I don’t know how I knew, I just remember that I knew.
Maybe it was that special bond that grows between a great-grandmother and a great-granddaughter. Maybe it was because I carried her name. Or, maybe it was because she had called us to give us a head’s up that she was coming out.
Either way, I knew that when I heard the crunch of tires on the gravel drive and saw that split-pea-soup-green Chevy Nova coming down the farm road, it was going to be a good day.
When we were old enough, Barry and I were allowed to run down our gravel drive to the farm road to meet her car.
She was old. She was magic. She never failed to have a stick of gum wrapped in silver foil. She had a cool car. And, best of all, she was ours.
My Grandfather called her Lady Eve. The grands and the great-grands called her Ebie and we all believed she was the bee’s knees, even though we weren’t quite sure what that meant.
I knew both my great-grandmothers during my childhood and into my young adulthood. One was born in 1900, the other in 1901. They both lived in the big city -- Lexington -- they both were widows, they both held fast to scripture and modesty and the simple beauty of being women of worth for the Lord.
I don’t know if it was with reluctance or relief, but Momma somehow released me from the house and I took off like a shot, past the pond and the overflow, past the horses, and through the cattle guard gate to my Grandmother’s house.
Grandmother had put on the coffee, set out the fancy cookies that came in little paper cups, and the women were already talking away in the White Room. It was one of the most impractical rooms you can imagine on a farm filled with horses and cattle and corn and tobacco and hay, but it was a room destined for elegance.
Ebie and Grandmother sat in matching tall-backed blue chairs, an elaborate round table between them that had a hand-carved Asian statuette and a French cloisonné egg in a little wooden stand. I pulled up the red velvet stool and believed like crazy that, just by association, I was a lady, too.
Then the coffee was ready and Grandmother served us. Dark, rich coffee in fragile cups with matching saucers. I was way too young for coffee, of course, as everyone said it would stunt my growth, so Grandmother set aside a small lady glass of milk with an ice cube in it. I took my fancy cookies after Ebie and Grandmother had theirs and I watched their lips as they pursed and blew and then took demure, silent sips of coffee.
Later on, as Ebie’s visits became more infrequent, as my stature deemed me a fit height to finally drink coffee, I began to notice a few things. Like, how when Ebie accepted her cup and saucer of coffee, her cup rattled a bit against the saucer until she lifted it completely free from the delicate porcelain. And then, later still, how she could no longer drive herself and Aunt Jane began to bring her. And, how Ebie’s hair seemed to develop a life of its own and didn’t retain that fresh-from-the-salon crisp curl it always had.
And then, somewhere in my tumultuous years of high school and college, she stopped coming altogether. We went to her house, but my Ebie was sunk down in an armchair, covered up with an afghan, in house slippers and without a smidge of makeup on at all.
I mourned for those coming-to-your-farm-today kind of days.
I mourned for those feeling-like-a-lady kind of days.
I mourned it for a full two decades … until I got the courage to walk into the tall gray building across from the YMCA on Main Street in Paris.
You see, I had read the articles in the paper concerning the grand opening of this place. I had even peeked into the window and saw the delicate china cups in their saucers. Who was I to just waltz in?
Why … I was a lady. And if the mistresses of this strange gray house were also ladies, they would be gracious and accepting and hand me a small, red velvet stool upon which to rest and feel like I was worth something.
And, indeed, they were.
Inside the mysterious gray building, I was greeted by Gudrun Allen and Jenny Tijou, fast friends who are mistresses of the house called PLEASANTON Goods. In one large, bright room, an array of goods were all laid out. In another room, chairs and tables beckoned the passersby with the promise of good treats. In another room, teas and coffees tickled the olfactory senses and scones and biscotti waited patiently under their glass domes.
I learned the business started in a very clean way. Jenny and her husband, Dominique, manufactured handmade soap. They eventually opened up a shop further down on Main Street in an upstairs apartment. As the business grew, so did the need for more space, and a downstairs shop became available. This is where she met Gudrun. Jenny continued with and expanded her line of homemade products, Gudrun applied her culinary gifts to the mix, and last year, they purchased the building across from the YMCA and went to work with the restorations.
After their grand opening, visitors to the shop found that there was something a little different about the products and the people and the very air inside the place.
“We make a point of explaining to clients that part of our mission is for the consumer to know where their money is going when they buy something from PLEASANTON Goods. We live in the community, our kids go to school here, we own the building, we belong to the YMCA,” Jenny says. “We use Kentucky products such as the Weisenburger flour, Café Marco coffee and Peg’s Pantry Jam. And, we only sell retail from Greater Good companies, like Global Girlfriend so we know where, how and who made it.”
The duo believes very strongly in voting with the dollar and giving back to their community. It’s a way of saying thank you for the privilege of being born here, in the affluence of this United States of America.
“I feel it is our moral responsibility to be conscious of how we use wealth. We all can change the world, one act of goodness at a time,” Jenny says. “We all have our talents each and every one of us has something special and unique to offer. Just as important as realizing that fact, however, is realizing that you can’t be good at everything. Use your specific gift and let others use theirs. Relying on our community members not only takes a load from your shoulders, but it also gives someone else the space to shine.”
On that very first day, they didn’t settle for giving me a red velvet cushion to sit upon. Jenny and Gudrun pulled out a tall-backed blue chair for my weary heart. I nibbled on homemade biscotti and a cranberry scone -- and they were better than all those fancy cookies in little paper cups.
I felt at home, all grown up and tall enough to drink the coffee. And I was safe, in my hometown, among friends.
When I left that tall gray building, it was no longer shrouded in mystery. I no longer pressed my nose up against the glass, longing for a stool in the presence of greatness.
I had found just what was missing. I had found a very pleasant good.
For more information about PLEASANTON Goods, please visit them at https://www.facebook.com/PleasantonGoods/?fref=ts&ref=br_tf