What do you mean you pack for him? The criticism was at the forefront of my mind as the cabin doors were closing and I stared at the vacant seat across the aisle from me. I had chuckled at the idea of my friend packing for her husband on their trips, believing a grown man should be doing this for himself. Except in the moment when my husband was still maneuvering TSA and our flight was securing its doors, I wished I had just packed his bag.
We arrived at the airport early, like the kind of early I will only wake for travel. We were traveling as a family with my parents to my sister’s wedding in the Catskills of New York. To say I was eager to get there is minimizing the feeling, I was ecstatic, the wedding celebrations were all I had been thinking about for weeks. The anticipation of a year and a half engagement, ten-year relationship and all the suspense in sharing details for where in the world the ceremony would be had amounted to the peak of mania. Who would have known the airport would have been buzzing with business before six o’clock AM, lines seemed longer than I’ve seen them in years for our convenient Midwestern airport. My parents and I adjusted baggage, ensured my four year-old Parker was holding a hand and prepared to find our way to the terminal. My husband slowed with a look of confused concern, “I have to check my bag.” He borrowed a garment bag for the trip so that he could carry his suit neatly for the wedding. My mom stepped in to reassure him the bag can be a carry-on and will fit in the overhead bin. The concerned expression continued as he realized even if the size would fit he made packing errors which would make it impossible to bring it as a carry-on and began making his trek to the airline counter.
Security agents and airline personnel were as pleasant and accommodating as a box of hungry hedgehogs. We watched him through the glass standing in the TSA line making slow progress to get closer to where we were. I boarded the plane with Parker and my parents knowing my husband had not yet taken his shoes off but was literally a few sprints from where I sat. The stewardess ignored my attention seeking as if it was impossible to stop checking seat belts to address a customer. When she finally returned to my panic, she frankly reported “The plane is finished boarding.” On the phone, my husband’s irritation was growing as he explained how they had only one line to accommodate security screens and chose him for a random search. He added he was one of six people getting slowed down by processes who were meant to board the same flight.
By the time the flight was in the air I was fighting tears, all the excitement I had building about this amazing weekend were starting with a major absence. I didn’t know what to be more mad about: TSA for only having one line to screen people, the airline for not ushering people who needed to get to flights, the fact that more than 2 oz of body wash is treated like gun powder to carry onto the plane, my perfectly-planned-for-travel pixie pants creating a sad muffin top or that I should have just packed the damn bag and avoided this. By the time we got to flying over Washington DC (our connecting airport) and circling over for twenty minutes, then landing only to taxi for an additional 15 minutes; I decided my aggression was focused on US Airlines for insisting we had an on-time departure from Kansas City and leaving behind 6 passengers the 35 wasted minutes could have helped.
There was nothing I could do to remedy the situation so I focused on making sure Parker was comfortable with the flying experience, thankfully she laid her head in my lap and caught up on the early morning missed sleep. One more quick flight and we landed in Albany for the long anticipated weekend. We drove south down the interstate and then west to our destination in the Catskills. I don’t think I had clearly envisioned what it would be like in upstate New York, though I would have been wrong in a lot of ways. The rolling hills of bright autumn leaves, picture perfect streams and creeks in the valleys all seemed familiar and foreign at the same time. And even though my searches on maps and for rental properties showed limited occupied area, I guess I still imagined New York as a heavily populated land mass and was shocked at how rural living looked in the state. The rich fall colors still clung to some trees when we arrived and by the end of the weekend most seemed to have fallen.
We checked into our hotel and waited for my sister and her fiancé to meet us after their wedding prep errands. She was radiating energy to see us, screams of excitement and long tight-squeezing hugs. Even her fiancé, with a typical all about business demeanor, showed a glowing smile of enthusiasm which stayed joyfully plastered throughout the weekend. We followed them into Phoenicia, the nearest town where the main street consisted of a few restaurants, some gift shops and one pitiful grocery store. My sister pointed out where we would be eating for dinner on Friday night at Brio’s. I quickly realized the Brio in the Catskills is nothing like the Brio in Kansas City and I seriously overestimated the formality of my wardrobe.
The infinitely happy couple had dreamed of having their wedding ceremony in this outdoorsy romantic location. They wanted their vows to be spoken in front of immediate family on the deck of his uncles’ resort like cabin retreat from city life. All of the planning and organizing was finally coming to fruition, they were busy with final arrangements and checking into their own secluded cabin to meet up with us later.
In the haze of fatigue and frustration from the missed flight fiasco I omitted the discussion of plans for the evening and focused on the relief of knowing my husband would be flying out on the next available flight in the morning. (This was paid for by the airline for recognizing their error in abandoning six passengers.) Finally when I clued in that dinner plans needed to be created a quick search lead me to finding a restaurant my sister and fiancé had never tried in their trips to the upstate getaway.
We met up with them for dinner at Peekamoose, an adorable spot further up 28. The restaurant had a dining room, a playroom, a tavern and a patio off the side where you could enjoy a complimentary s’more after a meal. We sat in the tavern where unique furniture, an eclectic grouping of artwork and tree trunks tastefully strung with white lights made for cozy gathering spaces. The food exceeded expectations
starting with appetizers, bread and spreads. I even took a picture of my meal, uncharacteristic of me, in the pleasure of the restaurant, the trip and the pending event. Topping of the décor and the food was the entertainment of the night. My daughter, deliriously excited and tired, interacting with her equally excited uncle. At some points it was difficult to tell who was laughing more and by the end it was contagious to other tables at Peekamoose.
Parker and I went directly to bed after dinner and both slept a solid twelve hours. In the morning when we were nearly ready my parents came into the hotel room talking on speaker phone with my sister. She added her fiancé’s uncle to the conversation to provide directions to the cabin where we would help them with wedding set-up. He described turns, streets, crossing bridges, up hills, down hills and crossing back bridges. Between mascara brushes I watched my parents listening intently as the directions continued to mount. Our morning chore was to pick up pumpkins before going to the cabin. We found a market on the side of the highway to buy pumpkins and have a photo-op with a bear. Then fearing my parents didn’t write a thing down in addition to no cell phone reception in these remote parts of New York, I didn’t think we would make it to the cabin. To my surprise, like a comedic skit about two people who have been married for forty years, they bantered about the directions all the way up the mountain following my mom’s lead until we pulled into the driveway of the cabin – not making a single mistake.
Sister, fiancé and uncle were outdoors and dirty to greet us in the middle of potting flowers for the deck. Not long after we arrived the fiancé’s family, also traveled the day before from Kansas City, got to the cabin. After all the greeting and explaining why my hubby was not present, everyone jumped into tasks of moving, mowing, and decorating. The cabin in the woods had a stunning kitchen, a magazine quality bathroom with soaker tub and the deck opened to views of a pond complete with a fountain. My dad took my husband’s travel delay as an opportunity to escape the wedding prep and we left for lunch at the Phoenicia Diner and then a trip back to Albany with Parker. At the Peekamoose I was impressed by the emphasis on local foods, then at the diner I realized this was just the norm in the area.
There was no chain restaurants and no franchise locations near the Catskills, it was a refreshing reprieve from my normal. Except on the way back from Albany, after being reunited with my husband, I needed to kill my chai craving and made my dad stop at Starbucks. I guess others felt the same withdrawal from franchise addictions because it was the longest lines and wait of any Starbucks I have been to.
By the time we made it back to the cabin, wedding preparations were complete for the day and there wasn’t anything to do except wait for dinner. My sister was proposed to on her fiancé’s birthday and together they thought it would be fitting to get married on her birthday. Since there wouldn’t be an opportunity on Saturday for the birthday celebration, we all planned to gather for a thirtieth birthday dinner in town on Friday night. I left the dress I had brought hanging in the closet and opted for a more casual “weekend in the woods,” attire. At Brio, our long table of family enjoyed beer and pizza. Parker plopped herself down in the chair by her cousins where she colored and played contently throughout the meal. My sister opened gifts and blew out candles. It was clear her thirtieth birthday would be an unforgettable celebration and it was barely getting started.