When I was in Rome, Italy in November of 2015, our GoAhead tour director, Barbara Valloni, went around the room at the orientation meeting and asked us where we were from. One woman after another answered “North Carolina,” “North Carolina,” “North Carolina!” Apparently most of them were teachers (or relatives) and came from a small town called Lumberton, and they all knew each other. I couldn’t come all the way to North Carolina for the first time and not look them up! They treated me like family and included me on all their activities when we had free time. I consider that one of the best trips I’ve ever taken!
Then two years ago when I attended the Historic Organ Study Tour of northern France, I sat next to Diana Kirkpatrick, who I found out also lived in North Carolina.
I checked the map, and worked out a schedule to leave Durham about 9:30 am, as it would take about an hour-and-a-half to reach Fayetteville. Diana and I would meet at Ruby Tuesdays near St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church where she was scheduled to play a funeral. We talked about our future European travel plans and then Diana invited me to see the organ at St. Patrick’s. It is a four-manual Zimmer which I had fun trying out for a few minutes. Outside the building was a marquee advertising the services, and I was interested to learn that they not only have Spanish language, but also French language Masses (for Haitian immigrants).
I then drove to Hope Mills, NC where I met Briana and Connie Jordan from the Italy trip. We had a good but short time visiting and reminiscing about the good time we had had together. Who would have guessed that I would come visit them in North Carolina! Baby Cora was so sweet, and is just six days older than my grandson.
Then it was another half-hour drive to Lumberton where I found Sandra Lopez, whom I was immediately drawn to on the Italy trip because she reminded me so much of my daughter-in-law, Jessica.
What I didn’t know was that Sandra was actually having a book introduction party, with friends and colleagues from the ESL community. The author introduced herself as Kathy with a K, but who was born Cathy with a C and changed it legally to a K. I told her women my age are known are Kathy or Cathy but young girls are mostly known as Katherine or Katie, but not Kathy! My mother always told me I was named after Kathy who fell down into a well (you can read all about it on my high school blog post, “The story of Kathy Fiscus (1945-1949)” on why so many females my age were named Kathy.
Another guest was a woman who said she graduated from Punahou School! Small world!
After too short of a visit, it was time to drive to Greenville, where I wanted to attend the 6:00 pm senior recital of Jacob Montgomery, the other Duke organ scholar. Apple Maps told me it would take 2 hours and 13 minutes, and by the time I could finally leave Sandra’s, I didn’t have a minute to spare and drove over the speed limit of 70 mph (I swear, I was just going with the flow of traffic!)
But when I finally arrived in Greenville, it was about 6:03 pm and it was within blocks of St. Paul’s. However, I couldn’t get close because all the streets were blocked off because of a street party! After making turn after turn and driving around in circles, I finally parked the car some distance away and started to walk, arriving during his performance of Marcel Dupré’s Cortège et litanie, which I have played many many times. The Fisk organ was LOUD and IN YOUR FACE, as many of his instruments are. Still I enjoyed Jacob’s choice of repertoire.
By the time Joey and I drove back to Durham after the reception, it was after 10 pm and had been a loooong day—I drove over 400 miles today!
But it was deeply rewarding to reconnect with all these friends, whom I’m quite sure, never believed I would ever see them again, no less in their home of North Carolina.