One good thing about living in the northeast corner of Pennsylvania is that I am very close to family. My cousin, Ann, invited me for Easter dinner as I wrote before when explaining the Easter bonnet. Her Easter dinner is on Saturday and not Sunday to accommodate travel and work. I was tasked with two loaves of Italian bread and hors d’oeuvre, not to mention wearing the hat. So Saturday morning I did my hors d’oeuvre, went to the store for bread, and started on my way to Middlebury, Connecticut, about 2 hours due east. Of course I was early — always am (my son-in-law Dave has said to Rachel on many occasions, “Of course she’s early, it’s your mother!”). In my defense, Ann did tell me to come early so we could visit before the rest of her family arrived. And, Aunt Viola and I would have a chance to catch up. She’s an amazing 98 years old and a delight to visit with. I arrived at Ann’s door at about noon and it was oddly quiet. I grabbed all the goodies and put on my hat and knocked on the front door. Moments later, here appeared Ann in her pajamas, robe and slippers, an interesting counterpoint to me in my fancy chapeau. Mercifully no one was there to take a photo, so we waited until Ann had finished her cooking and cleaning chores and preserved our moment for posterity so that her sister, Barbara, would know that I did indeed wear the hat!
In a very short while the house was full of Ann’s family — three daughters, two sons-in-law, three grandchildren — noisy and comfortable. They are a wonderful family and welcomed me as if I had come there for years. The grandchildren were delightful, fun and so personable. Ann served a fabulous Italian dinner mid-afternoon, a table of 12, everyone talking and laughing. It was such a treat for me to see them and meet them that I didn’t even mind modeling the hat for whoever walked in the door. What to do with the hat now? We decided that the hat would be passed down to the next person who would wear it — that was the lovely Amelia, dancer extraordinaire! Amelia is now the caretaker of the hat and next year she will choose the next person to have the hat.
Ann and Aunt Viola sent me on my way with Aunt Viola’s famous cookies and before I knew it I was home, calling Ann to tell her I arrived safely, and feeling very lucky to have had such a wonderful day!
Several things have been going on at the diner lately. Last Friday, I went because I hadn’t been there in a while. Judy and I have gotten into the habit of having a conversation booth-to-booth and occasionally sit together for a bit. I was determined to find a Costco nearby so asked for directions to Route 15 which is just over the Delaware in New Jersey. By the time we finished discussing best ways to get to Costco, Judy and her 81-year-old mother, Sylvia, decided to come along. I was very happy for the company and for the navigator!! It turns out that it couldn’t be easier. Instead of making a right turn to the emergency vet in Newton, keep going straight until Costco magically appears some 45 minutes later. We went through a lovely little town with lots of antique shops and then past a beautiful lake and state park so I learned a lot about the area and where I might take visitors. Obviously I need to get out more.
Sylvia is amazing and doesn’t look or act a bit like 81 years old. If I knew her better I’d ask her secret and maybe at some other point I will. She and Judy are very close so it’s lovely to hear about their working together in Judy’s shop and their plans for projects. Yesterday I went to the diner again, determined to get out of the house. The usual group of counter men were there. One new to me started talking about Apple Valley which, according to my son, has the worst food in the universe. He complained bitterly about his steak, uncooked vegetables, and lack of potatoes. The story went on and on and I wondered why, if it was so awful, did it merit all this talk. I really thought the conversation this morning would be about same-sex marriage or gun control. As I finished my breakfast, Kenny came in and sat with Judy and I got up and stood by the little booth for a while. Kenny said that he thought I’d like to get into some of the political conversations but was reluctant to. “Sure,” I said, “but my views are significantly different from some of the people who come in here!” Kenny indicated that he and I shared some more liberal views and it looks like we can agree to disagree — perfect.
We had an interesting chat about gun control and how people up here feel about the government. I expressed my astonishment that people really thought the government was going to raid their homes or attack Americans. There’s a difference, we agreed, between big government and a tyrannical government that resulted in the second amendment to the Constitution. Guns are a big part of the culture in the Poconos. Hunting is an economic factor in many counties, but there are a lot of people here that firmly and fervently believe that they must protect themselves and their families from a government run amok. Kenny provided me with some insight into the way people think up here, lowered his voice when talking about some things, and I may be less hesitant to join the conversation after this. After months of complaining that there is no one here with whom I can have a meaningful political conversation (unless I Skype with friends from Tallahassee), I am encouraged that there may be like-minded people here after all.
A few weeks ago my cousin Ann sent me an email inviting me to Easter dinner. Since my family celebrated Easter in a very limited fashion — egg hunts for the children, sometimes a ham dinner cooked by grandma — I had no idea what the traditions are on this side of my family. So, I asked a couple of questions of Ann that were half-joking/half serious. My biggest concern was what to wear. Is it expected that I should dress up? Obviously the matching coat, gloves, shoes, and purse of yesteryear wouldn’t be required, but still…. Ann returned my questions with a laugh underlying the email. I gather that it is family only and will be somewhat casual since the Easter dinner is actually on Saturday, not Sunday. I have not seen Ann since last July and Aunt Viola (who just turned 98) will be there and I wouldn’t want to miss a chance to see her either. I thought that was the end of it.
I was surprised and delighted when I went to the mail room this morning to find a very large package waiting for me. The return address was from my cousin Barbara in Little Rock, Ann’s sister. I couldn’t imagine what Barbara was sending. The last time she sent me a package it was family mementoes. But, this was totally unexpected. To my absolute amazement, packed in bubble wrap and tissue paper, was an Easter bonnet that Barbara made for an Easter parade with her grandchildren!! Her note said that I should wear it to Ann’s and now I would feel better about my choice of outfit for the occasion. You can see by the photo that I chose to hang it on the coat rack by the door just next to my insulated jacket, snow gloves, and ice walkers. I guess spring can’t be too far behind now.
What a terrific surprise and how much fun that we cousins share the same sense of humor. Now I just have to get up the nerve to wear it. And, what do you wear to complement such an amazing chapeau?!
When talking with friends, we often bemoan the fact that so much time has passed since we met, since our children were young, since we were young, you fill in the sentence. My friend, Robin, posted recently on the anniversary of the preschool that my children attended and through which I met her. It was the start of a 36 year friendship. I commented on her post that Rachel was 8 months old when we met sitting on the rock wall waiting for the boys. Now here I am having turned my back for just a moment and my baby is having a baby. You can do the math and might say, “She’s hardly a baby,” but she will always be my baby as will her brother, and it’s a little hard to get my head around the concept.
Rachel and I just spent 2 terrific days together working on a couple of projects around the house and shopping for clothes that will fit her new body shape. I freely admit that it was a bit surreal for me. All I wanted was for Rachel to feel good about how she looked and to be comfortable. That accomplished, we discussed things like strollers, car seats, diaper genies, and other items that are must-haves. I’m pretty good at buying stuff and making lists, so I felt somewhat helpful and like I was contributing to the conversation. However, it’s the other part that I’m unsure of. How can I be of the most help while living 2 hours away with a dog? Where can I stay to visit and help out since their apartment is barely big enough for two adults and a baby? What can I do that will be most appreciated? Not rocket science, you say? Easy for you to say. My friends seem to be very good at being grandmothers and somehow know their roles at certain times and know how to best help their children.
Here’s what I’ve done so far: (1) when Rachel visits, she does very little and I make healthy food for snacks, meals, and desserts; (2) I am available by phone, text or email for questions or comments; (3) I am renovating one of the bedrooms to try to get a few more feet of living space (of course this requires that the contractor actually gets back to me!); (4) I dispense advice whether anyone wants it or not; and (5) I have offered to do whatever whenever. Others have started knitting things (I don’t know how to knit), sending family items (I threw out all of Rachel’s books, blankets, etc., after they mildewed in Florida), and sending cards and the occasional gift. I hired a doula but again this only requires purchasing something.
I tell myself that I can only be myself and trying to be something I’m not would be foolish. But, honestly, I only turned around for a moment, maybe I blinked once or twice, and my baby is dealing with becoming a mom!
Yesterday morning I was waved to “my booth” at the diner and greeted by Judy in her usual place. Freddie had coffee on the table before I ever got my jacket off and Nancy had my order in just as quickly. Kenny offered to get up and sit at the counter if I wanted to visit with Judy but we decided to chat later. In the meantime, I noticed four men sitting at the counter. There was quite a bit of banter and Judy turned around to tell me that the Friday morning crowd was different from other days. One of the men, George, was described to me as “a character” and he was. I noticed that he had a cotton ball in one ear and was having trouble hearing his friends. There was a lot of yelling! The phone rang and, after a long conversation, the waitress who answered it called out, “George, it’s for you.” It took a lot of help from his friends for George to realize what she was saying and when he picked up the phone he put it to the ear with the cotton in it even though the waitress was trying to tell him to use the other ear! Naturally,George exclaimed that he couldn’t hear anything and who was on the phone anyway?! It was all ridiculous and at this point everyone was laughing, the waitress took the phone back and talked some more and then motioned for George to go outside and she would tell him what was said. George returned to his seat at the counter giving two thumbs up so whatever was said it was a good thing. Everyone at this point was laughing not at George but at the circumstances. How lovely that George could (1) get a call at the diner, (2) that someone would take the message for him, (3) that the waitress would think to take him outside so when she shouted the message everyone wouldn’t hear it! The owner came over to me, patted me on the shoulder and declared once again that “George is quite a character!”
Before I left there was time to chat with Judy so I brought my coffee to her booth and sat down. It’s always interesting to get the perspective of someone who lives in the town and she has a lot of good information to share with me. Judy was going shopping after breakfast so talked a lot about recipes and seasonal vegetables. Then she said, “You’re Italian, right?” “Yes,” I replied, deciding that providing more information wasn’t necessary. “Why,” I asked? “Then you know what broccoli rabe is.” At that point she told me of a wonderful dinner she made with pasta and broccoli rabe. When I left I started to wonder what the connection was between being Italian and broccoli rabe, not that it’s important at all, but it puzzled me a bit. Funny that I didn’t think anything of it really. Conversations at the diner just kind of are like that. Obviously I’m still thinking about it a day later, but that happens I guess since I’m snowbound again! Glad I got to the diner, had a lot of laughs about George’s hearing, enjoyed talking veggies with Judy, and now am stuck inside again watching huge snowflakes cover everything.
After a quiet weekend, I am reflecting on how much I accomplished. Saturday and Sunday were sunny so I concentrated on moving my aloe plant to follow the sunbeam! Every hour or so I moved the plant until the sun went down.
If you aren’t already laughing, you should be. My intentions were good. Robin gave me this pot with aloe to start my garden this spring, provided instructions — “benign neglect” — and sent me off sure that I could do no harm. This is a test of my skill as a plant nurturer. I’ve never been much good at it. I buy plants, hang them up or put them in a window box, and then let them fend for themselves, usually with disappointing results. Since I am looking for new hobbies and spring projects, gardening seemed to be very zen and surely this will work for me. I explained to my aloe plant this morning that it’s gray outside and we are probably going to get a couple of days of gray rainy weather so there is no sunbeam to follow. Not sure how much of what I said computed, but Robin is very encouraging that I am doing the right thing. My aloe plant comes from a HUGE pot of aloe that sits on Robin’s deck and has flourished for years. I feel the responsibility for keeping it alive very strongly and am a bit concerned that I will be held accountable! When I asked Robin how often I should water it, she asked if I had watered it since I got home from my visit to Tallahassee. “Of course,” I answered. After all it was over a month ago! Robin informed me that I had already watered it too much and to leave it alone, let it get pot bound and not be so attentive.
Since moving the aloe around the kitchen was my primary activity this weekend, other than reading three Patricia Cornwell Kay Scarpetta mysteries, I think I need more to do. With spring around the corner there will be plenty of little projects, but I’m actively pursuing some online work that will provide flexibility and requires a minimum commitment. Kind of like the aloe plant! Approaching the end of my first winter here with the promise of using my driveway soon, I am encouraged that things are falling into place albeit a bit more slowly than I expected. I met with Tim, the contractor, this morning about restructuring one of the bedrooms so you can actually walk around the bed and he assures me that the rain tomorrow will clear my driveway and I can use it. Any snow that we get from here on out will melt very quickly. I trust his opinion because his business depends on snow removal and construction so he would know!
I will continue to do whatever I can to keep my aloe plant alive. I think it might be me who needs the sunbeam so the aloe is becoming symbolic of life in the Poconos. Perhaps I’m overanalyzing this! Definitely need more to keep me active! Any suggestions?
Since I have shared my snow woes all winter I intended to blog yesterday complaining about the big snowfall we experienced this week, but decided that gray and gloomy can only be expressed so many times before it gets as boring as it really is!! (All you English majors out there will have a lot of fun with that sentence!) This morning I awoke to an absolutely spectacular sunrise, clear blue sky, sun reflecting off the icicles, and a terrific view of the mountains in the distance (look very carefully and you’ll see them). What a mood changer!
The aloe plant is following sunlight around the kitchen until it can live outside for a few months. Tallahassee spoiled me for keeping plants alive (which I am not very good at) and I was inspired by Robin’s deck and yard to do some serious gardening this spring. I have planned container gardens, made lists and so far I’ve kept the aloe from Tallahassee alive! My list of spring projects is getting longer by the day and, after meeting with the contractor on Monday (this should be interesting!), I’ll have a plan to put in place. At least I hope so. I can tell you that he will say that these are “small” projects, I can afford them and they won’t take long. But you and I have heard that all before! I wonder if he will say that we have to wait until we can use the driveway. Temperatures are supposed to reach the 50s in the next couple of days, so I am hoping for extensive melting that will encourage him to begin my projects. I have a feeling I’ll be writing about this in June!
My own project list involves a lot of painting. Those of you who know me well are already laughing over the gardening thing and now painting? I am trying to get motivated to do constructive things, get out of the house, and make this place so appealing that friends and relatives will be visiting all spring, summer, and fall!! My two-day-a-week exercise class started last week and I’ve finally found one that has such a diverse group that it doesn’t matter if I keep up or know the moves. It’s quite funny really — two men who do their own thing, one elderly woman (very nice and might be a good resource for gardening) completes all the moves in a limited fashion, several women who clearly work out often, and a few others like me that do our best to keep up and get the most of the hour! The group changes in April apparently when a lot of people return for spring and then in the summer it gets even larger with summer residents joining.
I am more optimistic today than the past couple of weeks and look forward to more sunny days! Even though I’m looking out at a snow-covered yard, I am sure by tomorrow I’ll be complaining that it’s all dirt and no green yet! I am proud to have almost experienced a full winter in the mountains (with the exception of my trip south of course — I wimped out for those couple of weeks!) and suspect that there will be more snow. I’d like to think otherwise!
Since I had not been to the diner in a week or so, I went yesterday for breakfast. It was mostly quiet but everyone was in their “assigned” seats. No one really pays much attention when I walk in anymore — I just take a seat in the area that is waited on by Nancy and watch the action from there. Nancy always has something to talk about that is interesting. There is a steady stream of locals who say good morning and many of them sit down with Judy at the first one or two-person booth. I am not the only one who is ready for spring and the talk was about the weather and impending snow. More talk among retail shop owners about the lack of shoppers and so I ate the usual and left soon after. As I was leaving, Judy asked if I’d be in this morning (Tuesday) so I said, “Of course.”
On the way to the diner I decided that, instead of my obsession with weather.com, I’d ask the regulars what they thought the weather was going to be like for the next few days. I am totally convinced that the information gathered at the diner is accurate and well researched; research includes many years of living in this area. When I entered, Judy invited me to sit with her — the first time I’ve been asked. Delighted to have company I sat down and ordered breakfast. We talked about many things and as we did, people walked by that usually sat down with Judy so I felt a bit of an interloper. I learned a lot about how the diner works and about Milford. First of all, rarely does a cell phone ring. Mine did on Monday and everyone looked around with several people asking, “Whose phone?” When I confessed it was mine, there was laughter (I’m not sure why) and I knew to cut the conversation as short as possible.
This morning, the men who walked by the booth saw me sitting there and moved on to the counter. All very friendly and lots of smiles but still, I felt a bit odd. We sat for about 45 minutes during which I learned that the public library is moving to a new building and might be hiring part-time workers (sounds appealing) and that might be a good fit; that Rite-Aid is a good place to go for part-time work because the people are very nice; and that retail business in Milford is not what it used to be. Apparently restaurants are doing quite well but the people who are coming to eat are not continuing on to Broad Street shops to browse and buy. It’s a commentary of what has gone on in the country I think. People are not willing to spend like they used to. Judy informed me that 2002-2005 was good for business and I suspect we can find parallels in plenty of towns like Milford that are dependent on tourists. There are regulars, apparently, but that business has dropped off as well. I didn’t need anyone to tell me that. The difference in Milford between 2008 when Adrian and I first came here and now is obvious. Some businesses have closed, some have relocated to smaller spaces, and some just carry on. Upriver Home depends on web-based sales and I think the used bookstore does some online business as well. The diner seems to have weathered the situation well and is always busy when I get there at around 8:30 AM.
I finally got around to asking about the weather and the consensus is that Milford will get between 1 and 3 inches of snow and I will probably get more. When I left Judy said — “well, we won’t see you for a couple of days.” I got up to leave, my seat was quickly filled, and everything was as it should be!
About 10 years ago, I was shopping in Weaverville and came across a pottery blue bird that was meant to go on a fencepost. Since we had just had a new fence put in because Jake, our labradoodle, tried to kill a neighborhood cat, I bought it. It sat on the gate post until last May 28th. I took the bird and happily installed it on the corner of the deck in my new home, happy to have it with me with all of its memories of the backyard in Tallahassee. Every time I looked out the door or window it made me happy to see the cheerful little bird in its new home, chipped beak and all. I mentioned this to Lynda who was with me when I bought it and she said that it really shouldn’t be left out during the winter, that it wouldn’t be able to handle the extremes of snow, ice, melting, more snow, ice, and cold. “But..it’s doing very well,” I said. She shrugged and looked at me as if I wasn’t very bright. Well…she was right. No sooner did she say it that, when I checked on the bird upon returning to Lords Valley after 2 weeks away, its wings fell off!!
In the spirit of full disclosure I send Lynda an email declaring that she was absolutely right. Not easy for me to admit of course but she was and she indicated to me that the birds were no longer for sale. It made me sad to throw out the little bird, so I put it in a drawer with the intention of gluing back the wings and living with it on the porch. Its chips and cracks would just add character, I thought, and into the drawer it went. It’s funny how we tend to give inanimate objects human qualities and I imagined the blue bird having memories of all the crazy things that happened while it was sitting on the fence in Tallahassee — the parties, the comings and goings, selling the house, new dogs, changes in the neighborhood — and then the big move to Pennsylvania. The blue bird must have wondered where it was and why it was suddenly in freezing temperatures and covered with snow (despite my efforts to keep its beak above snow line!).
Last Saturday I was surprised to receive a package from Lynda and upon opening it found a yellow bird just like the blue one. It came with a lovely note that talked about making new memories in a new home and I was very excited to have the bird. I noticed, however, that it had a small chip on its beak. From this I deduced that Lynda gave me her happy bird because the potter is not making them anymore. So, the gift is even more precious and more special. I will not only treasure the yellow bird, but I will make sure to find a place for it on the porch where it is not exposed to the weather.
So you don’t think I just abandoned my little blue friend, I bought Krazy Glue and he is recovering nicely on the kitchen counter. I now have a reminder of Tallahassee as well as a reminder of how lucky I am to have a friend that recognized the importance of these little birds.
The trouble with vacations is coming back!! After over a month of visiting, great conversation, fun shopping, coffee shops, and company, I am on my own again. After visiting Weaverville and then Tallahassee, I came back to having a guest for the better part of two weeks. Then Rachel and Mason came for a few days and ended up staying for the whole week. What a treat for me and Sydney! Everything we did was fun — cooking together, shopping, going to lunch in Milford, hunkering down by the fire. I always have a day or two of feeling let down after my kids leave. Somehow, my leaving them when I go into the city is not difficult at all, but when they leave here…well, that’s a different story.
A couple of things resulted from the last five weeks. First, I have realized that I do not have to wait and visit my friends only once a year. Second, somehow I need to make coming to Lords Valley more appealing so people will visit me! Third, I need to reassess whether I want to find something productive to do on a regular basis. And, last, I need to look at all of these things after it stops snowing! Perhaps this is nothing more than the predicted, much talked about cabin fever! But, I ask myself, how can it be cabin fever when I just got back? Easy!! It is still snowing! I have discovered that the weather in Lords Valley is much different from weather at lower elevations. Not rocket science you say? Of course it makes sense, but what I did not realize was that I can drive five minutes from here and see no snow! Sometimes it’s snowing on my street and not elsewhere in the area! It’s like the showers in Tallahassee in the summer. On the other hand, the snow provides me with an excuse to stay in, light a fire, pour a cup of coffee (or glass of wine depending on the time of day), and read a book.
I think part of my feeling let down is that yesterday when I went to the mail room someone said to me, “Well…Women’s Club must be over. Look at all the women here. Did you just come from bingo?” I was horrified to say the least. Do I look like someone who just came from bingo? Apparently I do. Or, is it assumed because I am a woman and it was a certain time of day? Whatever…it led to serious thoughts about getting a job, online or otherwise. Being alone requires a lot of thinking even though you might think it’s just the other way around. I think I’d best revisit these thoughts another time. For now I’ll think about adopting a Mediterranean diet as recommended in an article in this week’s NY Times, may cook something healthy like lentils, and will try to stop obsessing over the weather. If anyone wants to come visit, my guest rooms are ready and the driveway is clear. But…it is still snowing and I think we’ve got another month of winter!