Catskills: Part I

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 likeIL01 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 IL02abandoning 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

A meal described as the cheese part of ravioli without the confinement of the pasta. Yum!

A meal described as the cheese part of ravioli without the confinement of the pasta. Yum!

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.

peekamoosegroup

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.  IL04Between mascara brushes I watched my parents listening intently as the directions continued to mount.  Our morningIL05 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.

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Next: The Wedding Day

 

 

My Sister and My Friend

You know the old cliché about being born sisters and choosing to be friends? I am fortunate to have this be true in my relationship with my sister. She was born a little over two years after me and I cannot remember a time before she was in my life. In childhood we varied from the best playmates to typical sibling rivalry. There were times, being the older sibling, I used to get so irritated having a tag along sister invading my time with friends. And there were times I was overjoyed to have her to team up against our older brother, only to have it later being the two of them teaming up against me. As teenagers, it became more difficult to get along consistently. Both of us exercising independence and unique interests, it became easy to judge and criticize each other unfairly. As we matured and both moved past high school our relationship strengthened again. It became clear while each of us had our own great friends we are really best friends. Friends who laugh at nonsense, finish each others song lyrics, work to repair arguments, travel to see each other anywhere in the world the other may be, and friends who are honest, supportive and do their best to help each other. My sister and I are mirrors in so many ways and complete opposites at the same time.

My sister has been an inspiration to me for a long time and especially in the last year as it seems everything she touches turns to gold. She is emotional, yet passionate. She is impossible to wake up, yet never late. She loves people, though maybe animals more. And she is dedicated and hard-working even when it doesn’t come easy. My sister is talented, creative, popular and fun. She is exactly the kind of person I would choose as a friend.

In the last year she has had so many successes and reasons for celebration. Sometimes the success and celebration comes with heartache, well it does for me anyway. As I write, she is riding across the country to New York City where she and her fiance will make their home, or shoe box as it is in NYC. She left early this morning, on my birthday no less, for the start of the next chapter. And while I am thrilled for her adventure, living it big in the city, I can’t help but be sad. No more spontaneous meeting up for dinner, drinks or frozen yogurt and it will be a long time between hugs. She just left and I already miss her.

Dollhouse Foreshadowing

My sister and I spent endless hours playing with dollhouses when we were little, I’m talking NASA astronaut training hours.  Our first dollhouse was constructed by my mom from a wooden craft kit.  The four room house was decorated and redecorated by painting the interior, gluing felt for carpeting and paper on the walls.  We bought furniture and accessories down to potted plants, tiny picture frames, dishes and tea cups.  Later we planned to add to our dollhouse neighborhood and each bought our own craft kits for additional houses.  My house, like many of my master-minded projects, never got completed.  I lost the directions and the beginnings of a large three-story house remained untouched in my parent’s basement for nearly 20 years.  Call it divine intervention interrupting either mom’s hoarding reservation in throwing things out or my inability to follow-through with projects; the remaining contents in the doll house kit got wet in a minor leak in their basement and the house was finally set out on the curb.

The clean up effort lead my mom and I to rediscovering the remaining dollhouses last week.  I assumed at some point I would introduce my daughter to the houses, thinking maybe when she is a little older.  Two years old is too young for the fragile old wood, it doesn’t light up or make sounds like other plastic houses she’s seen, and all of the itsy-bitsy accessories to keep track of is enough to cause me an aneurism.  In a few years I figured she would love the houses.  Then as quickly as the dollhouses were at table level and within reach, a childhood wave of sentiment rushed over me and I couldn’t wait for her to wake up from her nap to come and play.

My mom and I sorted through the miniature time capsule of our youth, cleaning up, dusting off and discarding what was broken or not worth keeping.  My sister was mighty pleased, back in the day, to use some creative skill in making her own dollhouse furniture.  Foam haphazardly covered in fabric as the bed would have been fit for a dollhouse equivalent to a crack house.  There were a few surprises in the excavation of the houses which ironically seemed accurate in our lives today.  My sister’s house was filled with pets, including two tigers.  This spring she will be completing her vet tech degree and the journey to get her there was inspired by her time working with the tigers at Endangered Animal Rescue in Citra, Florida.  (Click HERE for more on that story.)  My sister plans to work with a zoo veterinary department and continue her passion with big cats.

The other foreshadowing shock from our childhood houses, we found a black family.  In our suburban caucasian home I can’t remember or imagine why we had purchased a black family.  Perhaps my sister and I needed a way to distinguish who’s dolls belonged to each other?  Were we impatient with a store who ran out of white families?  Could it be my sister and I wisely saw a value in increasing the diversity in our dollhouse community?  Whatever the reasoning was back then it has long since been forgotten and I’m sure my twelve-year-old self would have never been able to know she would one day fall in love and marry a black man.

dollWith the components freshly sanitized, small accessories stored away and rooms reconfigured the houses were ready.  I barely withheld my desire to wake my daughter up to come and play…  Finally she arose and joined us downstairs to get her first glimpse of the hand crafted childhood treasure.  Parker jumped right into investigating the pieces of furniture, opening the refrigerator, rearranging the living room, and pointing out the bird-cage.  She opened the toilet seat and promptly put the little girl on it, holding the “mommy doll” near by to applaud her when she finished.  Dollhouses may predict the future and when a two-year old plays it replicates her present life with plenty of potty practice.

If you are interested in having your own fun with this creative and playful hobby you can find doll house kits online or at craft stores like Hobby Lobby or Jo Ann ETC.  In the Kansas City area you can check out Mini Temptations at 3633 West 95th in Overland Park, KS for a greater variety of houses, decorations, furniture and accessories you can see first hand.