Timberwolf Creek Blog

My friend, my neighbor, my bride: Sarah

Tony and Sarah, on their wedding day

Tony and Sarah, on their wedding day

Sarah Mottola was my friend, my neighbor, my bride.  Not in that order, and not with those limitations.  When I first met her, she was Sarah Todd, a guest arriving from South Carolina, with her beau, Tony Mottola.  She and Tony were guests at the B&B many times, and early on, we said, “Y’all are so much fun!  You should go up the mountain and buy that piece of property, and build a log cabin, and Sarah you should come help run the inn.”  And so they did.

Of course, nothing happens instantly like that, but they did buy the property right away and then it took two years to build the cabin.  It’s a dream come true, you know, to hand-pick your neighbors like that.  But I’m getting ahead of the story.

It was about their sixth visit, when they got engaged, right here at Timberwolf Creek.  Actually, that’s when I got my heretofore unheard of 100 rating from the Health Department.  Now, you might wonder how the two are related…  It seems that the local department’s fiscal year ends on June 30th.  And, they are required to perform a surprise inspection annually.  Most of the time, they arrive, breathless, about the middle of June.  They’re trying to squeeze in all those surprise inspections right at the last minute.  As it develops, we were having a particularly popular season, so when Norma arrived to surprise me, I had a surprise of my own.  “We’re full every day until the 8th of July.”  Now, if a room is occupied, we don’t allow access, nor does the department ask it.  Additionally, a room has to be completely cleaned and prepared for guests before it can be inspected.  A dilemma!  Norma said, “But you know our year ends at the end of the month!”  I feel that I showed great restraint when I didn’t say, “And so did you.”  Instead, I told her that we had guests coming the following week who had been here several times, and had developed into friends.  I was sure that I could ask Tony and Sarah if their room could be inspected during their stay.  Norma was vastly relieved, and promised to ‘surprise’ me the following week while our friends were in residence.

She arrived, right on time.  Tony & Sarah were out for the afternoon.  Norma inspected the kitchen, etc., and sat down at the table to fill out paperwork.  As we were talking, I could see from my vantage point that our guests were returning, but they must have heard voices in the dining room and just went right to their suite.  After a while, Norma said, “Oh, look at the time!  I’d better get that room inspected!”  We walked down the hall and I knocked on the door.  After a minute, I knocked again – I knew they were in there – and suddenly the door opened, and there was Sarah (fully dressed, hair and makeup perfect) looking flustered, panting like crazy, and smoothing her clothes.  Tony was laying in the bed, ever his suave macho self,  propped up on the pillows, feet crossed at the end of the bed, smoothing his hair back, looking oh-so-smug.  I might note that he, too, was fully clothed, right to his shoes.  It was clearly a joke, but it was completely hilarious because Norma was horrified!  Now, the health department simply does not give 100s.  This was explained to me my first year, and it drove me crazy that I complied with every guideline and they pulled stuff outa the air to penalize me back to a 99. Apparently, this year Norma had decided the penalty would be in the suite, because she’d already marked everything perfect in her earlier inspection of the kitchen and common areas.  She shielded her eyes, said, “Yup, that’s a bedroom, that’s a bathroom,” marked everything 100 and practically ran out the front door!  And that’s how I got the first 100!  (We still have it, by the way.)

When Sarah called to make her reservation to get married here, she said, “Can Norma be the witness?  She thinks she witnessed everything else… “  I persuaded her to leave poor Norma alone.  But oh we laughed about that, for years.

And laughing was what Sarah did best.  So many times, we have laughed until we can’t breathe.  We’ve laughed until we can’t stand up and the only reason we didn’t fall to the ground is that we were holding each other up.  I can’t bear that we won’t do that again.  I’m dumfounded that it isn’t possible.  And yet, it’s so easy to relive those moments like it was yesterday.

Like the time I found Sarah peeling a cantaloupe (that’s right, peeling it) and I teased her relentlessly, until she threatened me with the paring knife.  Like the time we went to Disney World and identified all the bears at the County Bear Jamboree as people we knew.  Like when, on the same trip, we spotted Shaq in “It’s a Small World”. Like the time we invented a cocktail and I said, “What should we name it?” and Sarah replied, “Where’s Larry.  Because every time I walk in your house and ask where’s Larry, I want you to hand me one of these.”  And like the time we went to lunch with Karen and Betty…  Both Sarah and Betty are North Looziana girls.  That is to say, they scolded us harshly for putting too many “ee” sounds in Louisiana.  Karen and I still refer to that as The Sarah & Betty Show.  We laughed until we cried.  We laughed until our sides hurt.  We laughed so hard and so much that people stared, and when we left we were still laughing.  We’d been in the Biltmore Village in Asheville, which has dozens of little shops and galleries and restaurants, and when we’d encounter folks who’d seen us in the restaurant, they pointed us out on the street.  And that made us laugh even more.

Sarah taught school for more than twenty years.  I was trying to figure out how many kids that would be, who passed through her language arts classes, semester after semester.  Even if 99% of those kids have forgotten her, that would still mean there are dozens who remark today, “Mrs. Mottola taught me that,” or, “I learned that in Ms Todd’s class.”  That’s quite a legacy.  And while I hate it that she’s gone, I’m so very glad that she was here, and that I knew her, and loved her, and that she was my friend.

Sarah taught me to make a low country boil.

Sarah made me laugh.

2 Comments

  1. Lynne
    Posted July 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Each of us can only hope that when we’re gone that we’ve left such a considerable impression on people so as to deserve such a wonderful tribute as this.

  2. Stuart
    Posted July 12, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    From her brother Stu.

    Thank you for this, and helping me smile, and helping me cry, and helping me heal.

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