It was my friend, Janet. She and her husband, Ken, my counselor, now ministry partner and board member, had just moved in up the street. We stopped by to see how they were doing and brought a housewarming gift and got the tour. We oohed and ahhed over their love of antiques as we heard treasured stories of where many pieces came from. Ken’s mom’s dining room table and sideboard and mirror. Janet’s mom’s Longaberger baskets. They were the ones who told us about all the fabulous antique stores around town that I had lived here for 30 years and knew nothing about.
“Have you seen this?” she asked as we stood in the middle of their bonus room.
I took the coffee table book from her hands and studied the charming bungalow on the cover. “James T. Farmer, Arriving Home,” it read.
“He is one of my absolute favorites!”
I began to thumb through the pages, and as I did each one held this long-forgotten southern charm that had been swallowed up in the last decade by black and gray and whites and leathers. But this, this was my heart on someone else’s pages. The rich wallpapers. The brick floors. The endless patterns full of color! It was so delicious! Life is lived in vibrant, breathtaking colors of the green of summer and rusts and celadons of fall, and the lilac and fuchsia of spring and even the pansy parade of winter. The world is alive with color and somewhere in the last decade design moved towards perpetual winter. I hate winter!!! I hibernate and go to bed at seven pm. But when spring comes! Oh my goodness, I come alive!
No disrespect for my monochromatic friends. You do you, boo! But sister has learned she was made for the entire paint deck, not just one strip. That is what this book reminded me of. It was just so alive.
Janet snapped me back. “You’ve never heard of him?”
“No, but I love him! I want him to be my new best friend.”
“Me too.” She laughed. “He has another book too.”
My heart raced. “There’s more? I can’t deal.”
I went out the next day to Barnes and Noble. A real live bookstore with real live people where you can touch and hold and feel real live books. It’s so wonderful! And I left with James T. Farmer under my arm and wrapped around my heart. I had no idea we’d become such friends. I never envisioned how familiar I’d become with those pages. But for the next year and a half, those two books would offer me as much inspiration as my white binder.
Pink post-its stuck out from almost every page. Truth be told, if I could have afforded him, I would have hired him. But instead, I did the next best thing. I followed him on Instagram and OD’d on his videos. I even looked up old YouTube videos and watched those. His southern drawl made me trust him even more.
Almost everywhere I went those books went. Jesus. Binder. James. That’s the hierarchy for creating this home. Who knew you could make such good friends with a person you’ve never met? It’s funny. For years, people have emailed me after reading one of my novels and said, “Oh my goodness I feel like I know you!” Now I understand because me and James are buds. And I have a feeling it is going to be a mighty beautiful and productive friendship…