Archive for the ‘Grown Children’ Category

Resolutions? Resolute.

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

We are well into the New Year now.

I guess it’s just the regular year after January, isn’t it?

Did you make some New Year’s Resolutions? What were they, do you remember? To eat better? Exercise more? Lose weight? How are you doing with that?

And me? Yes, I made some resolutions. Sort of life changing. To get back to work. Full time. For pay. Outside the home.

How and why?

I applied to an innovative new program called reacHIRE, which is “creating a new path for exceptional women who have taken a career break to transition back to work.” Yes, of course I’d like to think I am exceptional….

I applied to reacHIRE in December, was interviewed, and accepted into just the second ‘cohort’. I joined twelve wonderful, able, ambitious and committed women, my classmates, all determined to get back to work, and back to something approximating the professional careers they had enjoyed. We started our classes in the freezing cold of January, on our three phase journey back to professional presence.

“reacHIRE offers a systematic approach for professional women to re-enter the workforce. Its unique 3-tiered system of technical, management and executive skills re-training, career coaching, and paid project assignments assures that women have the latest tools at their fingertips, have focused career objectives, and are confidently able to re-enter the workforce armed and motivated to create tremendous value.”

We worked on our elevator pitches, our resumes and our LinkedIn profiles. We visited Microsoft for a refresher course on Office, with special attention to new features of spreadsheets, and pivot tables. (Me neither.) Behavioral interviewing preparation and techniques. Emotional intelligence. To Google for search engine optimization, Google Analytics, Google Drive, and the future as Google sees it, through Google glasses and driverless cars. Internet marketing, CRM, and project management – Agile, anyone? Presentation skills, and our own PowerPoint presentations.

We stressed. We grew. We rediscovered ourselves.

Following ‘graduation’ I was contacted about an interview for a six-month paid placement at a major corporation… and off I went, with my professional toolkit newly refreshed and resharpened. Two days of interviews, follow ups on the phone, and there I was, going back to work.

Here.

It’s been two weeks now, me back at work, with a new boss, a new team, and new projects.

A new old me.

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It’s Always Something….

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

After Christmas… but still the holidays.

I am waiting to take down (okay, procrastinating about) the Christmas tree. My least favorite day of the year. And anyway, it’s too soon to take down the tree, especially if you aren’t going anywhere else on vacation over New Year’s.  It’s just awkward that this year the weekend falls between Christmas and New Year’s Eve… Gives you too much time to think, and enough time in your own home to come down with a touch of cabin fever.

It is still the holidays, did I say that? Because there is New Year’s Eve to celebrate, with all its special activities. First Night Boston, with its wild and wacky Parade, for instance. And we’ve got an adult party to attend on New Year’s Eve. But for all that, by this time of the year, four days after the peak of Christmas fever, you’re walking a fine line between holiday fatigue and protracted enjoyment.

So you clear away the Christmas clutter that can be cleared without wrecking the remainder of the holiday. Because what if the kids decide to come for dinner again? They will be disappointed that you’ve swept away all of the magic prematurely. They may not be tired of all the decorations yet.

The wrapping paper is long gone, and the cardboard, and the ribbon and tags. Presents have been removed from the living room, off  to people’s rooms, or to your grown children’s apartments elsewhere. The refrigerator is still full of assorted leftovers. Prime rib, roast onions, Christmas Pudding, a smidgen of Rigatoni al Forno…. Not yet time to start the cleansing regimens of the New Year? (You’re just going to eat fruit and salad, right?) Again, what if your grown children decide to stop by over the next several days… They love leftovers.

As you tidy what you are allowed to tidy, you find something you forgot.

Christmas crackers for the Christmas table. Drat.

But wait… That’s not the pattern you chose for this year’s Christmas table, is it?

No, it’s not.

Looks like you forgot the Christmas crackers this year – and last.

Arrrgh.

It’s always something, isn’t it?

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Christmas Eve Is the Longest Day….

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

We’ve finished making the rum punch. And the cheese straws.

Oh my, the smell of that first cut lime was indescribable. Wish I could add a scratch and sniff, right *here*.

As The Girl said, we were aiming for the Christmas trifecta of heavenly smells: pine from the Christmas tree, baking cheese straws, and citrus.

Perfect.

The Girl has just finished her Christmas wrapping. I think My Husband has too.

The Boy will come over later this afternoon to wrap. Well, he couldn’t wrap his gifts any earlier, since the UPS man has just delivered them. The Boy is an Amazon Prime member: his packages were guaranteed two-day delivery, even on Christmas Eve. Why shop any earlier? His presents will be really fresh this way.

I set the wrapping table up in our bedroom some time ago, and it will stay there for now… (Yes, my gifts have been wrapped for days now.)

The Eldest? He’ll be on a train home later this afternoon. He may well be wrapping presents on Christmas morning. It’s happened before. I gave him a button in his stocking one year for Christmas. It read “If it weren’t for the last second, nothing would ever get done.”

My sister reminds me that Colin Powell was famously making corrections to a presentation moments before he walked his daughter down the aisle. How does she know things like that?

No matter. The Eldest likes to give his gifts out last anyway.

The Girl has carried her wrapped packages into the living room, ready to set them out under the tree.

This brings The Dog into the living room too. He loves Christmas. He loves opening presents. Just a little bit longer now.

Just a little bit longer. Ah yes. The Eldest, The Girl, and The Boy will all be here tonight.

Oh, the anticipation.

For The Dog and me, all our preparations made, Christmas Eve can be the longest day….

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Christmas Rush

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

Costco US homepage

I found myself at Costco this morning, as you do around the holidays, stocking up on the things I felt we needed for the weekend’s planned Christmas activities: making the family’s famous rum punch, and baking cheese straws.

I was there at opening time, hoping to get a jump on the crowds on this my second to last, I hope, shopping excursion before Christmas.  So I entered the cavernous hall clutching my shopping list, which included Cheddar cheese (for the cheese straws), oranges, lemons, limes (for the rum punch), Bacardi White Rum (ditto), and just a few more items. I was prepared to make a swift trip of it.

Not so fast, girly.

What is it about these super stores? It’s like entering the Twilight Zone. You have your list, and your best intentions, but reality changes as soon as you enter. You show your Costco card to the attendant at the door (yes, you have to be a member to enjoy these privileges) and process into the wide avenues of shopping-dom. The space is huge, the ceiling is twenty or more feet above your head. You are dwarfed, everything in the universe is dwarfed. Suddenly a four gallon detergent-sized jug of olive oil, or a two foot high box of cereal, looks like it will fit in your kitchen cupboard. Fool.

Great American Consumer Stuff everywhere you look, and your shopping cart is so, so big…. A wide screen TV? There are aisles of them. And what’s the price on the Kitchen Aid mixer? Wow. Maybe you need one in a new color.

On your way to the cheeses you get into a panic. Should you buy your standing rib right now, instead of waiting for your next (and last) shopping trip before Christmas? What if they sell them all?

Relax. They are not going to sell them all. They’ll make more.

If they do sell out, there’s always the beef filet…

You do in fact find the citrus fruit mountain. When did we learn to shop for fruits warehouse style?

You can’t pass up the raspberries, great price…. You’ll get to them just as soon as you’ve sampled the European smoked salmon the lady is setting out in paper cups on a tray at the end of the aisle. Hmmm, yes, maybe add some European smoked salmon to the shopping cart. Where were you? Oh, raspberries.

Another sample is being offered by the Vitamix demo man.

You already have a Vitamix, since you saw it being demonstrated here last Christmas (and you do use it, yes, the margaritas and the sorbet are amazing), but that doesn’t mean you have to pass up the free paper cup sample of spinach-orange-pineapple-lime juice. Yum, good. You might have to try that combo at home.

More anxiety on the way to the dairy products. Maybe you are starting to hallucinate.

Could you use some Duraflame logs? Would that be fun at Christmas?

Does The Dog need a new bed?

They are offering samples of mozzarella sticks in the next aisle. They’re great.  You should have had breakfast. Everyone loves mozzarella sticks. Would they be fun at Christmas?

Luckily you still have the wit to ask how many mozzarella sticks come in a box (like that box would ever fit in your freezer!). Two packs, of forty-four each. Eight-eight mozzarella sticks? I don’t think so.

You make it safely past the wall of Lindor chocolates. They are blurring before your eyes.

Through the staples aisle.

No, seriously, you are not going to do that much baking. You’ve got to get out of here; you’re suffering delusions of grandeur.

You take stock, and realize there appear to be several hardback books in your cart, along with the citrus, and the cheddar, oh, and the raspberries, and, um, the European smoked salmon.

And anyway, the aisles are starting to fill up with ginormous shopping carts, many of them piloted by careless drivers distracted by Duraflame logs and mozzarella sticks, and it’s getting pretty competitive for the free samples of food and smoothies. You are not going to stand in line…. Luckily you’ve already had your Vitamix pick-me-up. It’s definitely time to hightail it to the checkouts, and get yourself out the door.

Before the altered reality gets you, and you make any really silly decisions…..

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A Child At Christmas

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

The old song says that everyone’s a child at Christmas.

I am glad to hear someone else say that.

This year (and, okay, not for the first time), I wondered, while getting out the worn and battered boxes that store my decades-worth of Christmas decorations, whether it was time to grow up about my Christmas decorating.

I mean, I began my Christmas collection that first year we were married, in Palo Alto, when we did not have the vacation days or the financial resources to come ‘home’ to the East Coast for Christmas with our families. We stayed put and had our first Christmas, and our first Christmas decorations.

I started decorating the stair railing in the first house we owned, when we suddenly had a staircase. I came up with a scheme of green garlands, hung with gingerbread and peppermint ornaments. The children were still in early single digits ages then, back in the early 1990′s. Are we too adult for these themes now?

Is there a maturity curve to Christmas decorations?

And my Christmas dining table… Hmmm. It generally starts out as a small forest of mini Christmas trees, and as the Day approaches, it is increasingly populated by reindeer, and Santa, and Mrs. Claus. Have we outgrown the North Pole centerpiece?

Around the house, there are Santas and snowmen on the powder room vanity, a sleigh and reindeer atop the living room desk, polar bears with bells peeking out from under the front hall table plant….

Well, I have collected Christmas decorations with more gravitas over the years as well, a grim-faced Nutcracker with a stylish fur hat,

a seriously elegant Russian Santa dusted with just the perfect frosting of crystal glitter,

and an outstanding collection of Christopher Radko ornaments for the tree and the mantelpieces.

Is it time to discipline myself to these more restrained and adult decorations?

Last weekend the ‘kids’ helped me put up the tree, and I kept on decorating. Since then, I have been wondering.

Then, this past week, December guests have been coming to the apartment, committee members for an event planning meeting, and friends stopping by to pick me up before heading out, then My Husband’s cousins and our children for a festive weekend lunch.

And they all oohed and aaahed, over the table centerpiece with its reindeer, and my matching reindeer napkins, over the Radko bedecked tree, over the Santas tucked into corners of the desk, and even those on the counter in the powder room.

The ‘Children’ have visited, and they have sat in the armchairs by the Christmas tree, the ones with the holiday needle point pillows,

checking emails and text messages on their phones and tablets, but also taking stock of and remembering our family Christmas history, through the decorations.

And I realized that they all, friends, family and children alike, love my ‘childish’ holiday themes, and my aging collection of Christmas ornaments and decorations. They enjoy being in my house, a holiday decorated house, soaking in the ready-for-Christmas spirit that ornaments and decorations and hospitality (and a little Christmas baking) can genuinely create.

There are very few things that I miss about life in the suburbs, but being in other people’s decorated homes before Christmas is definitely one of them. Hosts and Hostesses in the suburbs are really good about holiday parties in their own homes. In the city, people tend to share the holidays in more public spaces, attending Christmas parties in clubs, enjoying seasonal events in hotels, or actually making trips to family homes to enjoy the Christmas decorations – in the suburbs.

In the city you can still enjoy other people’s decorations, just on the outside of their houses.

I bet you love them too, other people’s decorations, I mean. The friend who has a collection of over a hundred Nutcrackers to display on her mantles and windowsills, or the friend with Santas of every possible description on her bookshelves, sideboard and living room tables, maybe the home with a collection of secret Santa mice tucked away everywhere for you (I mean, the children) to find. In my memory one of the most fabulous experiences was always my friend Erika’s mythical Radko tree, almost two stories tall, which she decorated from a scaffold every year. It was laden with glass garlands, and tree toppers, and glass balls, and ornaments of every possible description. It took your breath away. An heirloom tree.

So here I am, back to my decades worth of child-inspired Christmas decorating. A house full of ornaments, and Santas, and faux-peppermint candies, and whimsy, and history. A house to welcome guests, and family, at Christmas. It turns out it’s a nice gift to be able to share.

The holiday spirit, for the child in all of us, at Christmas.

‘Tis the season.

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Head of the Charles Regatta 2013

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

We just had a perfect Columbus Day family weekend in Nantucket.

And then again this past weekend Boston really put on a show. Yes, it was the Head of the Charles Regatta. Over 9,000 athletes compete in this two day event, and over 300,000 spectators come out to watch the boats duel for fastest times down the three mile course on the Charles River. Boston looked its very best, aglow with the splendor of autumn. That’s a word I hang onto, after twelve years in Britain. ‘Autumn’ resonates. The word choice of Keats. Autumn’s connotations are vast and subtle, much more than just the season of fall.

We were already giddy with victory, here in Boston, following the Red Sox win over Detroit, which made Boston’s home town team American League Champions again, and secured their place in the World Series. From worst to first. Yes, we woke up feeling happy, on a beautiful October morning.

All along the river the spectators gathered to enjoy a day of sport.

It’s a long course for the rowers, and a long course for spectators. I have been at the Head of the Charles Regatta every year for the past eight years, and it seems to me that I always walk for hours, from the T to the riverbank, from bridge to bridge for varied vantage points, from boathouse to boathouse to hospitality tent, to meet up with friends. My friends, The Boy’s friends from high school and college rowing, their parents, past crew tent partners, a combination of the above. But on a weekend like this past one, it is a dazzling delight to walk along the river,

Taking in the thrill of competition, the history of the event and of the different boathouses, the communal energy of the massing crowds, the drop dead beauty of autumn trees in Massachusetts.

The Head of the Charles is a spectacle put on by both Mother Nature and man.

If you are like me, and carry your camera at all times, just in case you see something wonderful,

it is pretty hard not to stop every hundred yards along the riverbank,

to capture another amazing image.

Rowing is a sport of athletic excellence, precise equipment and constant industry. There are always shells being carried to and from the river, or back to their trailers, rowers with arms full of blades, athletes warming up on ergs, teams jogging to keep themselves ready. And that’s when they are not on the water.

This year, in 2013, with warm weather and warm water, and the wind in the right quadrant, seventeen course records were broken on the first day of competition.

“My” teams, from The Boy’s days in College-ville, didn’t win or set new records, but they rowed damn well.

And I spent two days watching the thrills,

and the almost spills, of ferocious competition.

All the while doing homage to the splendors of autumn,

amidst the cathedral of trees.

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Gift

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

A dear friend called me to say that she and her husband would be away for the coming Columbus Day weekend. She was traveling to London with her son; her husband had decided to attend a wedding in Washington. As a result, their little house in Nantucket would be empty over Columbus Day weekend.

“It is so beautiful there this time of year”, she said, “it’s a shame to have the house sitting empty. So would you like to go, and take your family? Take the dog. Don’t even feel like you have to tell me now. Just go if you can.”

That’s a dear friend.

An October weekend in Nantucket. I haven’t been there in the autumn for years. (Okay, maybe even for decades.)

Of course we said yes. Yes, from the ‘children’, from My Husband, from The Dog, and from me. The weekend was about as perfect as it gets.

How familiar and beloved Nantucket seemed, and yet how different in this unfamiliar season. We visited as many favorite places as possible, most of them out of doors. A morning walk in Ram’s Pasture, a daily summer  favorite activity with my Mother,

now I found the lower loop from Clark’s Cove colored in a fall palette, all gold and russet. In place of summer’s green and blue.

Up over the hill, sere and splendid,

variations on summer’s theme.

We ventured out on new expeditions as well, to Altar Rock, where we once came with the children to pick blueberries.

And out onto the moors, tinted with subtle shades under a cloudless sky.

Main Street felt different too, leaves going gold, chrysanthemums in the memorial planter in place of summer’s red geraniums.

We visited the Yacht Club to enjoy the new Burgee Bar,

and the Patriots on wide screen TV.

The Dog was in heaven to be back in Nantucket, outdoors with us for breakfast,

remembering youthful days, and enjoying a chance to be back in the sea.

The Dog and I even rolled out of bed in the dark one morning over the long weekend, just to be out in the air, near the water, to watch the sun rise.

It was peaceful magic, waiting for the sun to crest the horizon,

even as the growing light picked out details of ship hull, masts, and distant lighthouse.

When the sun finally appeared above the dark horizon, after all that anticipation,

it was something akin to a religious experience.

Then The Dog remembered that he needed his breakfast.

So, yes,

Nantucket in October.

A Gift from a friend.

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Wedded Bliss

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

A family wedding over a long weekend in the Adirondacks.

You were thrilled when you heard they were getting married. They’d been together for years.  Kids these days – no one seems to get married until they are in their thirties. Yes, yes, back when you were a young woman friends often married in their mid twenties… Yes, and in the Middle Ages they married in their early teens. That was then, and this is now. So it was with a complicated sense of relief, pleasure and surprise that you heard the news. Wedding bells were going to chime.

It was a delight to get their Save the Date card. Yes, you are going to be invited to the wedding. You’re cousins of course, but they are half a generation younger, and family gets stretched pretty thin these days, with generations divided and family members spread  around the country and around the world. Shared occasions  are fewer and farther between. So you wouldn’t have been surprised not to make the invitation list, though you would have been a bit sad.

The  invitation arrives, with a silhouette line of pine trees printed across the top. A wedding theme is emerging. They are going to be married in the Adirondacks. A destination wedding, and yet not too far for you to travel. Lucky you. The couple’s wedding website promises all kinds of entertainments and activities for those who can join them in the forested mountains.

You RSVP happily, and send a wedding present from their online  registry. You may never see your gift, except virtually.

Other  invitations are generously showered upon you now that you are attending the Wedding, Rehearsal Dinner, Wedding Luncheon, Wedding Dinner and Dancing, and Sunday Brunch. You RSVP to all offers through email and in the affirmative. The Club offers tennis and golf. You can take out a canoe on the lake. There will be an organized hike. Your suitcase logistics are going to prove challenging.

As the early fall date approaches you start to anticipate. You collect all the invitations, dress code guidance and scenic driving directions into a folder. You start to plan your wedding attire. Even though they are getting married in the mountains there are cocktail attire expectations in the evenings. Yes, you are really pleased to be able to wear that navy dress with the graphic rick-rack trim and the fit and flare shape. Perfect for the dance floor. And the black heels with the sparkle plenty buckle on the pointed toe. A brightly colored pashmina in case the mountain air is cool at night.  And your “good” jewelry, that  doesn’t get out enough anymore.

Blue jeans and Patagonia fleece for hiking, Merrells for the trail, short sleeves and long, because in the mountains of upstate New York in September who knows what the temperatures will really be.

The weekend arrives, and car loaded with finery, outdoor gear, and a bit of trail mix to get you in the mood, you head off for the unknown north. You are getting in the mood for a good party.

Up 93, into New Hampshire and then Vermont. There are scarlet edges to the leaves along the roadways. Into the Green Mountains, and off onto a country byway. Red barns, fields that have been hayed, and here and there the last of the feed corn still to be harvested. The wedding weekend is already an adventure.

Across mighty Lake Champlain and into New York State. A quick stop at the ruins of Fort Crown Point. Because it is there, and it’s a piece of American and British history, and after all, you spent all those years in the UK.  You’ve always liked a little bit of history with your travel. Besides, you have a little more time than you’d thought. You don’t want to arrive too early, when the family is still sorting out the final wedding details, and possibly dealing with nerves. Or even having a last minute melt down.

Back into the trees, leaves flickering around you, the road and its bridges winding alongside and over boulder strewn riverbeds that still give evidence of the watery destruction of Hurricane Irene. Nature rearranged.

Your wedding weekend directions say to turn left at the Club’s painted wooden sign. You recognize the quiet logo just as you drive past the driveway. Drat. Up the road a piece, to where you can safely make a u-turn, and back to the discreet driveway. It’s the kind of place you have to know is there, or you’d never find it. Up the steep switchbacks of the roadway-driveway. And this is still the valley. In the summer. No wonder every other car you see is a four wheel drive.

You round the next sharp corner and there before you is the emerald green grass of a rolling fairway, edged by forest. Ahead, past a cluster of apple trees bearing a heavy crop of scarlet fruit, is  the sprawling Victorian era hotel-clubhouse.

Around you like sleeping giants are the granite faced hulks of the forested Adirondacks. It’s a grand place. Building, valley, forest, imperial mountains. You catch your breath. Oh yes, this is going to be special.

There is already a party going on at the entrance to the Club. Lovely flowers in Adirondack pack baskets to welcome you,

vivid balloons to mark the way, suitcases piling up at the front door. Arriving guests, cousins, hostesses are embracing and jesting with one another on the broad veranda of the hotel. The lobby is an historic masterpiece, with twin fireplaces to ward off the mountain chill. Over one there is a stag’s head, over the other a moose head.

More flowers, sepia photographs of visitors in this same lobby, circa 1890. A tray of warm chocolate chip cookies the size of small plates.

You register at the mahogany front desk, and head off with the keys to your room, to settle in and, even better, to keep out of the way. The room is simple and pristine. No telephone, no television, no radio. Off the grid bliss. There are thick white towels to welcome you, a ribbon tied bag of granola, a map of the grounds, with instructions for the weekend.

Once your weekend finery is hanging in the closet, you head off to explore. Cottages, a bowling lawn, the golf course, and the inviting wooden gate leading to the trails of the Adirondack Mountain Reserve.

You will have to come back for a hike later in the weekend. Now to the business of dressing up.

Beneath a tent off to the side of the main building tables are laid for the Rehearsal Dinner. The groom, like his father before him,  enjoys nothing so much as mucking about in boats. The tent is hung with nautical flags, each table is identified by a boat marker, and there is a navigational chart instead of a guest book to write your best wishes to the bride and groom. At the entrance to the tent is a bar, and a canoe serves as its cooler.

Once the party begins it goes by too quickly. A festive gathering of old friends and new acquaintances, the smiling bride and groom surrounded by their young wedding party, providing the evening’s wattage. There’s a raw bar, and champagne, a buffet dinner, intense conversations, hilarious toasts (with incriminating photographs), and -did I say- champagne, and music and dancing.

Next thing you know, you are gathered around one of the fire pits out on the lawn, your pashmina wrapped around your shoulders, the night dark and huge around you. A mountain chill that speaks of vastness. It is perfect. You don’t want any of it to end. Thank goodness there is still tomorrow. Hike. Lunch. The Wedding.

If anyone who spends any time in the Adirondacks invites you go on ‘a walk’, get out your hiking boots. And your day pack. And your walking poles. Having packed none of the above, you find yourself early the next morning striding along the road to the trail head. You feel winded by the time you get there. Luckily your friend and guide informs you that your ‘walk’ will require you to climb and descend ‘only’ 200 vertical feet, over the course of several miles. Actually, you amaze yourself, as you scramble up and across boulders, finding toe and finger holds, getting moss under your fingernails and bark in your hair, clinging to trees as you edge along the top of a steep ravine, or striding over a maze of tree roots, because you are enjoying your walk in the woods. Suddenly you can see yourself with hiking poles. Even gaiters, like your leader.

It is undeniably beautiful in the forest, with light filtering down through the trees, a puzzle of moss and lichen decorating the forest floor,

and the water of tiny streams finding its way over rock faces and through tumbled boulders below you.

It’s a scene right out of the Sierra Club calendars you used to keep on your desk. An Eliot Porter photograph come to life. No, rather it is the life that Eliot Porter found to photograph.

When you reach the top, and yes, there is a top, the view takes your breath away. In more ways than one. Down there, way down in the wooded valley, lies the club, that tiny little building.

You don’t want to get too close to the edge of the granite outcropping that you are now standing on, but you feel the thrill of both fear and accomplishment, standing here at the summit. The high peaks of the Adirondacks rise up all around you, so much higher, but you have made it here, to the top of this. Now, just to climb back down, and in time for lunch. You guess you will be wearing your blue jeans and Patagonia fleece to the Wedding Lunch….

Lunch for the grown ups from out of town is a miracle. You drive down a rutted road on the valley floor, past red barns and a field of autumn wild flowers, to an organic farm. The farmhouse is a white clapboard classic from the late 1800′s, set beneath towering trees.

On the clipped green lawn beside the farmhouse an endless table has been set up, a gleaming table cloth, cutlery, napkins printed with red roosters, and chairs along both sides. Fifty chairs?

The centerpieces along this magnificent picnic table alternate vases of local flowers with piles of fresh produce. The September sun gilds the glasses, sparkles on the silver, illuminates the leaves and the lawn, the crab apples on the trees, until the colors and the day seem to vibrate. Never has a luncheon table been so beautiful. You cannot take it in, enough of it, this visual feast. You just cannot get enough of this moment.

But there is also company to share, and a glass of warm cider to enjoy. A demitasse cup of cream of tomato soup, with a garnish of chili cream, and roasted pumpkin seeds, sipped standing up. You’ve certainly earned your lunch with the morning’s hike. Chicken salad and sliced tomatoes, warm corn pudding to die for, salad dressing with a hint of the farm’s maple sugar in it. Delicious company too. For dessert, yes, dessert at lunch, there are miniature apple turnovers with raisins and a drizzle of maple syrup. Your luncheon partner takes one bite of his turnover and immediately lifts his hand to gesture for the waitress to return with the tray. Go on, have two. They’re worth it.

All good things must come to an end. It is now time to return to the hotel, to the delights of a warm shower, and a change of clothes.

The wedding is to be on the bride’s family’s farm. There are shuttle buses to transport you all, in your wedding attire. Along the valley floor, beside the rushing streams, through a couple of towns, to the farm. There is the farmhouse, with painted red trim. A barn, a kitchen garden, a chicken house with busy inhabitants scratching about.

Beyond the fence, in the mown field, is the church.

The pews are made of hay bales wrapped in cloth. The aisle is edged with arrangements of field flowers in jars suspended from metal garden stakes. The altar is formed by two tree form hydrangeas. Beyond, across the flat of the valley, are the distant blue mountains. God’s church.

You sit in the sun of the September mountains, the breeze lifting your hair and shivering the leaves on the distant trees, and the dome of the cloudless blue sky arches overhead. A guitarist and a violinist provide a musical score. There are grasshoppers in the grass at your feet, and roosters crowing in the distance. Enchantment. And then it begins.

The groom and his best man are at the altar. The bridesmaids and flower girl process. The bride glides down the grass of the aisle on her proud father’s arm, bringing a glow of amazement to her waiting groom’s face. And you remember, and yet, you know… Every bride is the only bride. Every wedding is the first wedding. An original miracle.

You listen to the words of the ceremony, and they resonate. You heard and repeated many of the same words the day you were married. But perhaps it was harder to hear them then, harder still to absorb them, overwhelmed as you were with the present moment of being, attending so closely to each individual word that you could hardly hear the sense of the phrases, and feeling the responsibility for getting it right, saying it all correctly. You knew it was momentous.

You have heard the words many times since then, and perhaps they mean more and more to you. The vows are no longer words for the future, goals to reach, guidelines for your ambitions for a life together. No, you have lived them all by now, to have and to hold, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until… You know the rest.

When the minister asks “who will support this bride and this groom in their married life?” you all answer loudly, from the hay bale pews of church in the field, “We will,” and of course you realize that this is why you are here, and this is what it is all about.  Family and friends gathering, feasting and ceremony, tradition and kinship. The celebration of marriage, so much more than  just a wedding. Because it turns out marriage is for family, for friendship, for community. We must all say loudly “we will” and hold each other up, together, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until… You know that part.

That’s what it really means, this family wedding weekend. We will.

And did I say, champagne?

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“Mom, I don’t know anything about your childhood”

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

We’ve been revisiting a great deal of family history recently, as we sort through my Mother’s house in preparation for her upcoming move. It’s amazing how many stories are prompted by the objects we have been uncovering.

Trunks of linen and lace, monogrammed with the maiden initials of the family’s brides, mother, grandmother, even great-grandmother. Linen sheets and pillow cases. Guest towels. Tablecloths, napkins, bureau and table runners, even finger bowl doilies, that tell of formal family dining customs now largely abandoned. All lovingly put away, layered and layered in tissue paper.

Little bits of jewelry in their old jewelry boxes, inscribed frames, lingerie pins, an initialed travel clock, an ivory comb, an elephant hair bracelet, all described by one sister as ‘treasures’, that may not have great monetary value, but tell the story of past Christmas gifts, babies’ arrivals, girlhood finery, wedding parties from days gone by, souvenirs of foreign travels, souvenirs from life.

On the bookshelves, many volumes inscribed: From… To… with dates. To my husband, Christmas 1927. On her sixth birthday 1935. Vietnam 1955. Many of the inscriptions, written onto the inside flaps or title pages of special publications, read like history haiku; who was where, with whom, when.

Photographs, photographs, photographs. Studio portraits, family groups, casual moments, sporting glory. Sepia. Black and white. Polaroid. Kodak color. Oh my god, is that…? She was so beautiful. Awww. Look at this one, and this one. This one. There you are.

My Mother, remembering her Mother and Grandmother, their elegant homes, their poetry reading groups, the occasional trip to New York City. The racy Aunt who owned the first motorcar in town. Teaching us about her family, people we never met, busy with their favorite things, their familiar habits, their life patterns. A picture of her Father at the Club on opening day, in a three piece suit. Her Mother walking with Fletcher Steele, who designed their new garden. Mom, standing by her horse. Or with her teenage brother, teenagers, lounging by a neighbor’s pool. Uncle Al. Did she tell us all this before? Were we not listening?

My sisters and I looking through family albums from before we can remember, or from days we remember differently. Rediscovering, or re-examining, places and spaces that we used to inhabit, adventures we enjoyed, our best friends from childhood, toddlers’ beloved stuffed animals, past pets, lost traditions. The years of days we spent together, growing up. Things we had completely forgotten, or failed fully to appreciate.

And our children, the grandchildren, cousins, listening hard and trying to learn about four generations all at once, fitting all this new family lore into their own knowledge of the world and its history.

A family photograph, with the new baby, taken in China in the 1920′s elicits, “Yes, he knew four dialects of Chinese.” A rowing medal from a Swiss boarding school, from the late 1930′s brings, “What a time to be in Europe!”

A silver cup, inscribed ‘du leurs amis Français – Saigon Golf Club, 1957′. A parting gift. “Who even knew there was such a place?” Evidence and artifacts.

All of it fascinating, to all of us.

Then one night at dinner The Girl looked at me and said, “Mom, I don’t know anything about your childhood.”

Here’s what I thought.

1) Am I old enough to have my childhood seem like history?

2) Was my childhood the stuff of stories?

It’s not like I kept my childhood from the children. No secrets. But who would have thought it would be interesting, to them, to anybody?

Maybe that’s how everybody feels about their life, looking back. They just lived it, wherever it took them. Is it interesting?

When does your life become history?

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Last

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Labor Day Weekend.

Time to enjoy the last of summer?

Well, you try.

You certainly enjoy that last ear of summer corn,  your teeth exploding the glistening white and yellow kernels of your favorite butter and sugar.

And sliced tomatoes, with basil fresh from the garden, sweet, and sun-ripened, red to the core.

You sneak a handful of the last raspberries, those very few that the birds and the wasps have not enjoyed before you.

And because my Mother is moving on to a new home this fall, I tried to enjoy a few other pleasures this past weekend. A walk around her late summer garden, taking in the glory of the dahlias, the butterflies in sunlight, and the blue shadows as the evening crept in.

I kept an eye on the  Leopard frog who enjoys the mill stone fountain in her front courtyard.

And though it took a little courage to get through the ‘midriff-zone’, I made sure to have a last swim in her gorgeous pool. The pool has been the site of many absurd and competitive made-up water games over the years, and the home of endless laps.

In fact, I remember swimming while my babies dozed in their crib inside. Yes, I kept the baby monitor on the pool deck, so that I would hear them, if they woke fretting.

I’d better stop that.

There are just too many goodbyes in this life.

Goodbye summer.

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