On David’s birthday I awaken with a mild cold. Also disappointing, there’s no dead mouse in the mousetrap on the counter of my bathroom. I’ve set a trap for three nights straight and somehow the mouse nabs the bait without triggering the spring. And then he taunts me by leaving his tiny turds next to the place where I brush my teeth. My present to David is a piece of coconut cream pie from The Bluebonnet Café.
About having a cold: I got it at Mahjong. For some reason my fellow Mahjongers don’t clean their tiles. Teresa and I are the only ones who do. In close quarters around the table, women stuff food into their mouths and lick their fingers. Then they touch the tiles. Or they release a wet sneeze into their hands, apologize for it, and then touch the tiles. I’m going to start carrying hand sterilizer, which I should have done years ago. Any thoughts as to how I can tactfully change the way these women do things?
Today’s not just David’s birthday; it’s the annual HOA meeting. This event takes place outdoors, in the pavilion at Capstone Ranch’s private park. It’s been lovely and warm this week, but today it’s chilly, not even sixty degrees, with a stiff wind pushing at us from the north. After only a few minutes, we are all freezing with our teeth-chattering, unable to think of anything except our warm homes on the other side of County Road 401.
We’re called to order by Bryan Teeple, the owner/developer of Capstone. To my amusement, this meeting proceeds along the same lines as the last two. One of our neighbors brings up the rumor that an apartment complex is going in on the other side of the creek, and how intrusive this’ll be so near our little cul-de-sac; and pretty soon everybody’s grumbling fearfully about something that probably won’t ever happen. Then someone else brings up the matter of the deed restrictions and the fact that there are no punitive measures in place for people who break the rules; never mind that at this time all restrictions are being adhered to.
“Is it fair that I follow the rules and someone else doesn’t?” a man asks.
“There are supposed to be fines,” another person reminds Bryan. “But you don’t enforce them.”
“Why do we have restrictions if it doesn’t matter if they’re followed or not?”
Bryan reminds us of God’s grace and how we should show others the same tolerance God shows us. This doesn’t have the palliative effect he desires, but seems to further incite the few people who’ve raised the issue; though, and I’ll say it again, there are no current infractions. I’m with Bryan on the tolerance issue; sometimes people need a little extra time to get things done. Though I think it was a mistake to bring God into it. This is an HOA meeting, not a church.
A new topic has been introduced. It seems that at our last meeting the yearly dues were raised by a hundred dollars in order to pay for repaving, with the promise that the dues would go back down this year. But Bryan proposes that we keep the dues at the higher rate. He doesn’t meet our eyes as he makes the suggestion; and when asked why he wants to keep them elevated, he rambles about how something bad might happen and we might need money quickly.
“He’s come with an agenda,” I whisper to David.
David nods in agreement.
“Can you give us an example of why we would need this quick money?” This from a woman sitting toward the front. It’s a relevant question. All possible needs are covered in the budget.
Bryan tries to think of an answer, but can produce nothing satisfactory.
“I, for one, would prefer to have my hundred dollars,” a man across the pavilion says.
We all agree that we want to stick to the original plan, sending Bryan into panicked incoherence as he scrambles to find himself more votes. He counts the proxies that have been given to him by people who could not attend. And he counts the number of lots his company owns; but many lots have sold recently, which has taken his power away. No longer in the majority, he cannot override.
Next he shares a weird metaphor about how easy it is to break one toothpick (demonstrates by breaking) and how hard it is to break many toothpicks (demonstrates by not being able to break).
Meanwhile, confused eyes meet. It’s beginning to look like Bryan’s going to keep us here until he gets his way. For a property developer, a hundred dollars is a puny amount, so why does this matter? Then he attempts to explain the toothpick metaphor.
“What I’m saying is, if we stick together as a community, we’re stronger than if we try to go it alone.”
“Then you got what you wanted,” David says, losing patience in his frozen state. “We’re strong, we’re united, and we want don’t want to pay that extra hundred dollars.” He doesn’t say what we’re all thinking—that Bryan is the lone toothpick.
At this point the meeting has dragged on for almost two hours. My cold that was no more than a sore throat this morning has, in the cold wind, become a nasty entity, making my sinuses and eyes swell, filling the back of my throat with clumpy foul-tasting mucus.
Saying our good-byes, we are the first to leave. We stop by the house to exchange our inadequate jackets for heavy coats, and head to a country wedding at our friends’ Ranchita.
Getting married are Tom and Gitta (Pronounced Geeta, hard g). Involved in Habitat for Humanity, regular patrons of the local microbrewery, the Double Horn, and having been involved in fun runs and community events for years, this couple is well known and well liked in Marble Falls. Several hundred people have shown up on their hilltop to celebrate.
This, too, is an outdoor venue, windy and cold, which does not bode well for my health.
Slated to start at two, the wedding is pushed back to three. The alcohol is flowing, so no one minds the delay. And this isn’t the kind of event where people are shy or standoffish. Everybody’s happy to see everybody, even people they don’t know. Various societal groups are represented—teens, gays, artists and musicians, businessmen—but the largest population is made up of old hippies, gray men with ponytails and hairy faces, and their brass-haired wives in colorful polyester.
When Tom and Gitte center themselves beneath the arch, everyone bumps and pushes to get close enough to hear. At the back of the crowd people clamber on to the picnic tables. Phones are aimed. It is a lovely ceremony, presided over by one of their friends. After they both say “I do”, everybody cheers. Tom and Gitte are giddy. This is a day they’ve been looking forward to for a long time. The onlookers slowly disperse as we all make our way to the side porch of the barn, where barbeque has been dished up in massive amounts. David and I eat, hang around, have wedding cake, talk and mill for a couple of more hours. Around five, I admit to David that I’m wiped out.
We say our good-byes and I realize, as I hug Gitte and tell her how much we enjoyed ourselves and how happy we are for them, that here I am, hugging this woman, this friend, who was probably healthy until I came along. I’ve done the same thing to her that I was griping about my Mahjong friends doing.
I’m sorry! Forgive me, Gitte! I got caught up in the moment.
By the time we get home I’ve got chills and I’m completely stopped up. My ears, too, are plugged with mucus. And I want to cry out every time I swallow. Sudafed keeps me awake, so my choice is between breathing and sleeping. I choose to breath, and it’s the worst night I’ve had in years.