There is a ranch-style stone house in my favorite place in the world – Gatlinburg, Tennessee – that gives the appearance of being a lone holdout amongst the hustle and bustle of commercialism that drives this postage stamp of an area out-skirting the Great Smoky Mountains.
I can only assume the owner of this home is a holdout, it’s not like yours truly stormed up to the front door and demanded to know their story while vacationing last fall. I prefer subtlety, such as staring at the homeowner from what may or may not be considered a courteous distance of the sidewalk.
When the BFX and I were walking downtown, I stopped every chance I had to look over the property situated between two sit-down restaurants, parking lots, and an assortment of shops. Until one evening I spied an elder woman standing in the yard. She was wearing a housecoat and was walking with, and possibly talking to, a couple of cats. The latter made the scene perfect in my opinion as the growing darkness collaborated with a fine mist, as tends to happen in the Smokies, that enveloped the property and made for a picture I had to refrain from taking, I might add.
Of course, I could only assume the woman was the owner. I wasn’t about to wave and holler in the dimming light, “Hey, are you the owner?” as she was tucked behind a partial stone fence and a thin line of trees. She slipped her hands into the pockets of her housecoat as she stood there in a landscape that offered no buffer from the tourists milling only feet away.
Nothing save an enormous wall could buffer a residence in downtown Gatlinburg and I can’t help now, nor could I then, wondering what it must be like to watch the passage of time from such a home situated amidst a steady stream of strangers. There were no traditional neighbors to get to know amongst an always changing setting of tourist attractions that was surrounded, in turn, by the beauty of the mountains.
I was envious, of course, and kept giving this elder woman a variety of storylines, part of this hangs on the fact I’ve only lived outside my hometown for a total of three years out of my 40 on this rock. (I don’t believe I will ever escape either, except maybe in an urn!) So this left much to speculation such as imagining a number of people in fancy suits and business ties waltzing up to her door, contract to sell in hand, only to be greeted with a declaration she won’t sell … ever.
Every time the BFX and I walked about Gatlinburg I found an excuse to pass that lone house (Just one more time!) so as to conjure up another storyline. (It’s great having an imagination but burdensome, too.) Course, some of this need to repeat the path may have been the fact the last time I’d been in Tennessee before last year’s trip was 13 years ago. That’s a long time not to visit the place you love more than any other in the world. I was afraid, I am still afraid, it will be another 13 years or longer (Or in an urn) before I get back there. The mystery owner in that stone house will be long gone by then (A little Internet search puts her at 93 years of age) and her home plowed under for a parking lot.
Unless, of course, one of my story lines while standing at the curb were to come true, the one where I discover she is a long lost great aunt twice-removed, completely unaccounted for in the chaos that is my family tree.
Hey, a girl can dream.
Bethany J. Royer is the mother of two munchkins and has a serious case of psychology student senior-it is. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org