a captain on the high seas.

But only a few miles down the Interstate, the car spluttered. 

My husband had long since left me behind, eager to leave me to my stupid fate.

I slowed and pulled over.

The car gasped and died. 

I noted the fuel gauge registered full. Not out of gas, then. Flooded?

I managed to restart it after a while.

(“She’s so fine, there’s no tellin’ where the money went,” I thought.)

Somehow, I leapfrogged back to Greensboro, driving straight to our mechanic. 

He was outside the garage chatting to a customer.

He grinned at the shiny blue Beetle, which choked as soon as I downshifted, hurtling me forward. I gasped and caught myself.

“Sure is cute!” he greeted, as I rubbed my wrist, which had banged against the dashboard.

Explaining my conundrum, I handed over the keys — as the mechanic kept repeating how great the car looked.

Reluctantly, I called home to ask for a ride. Palmer’s voice grew louder in my head. “She’s unavoidable, I’m backed against the wall.”

One of my husband’s finest qualities is his ability to repress the words, “I told you so.”

The mechanic phoned later that week with a report. “It’s real unusual, this car,” he prefaced.

The car had died because the fuel tank was all but empty. All the dashboard gauges worked BACKWARD.

It was as if a mischievous chimp had restored the car. A Bonzo Beetle? “It’s not safe to drive,” he cautioned.

The Shriner may not have outright lied, but he was quite capable of omissions.

The bitch bucket held more surprises.

The mechanic called again. “I have a buyer if you’re selling.” A customer had seen it on the lift and had to have it. 

“But the car isn’t safe!” 

The mechanic replied slowly, “But she wants it.”

I spluttered. “It was overpriced to begin with and now there’s an additional garage bill.”

The next night, someone as smitten with the car as I had been phoned.

“Think it over,” I advised. “The car is simply irresistible.”

She thought briefly and called back. “We’ll pay your price and the garage bill.  Consider it sold.” 

The mechanic called too. “I could have sold that car several times.” The blue Beetle was the automotive equivalent of Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct.

As soon as I had the title back from the DMV, the potential owner was eagerly waiting at the garage. I allowed myself a last look; “‘She’s a craze you’ll endorse, she’s a powerful force,’” I hummed sadly.

A month later, the Beetle was in the Fresh Market parking lot, top down, sporting an adorable vanity plate: WEEKENDS.

“Gosh, it’s cute,” I gushed in spite of everything. I had owned the car a few weeks and only driven it 35 miles. Now it became a sport to spot WEEKENDS around town. It presented as an electric flash of color, the top down, the driver’s blonde hair flying. 

A few months later, we spied WEEKENDS being loaded onto a tow truck. 

“Oh, no!” we both exclaimed passing it, then fell silent.

I struggled to not look back; then, in a low voice, I sang.

“‘She’s a natural law, and she leaves me in awe/She deserves the applause, I surrender because/She used to look good to me but now I find her/Simply irresistible.’”  OH

Cynthia Adams is a Contributing Editor to O.Henry