SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY OFTEN SURPRISES
Christmas, 2001, was our 22nd at 159 King George West—and proved to be our last one there. Unique in many ways, it was a lovely holiday finale. Already working in Nashville, I came home for a week or so to prepare and host a festive Open House for friends from near and far. Julia and Patrick were planning a May wedding and she spent that Christmas with us in Columbia, as did Steve, Heather’s friend from Minnesota.
The night I got to Columbia from Nashville, I stopped by our favorite Harbison Barnes & Noble for a latte and met up with Mike Pierce, a friend from church. When I told him I needed to get a Christmas tree, he offered to go with me right then to pick one out, carry it home for me in his SUV and put it in the tree stand at my house. You couldn’t pass up an offer like that! He heroically struggled with bracing the tree—wedging small pieces of wood in the stand to hold it straight. When he left, he made me promise to call him if it didn’t stay straight. Sure enough, the next morning, it had toppled over! Mike returned and rigged a secure brace with a wire stretched from the tree trunk to the mantle! It stayed and was one of our best trees ever. Surprising Southern hospitality indeed.
I cooked party food for days—and Heather helped me finish up when she arrived from Virginia. The day of the party, Steve mentioned that he was a huge lifelong fan of the Minnesota Vikings. Patrick asked him if he knew of Bobby Bryant, who’d played for the Vikings for about 15 years after being a great football and baseball star at the University of South Carolina. It turned out that Bobby was one of Steve’s childhood sports heroes—and when Patrick mentioned that Bobby was now a member of our church in Columbia and lived in a nearby neighborhood, Steve could hardly believe it.
Although we knew Bobby and his wife Stephanie fairly well, they weren’t on our party guest list. So I called someone who was a closer friend of theirs and asked if they could arrange for a surprise meeting that evening. Bobby was delighted to be in on the fun, and after the party was well underway, he rang the front doorbell at 159 King George Way. Steve was speechless with delight—and there may have even been an autograph! Southern hospitality once more!