My husband John and I are lucky enough to be able to head up to the cooler North Carolina mountains a couple times a year — it’s quiet, cool and we go to visit John’s parents (my Papa Lynn and Momma Ann).

Ann and Lynn have been going up to Woodfin Creek, N.C., between Waynesville and Sylva, for almost 60 years, riding through the mountains on horseback to find their perfect lot and building their first home up there with child labor: John and his brother Lynn, during the summers they would spend up there. The boys would bathe in the freezing creek and bring buckets of water to the cabin to heat up on the stove for Mom’s bath. It was very rustic. I am happy to report indoor plumbing is now available!

Why am I teasing you all with thoughts of cool mountain air when it’s 95 degrees here at home? Well, we returned a couple weeks ago from a trip to see Mom and Dad. As always, when word gets around that we are headed north to see Ann and Lynn, the phone calls, texts and emails start: “Can we come?”… “Dad got any projects he needs help with?”

Those who love to come and visit all have their different reasons for adopting this wise, kind and loving couple.

Between our “Gate House,” Mom and Dad’s house and the always generous and welcoming friends with homes on the mountain who are willing to let us borrow them, we can accommodate around 20. And that is usually how many end up “stopping by” or offering to come “help” with whatever is going on up on Woodfin Mountain.

Papa Lynn hit the 85-year mark last year and could probably outlast every one of us in a stamina or strength test. But it’s a great excuse!

You see, Ann and Lynn (aka Mom and Dad) have become surrogate parents to so many of our friends. In fact, when my Momma and Papa passed away six years ago, I announced to John’s parents that whether they wanted me or not, they had gained a daughter. They did not put up too much of a fuss, thank goodness, and so from that day on they became Papa Lynn and Momma Ann. Apparently I started a trend!

Those who love to come and visit all have their different reasons for adopting this wise, kind and loving couple. Some have lost their parents, some are just not close or live too far away. For whatever reason, Papa Lynn and Momma Ann are always welcoming. Each has special name — some repeatable, others not! Everyone comes bearing food, liquor, books, gifts and the love of spending quality time sitting on the deck watching the clouds go by and hearing stories, advice and a lot of laughs.

We all take turns cooking lunches and dinners, but NO ONE gets to do breakfast but Papa Lynn. No sleeping in, either, and expecting it to be ready at 10 a.m. He may wait until 8 just to humor us, but the country ham, fresh blueberry pancakes and Mom’s homemade peach pound cake are worth getting up for, I assure you!

We all love learning Mom’s family recipes: red eye gravy, Fresh Tomato Pie (see recipe below!), fresh peach cobbler with bourbon — why does everything just taste better when it’s cooked by Mom?

What comes out of these wonderful, laughter- and love-filled times up on Woodfin Mountain is the sense of family.

With Papa Lynn, we head out on the ATVs exploring the mountain that John and Lynn grew up on. He points out vacant lots that have a possibility of a great view, in the hopes that one of “the kids” will think about joining our family up there, perhaps? The boys will “help” with a few projects and then start fighting over who gets to start the fire in the fire pit — who knew there were so many difference ways to lay the wood, let the air in and … seriously? It’s a fire!

What comes out of these wonderful, laughter- and love-filled times up on Woodfin Mountain is the sense of family. The Horne clan is a rather large group to begin with, but with Momma Ann and Papa Lynn, there is always room for more. I think there is a great lesson to learned: that there is always room in our lives and our hearts for more love, friendship, sharing and caring. When we grow up, we hope that we will be loved and cared for like Momma Ann and Papa Lynn!

Amanda Horne, community relations coordinator for the Women’s Resource Center of Manatee, can be reached at

Momma Ann’s Fresh Tomato Pie

1 (9-inch) deep dish proven pie crust (cooked per package directions)

6 large ripe tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup shredded mozzarella

1 cup shredded cheddar

1 cup mayonnaise

1 bunch of green onions

1/2 cup sliced basil … or more if you like

Garnish with fresh basil

Peel tomatoes and slice into 1/4-inch slices. Place tomatoes in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Set aside to drain for at least an hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl combine cheese and mayonnaise. Place drained tomatoes in baked pie crust. Sprinkle between layers the sliced green onions and basil. Spread mayonnaise mixture over the top, place in a baking sheet (to catch drips) and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until top is lightly brown. Garnish with basil leaves and serve either hot or cold. Deliciousness!