Husbands. I have one of the good ones.
Two weeks before our twenty-fourth anniversary, I found out the church’s Fourth-of-July picnic would be the same day (Sunday, the third) and I joked about them having it in honor of our anniversary. A week or so beforehand, he told me not to make any plans. I reminded him about the picnic. He asked me if I was set on being there. Thinking through the implications of why he’d ask that, I told him possibly not.
And oh yes, he added, pack an overnight bag.
This conversation actually took place over several days, in my husband’s usual laconic style, but I was thrilled. I couldn’t wait to see what he had planned. We’ve only been away together, overnight, a handful of times since having the kids, but—whatever it was, I was sure to enjoy whatever he went to the trouble of planning.
Of course I went through the gamut of “can this weekend possibly come any slower?” to “I’m going to enjoy it if it kills me” to “I hope we go somewhere quiet so I can just SLEEP.” It was a rough week beforehand and I was a bit sleep deprived. Sunday church was a little long, but good, since it was the first day for two services, and we worked the nursery first service and stayed for second service. Then it was home, and finish packing, and we were off.
We grabbed lunch at Sonic and got gas on the way out. Troy asked me if I had any guesses. (He’d expected the younger kids to give away the red herring he’d dropped for them, but they actually hadn’t. We were both impressed by that.) I told him I thought of the Peterson’s cabin in North Carolina, but I didn’t think he’d want to drive five hours just for overnight. Then I laughed and said, “Alistair’s apartment in Columbia?” But I quickly added that it would be too weird for our 20-year-old son to loan out his apartment for his parents to have a romantic getaway. (Hey, Troy asked for guesses!) Other than that, I didn’t have much of a clue.
We headed up I-26, and when Troy turned off on route 601 north toward St. Matthews, I said, “Well, that rules out Augusta.” Troy asked me to guess again. I saw the sign for Camden, where I’d been a couple of times for story research, and when I asked about that, Troy said, “What would be in Camden?” At that point, I gave up. He wouldn’t tell me even if I guessed correctly.
We passed a sign that read Fort Motte. I sat up—the event associated with this spot was one I referred to in passing in my historical novel Loyalty’s Cadence. I proceeded to explain to Troy the significance. Then I saw the bridge and said, “That’s the Congaree River, isn’t it?” And I was excited that I’d gotten it right.
Just past the bridge over the Congaree, we saw the sign for a national park located on the other side, and the thought occurred to me that we were in territory I’d written about in Loyalty, but hadn’t yet seen. I started paying much closer attention. Pretty soon, after a pit stop, I saw that we were getting closer to Camden and commented that our next river crossing would be the Wateree.
And it was. That set off a whole train of thought in which I realized my characters in Loyalty would have had to cross this river between the prologue and first chapter—and I never mention it in the story even though it would have been a fairly big deal for them to do so.
Then, we really were driving into Camden. I recognized street and place names (can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent poring over Google maps and studying both the present-day and historic layout of the town, trying to figure out where certain things took place or stood), but still I was quiet, waiting. After a wrong turn or two, we wound up on a side street in the heart of town, and just as Troy began slowing down, I saw this exquisitely beautiful, huge white historic house behind a white fence.
You’ve got to be kidding, I thought. And, wow. Just—wow.
(To be continued!)