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The month began with a howl, courtesy of Super Storm Sandy. At the end of October, she was still recovering from all the wedding excitement and from having been sick for essentially an entire month. When Sandy arrived on 29 October, the new house lost power at 4 PM, which made Halloween truly spooky, although an excellent opportunity to meet the new neighbors. Living by candlelight and without heat for a week, she decided this was an opportunity to recap the truly significant events of the prior month. The dates would not be accurately recorded, but the story would be.
After managing a minimal cleanup to make the Crimson Tower barely presentable to Mom and Dad, it was time to decamp to the new house, where it appeared the bachelor party was entering its second day. And the “No Girls Allowed” sign apparently was coming down, with an invitation to join the boys for dinner at a local steakhouse. Too tired for pretense, after a brief period of observation to better understand individual personalities (eight years is a long time), bantering with the guys (as learned when hanging out with the UES Irish boyos) took them all by surprise. Good!
She was very surprised to hear her parents were considering looking at property in Rhinebeck and Red Hook. The idea of having them within an afternoon’s drive was very, very appealing after events of the last year. After poking about online for a few minutes to verify the facts, she quietly suggested they also consider northeast Connecticut, which would put them even closer, although requiring a ferry. She had an idea what they were looking for and it seemed more likely to exist and be affordable in that area, rather than the Hudson Valley. If average snowfall wasn’t too high.
Her last day at work before the wedding, spent trying to power through everything critical. Mom and dad arrived at the house first, despite every effort to leave work early. Having not seen them in more than a year, it is reflected in both of them, but it is so very good to see them, to have them here. Finally, in our home, unfinished though it may be. Dad is clearly moving slowly, perhaps from all the driving? With all the excitement, it takes too long to realize that the wedding cakes have not arrived. Will nothing go as planned?
The meeting of the parental units for the first time. Much anticipated, with a slight frisson of concern from some parties. It went better than anyone anticipated, so something is going well. Rarely has Dad been so clearly amused, let alone by someone he has just met, to the point of all but falling out of his chair, but Audrey’s description of the neighbor’s decorating of the shared foyer was too perfectly hideous. A small disaster with the dress today merely rachets up the level of tension, even if there is a recovery plan for the cakes by day end.
Cakes arrive – check. Pick up dress (which now fits) – check. Get dressed for meet and greet – check. Guests arrive for meet and greet – check. Then realize that everything needed for tomorrow’s big event has been taken care of, all the To Do list items have a check by them. So enjoy the party and get to know Tami and Ellen. Everyone joins in the cleanup, so there’s still time and energy for a drink with the friends at the Tavern. Stay up late watching Say Yes to the Dress and My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, because it seems too appropriate.
Today’s the big day and it begins with breakfast with everyone except the groom. Which seems odd, although this separation / don’t see the bride before the wedding a tradition that is being respected. After breakfast, some time is spent checking on the flower setup, which all look wonderful although the bride’s bouquet seems a bit orange. Yes, it is a foil to the purple and such, but it is NOT a color the bride appreciates. Putting bows on packages for the camera giveaway and finding a place where they are obvious but not in the way finishes the morning.
The weather shifts: sunshine disappears and it begins to go grey, cooling almost toward cold. Will the weather will cooperate with an outdoor ceremony at noon-thirty? A breeze kicks up, demanding that the bride use the beaded hairpins purchased from Kesstryl back in April, a perfect mix of purple and green and just long enough to catch her hair wound into a waterfall of curls. It only needs to last for a few hours before it can collapse under the weight of itself. Like the dress and cakes, it doesn’t seem to be working out; Plan B may be needed.
She watched the group from the doorway at the inn, and knew they saw her. It didn’t seem they were actually settling down into the rows of chairs, nor did they show any sign of doing so anytime soon, and with no other means of coordinating with them, she opened the door and stepped out: it was time to get the show on the road before it rained. Walking at a leisurely place – in part to make sure she didn’t trip in her somewhat slippery, never-worn-before dressy sandals – she gave them time to notice her and to take their places.
She kept moving once she was near the edge of the chairs, moving carefully in the grassy area. She did not want an escort “down the aisle”: with only two rows of chairs on each side, there wasn’t really any aisle, and the idea of being given from one man to another absolutely abhorrent, more intolerable than the idea of hurting Dad’s feelings. She realized belatedly this was one more detail that had never been discussed, yet as she remembered Robert’s words twenty years ago, that she would redefine marriage, she knew he would have understood this detail without discussion.
The wind continued in a gently persistent manner, wreaking havoc with the groom’s Bobby Short tie. He looked very fine in the blue suit. The ceremony script was simple and managed to be traditional in feel, even if the words were not: it managed to convey this was a joining of equals. The bride and groom were so happy, they verged on being silly, so much so that the minister was having a hard time not losing it himself. This was something to take time with and enjoy, to revel in, even if (particularly because?) it was a brief ceremony.
Turning as husband and wife, they were confronted by their own personal paparazzi. Everyone had a camera (except the mother of the bride) and felt entitled to take their own picture. After a few minutes of arranging various group photo ops to suit the paparazzi, she was done with the process, and mom definitely needed to get inside, out of the chill. She gave fair warning to the camera hounds and then proceeded across the garden area and watched everyone move ahead of her and move inside. Mother of the groom fell going up the steps but was thankfully unhurt.
The lunch began with champagne, echoing her many dreams of a late morning wedding followed by brunch. No, it wasn’t the weekend, but it was an inviting room, filled with people she wanted to be with. The food was delicious, the table looked beautiful, and the cakes were everything she could have hoped for. Conversations happened in different groups around the room, more pictures were taken. As the afternoon continued, the sun came out and brilliantly lit up a spot rain shower visible in just one window, capturing the day’s juxtapositions. The whole affair was low key and elegant. Perfect.
Her parents had spoken of moving east, said they were looking at property in the Hudson valley, and in northwest Connecticut. With all of the events of the last two years, having them that close is something of a dream come true. Either area would put them within a five hour drive. That is close enough to be convenient but not close enough to just drop by. Everything hangs on selling the House in the Woods. If the interested party is truly interested and can work with a relaxed schedule, it may all come to pass in the coming year.
Sherman Alexie said every teenager grows up on a reservation. Yes, indeed. Teenagers all over the world, from all walks of life and all backgrounds, from every class, live on a reservation, one of their own making. Many never do realize that, and blame the community they live in rather than doing anything about it. The question for every teenager is whether or not they find the courage to leave that reservation and embark on adulthood in the wide world. And do they do this in a timely manner, while still teens, or only as stunted thirty or forty-year olds?
Reading the 1962 letter Heinlein wrote to Theodore Sturgeon with story ideas letter was wonderful. It was clear from these ideas that RAH really did understand cats. “What exact knowledge of how human beings work can enable a man always to make other people happier simply by his own presence? Cats have made a racket and a good thing out of this knowledge for seven thousand years without even bothering to flatter the recipient of the pleasure.” She spent many minutes pondering the snippet, “Ghost of a little cat patting around eternity looking for a familiar lap to sit in.”
What a wonderful weekend, never mind driving across Connecticut on I-84 in the rain. For all the comments that are made, it appears we both love Rhinebeck. Finding incredible Indian food for dinner on Friday was a lucky circumstance. Saturday dawned warm and beautiful, the trees in full color. The pot pie vendor is still sorely missed, but we found someone with mutton – not just lamb! Yarn was purchased, but in very reasonable quantities, and it was good to catch my breath while hanging out with the Knitspot group. Dinner at Terrapin was spectacular – blackberry cabernet sorbet was unbelievably plush.
Breakfast at Bread Alone in Rhinebeck is always a delight: strong coffee with no bitterness, and delightful pastry, what more could you need? It is hard to choose just breakfast, you want to walk away with something for afternoon tea and dessert as well. Despite an increasing cough, she managed the drive back and unpacking the car before collapsing in bed. There was afternoon soup and drinking lots of fluid, but no playing with her new toys. She succumbed to sleep, rest, and the adoration of pussycats in the hopes of restoring some semblance of health before returning to work.
Unsurprisingly, the doctor finally determined there was an infection, and issued a prescription for a Z-pak, although it wa not clear if infection was bacterial or viral. How is it that we can send humans to outer space, and we carry incredible computing power in the palm of our hands, but we cannot yet defeat, or even effectively treat, the common cold. Seriously, it doesn’t seem plausible that we have achieved so many modern miracles in the last decade and yet we are still stymied by this basic issue that affects so many people around the world, every year.
Finding real bagels in the new neighborhood has proved to be more difficult than they imagined. Some are incredibly doughy, more artisan roll than bagel. Others are just a sad disappointment. Her first Bagel Day from the new house arrives and with so many places still without power, she has no idea where to go. Taking a chance, she stops at a place close to work, and discovers it is an honest old-fashioned bagel store. The bagels are wonderful – and they have pumpernickel! -- which solves the problem for Bagel Fridays at work, but not for those Sunday morning indulgences.
Knitting is a distraction and a diversion, absolutely. Disposable income goes to this hobby now, rather than music and books. There is a sizeable stash of yarn in the knitty room, waiting to be plundered at a moment’s notice, cast on for a new travel project to keep from going all stabbity waiting in doctors’ offices or in airports. It accumulated over nearly ten years, although the acquisition rate has slowed. But is knitting an obsession? It is nearly a daily activity. Vacations have been planned around it (Rhinebeck). It might be the next career, in some form or another.
And we finally arrive in November, documenting in real time, and their first Thanksgiving in the new house. The morning begins with homemade pumpkin spice donuts, much anticipated and heralded, end up a disappointment. There is an amazing shortage of sugar in the house, and a pumpkin pie wipes us out. But the rotisseried turkey, stuffing and parsnip puree are wonderful, and dinner at the table, a bit later than planned, is still a delight. Even though the kitchen is not fully organized and optimized, we both have space to move and breathe in the kitchen at the same time.
Black Friday takes on a whole new meaning when you spend it cleaning bathrooms, writing thank you notes and working on a proposal for the office, rather than doing the things you want to do. Which doesn’t include going shopping out in the real world, mind you, so much as it does knitting and baking. It is not how anyone would want to spend the weekend, doing work for the office, but it is there is no other choice, no other way to get this work done, particularly given that it must be submitted to an external entity on Thursday.
Two plastic, self-contained drawers contain many of the baking supplies that have accumulated in the last ten years. But not all of the supplies, like the flours (bread, white whole wheat, all-purpose, barley, graham, pasta blend, semolina), the variations on vanilla (whole pods, Mexican, double strength), cinnamon (Vietnamese, Ceylon, roasted) and chocolate (baking, morsels, minis, nibs, cocoa, black cocoa), or the baking pans (muffins, pie, angel-food, square cake, round cake, sheet pans, give-away pans), essential flavorings (cinnamon chips, crystallized ginger chips, peanut butter chips, fior d’sicilia, lemon oil, orange peel, nutmeg) and other ingredients that are part of the repetoire.
Avalon park and preserve was a welcome surprise to both of us. Looking at it a map of the trails online, we realized that this was not going to be fully explored in a day. The park is well tended, with sturdy boardwalks and stairs that lead you up towards the preserve. The open meadow must be fabulous in summer, it was still delightful on a cold, grey afternoon. The preserve trails include a number of small hills that are rather treacherous if you have bad knees. Clearly, this spot is a favorite with families and dogs for good reason.
Many moons ago, a younger version of her self was unable to keep in place the boundaries between work and personal life. Much misery and madness resulted. After that episode (that went on a full year too long), for many years there was no problem keeping work firmly in the 9-5 box. But as of late, there has been some slippage. Travel and conferences were the first incursions, but rather infrequent. But the last year has been increasingly out of control, with a constant stream of deadlines topped with proposals. Moving forward, giving up personal time on holidays is unacceptable.
Ideas come, what to write, what to knit, what to do on the weekend, but it seems they are coming while she’s driving. And can’t write them down. It also seems her memory is becoming faulty, as most of the time she cannot remember these thoughts when she gets to the office. It is like a dream – you know you had a weird dream when you first get up in the morning, but you cannot remember any of the particulars; in fact, the more you try to remember them, the faster the details vanish into the ether. It is maddening.
It is a common phenomenon: when circumstances prevent you from doing something, that’s all you can think of. Like when your leg is in a cast and you can’t scratch your ankle, it itches fiercely. She wants to knit. Ideas for new projects begin to flow. But for the last several days, and tonight, she is working under immanent deadline (tomorrow, 2 PM) for a work proposal, that supposedly only she can write. Writing about education and cyber security technologies, she sees colors and textures of yarn become beautiful stitch patterns; will she remember them when the proposal is done?
A choice between the devil and the deep blue sea: get sucked into proposal madness, or get stuck managing a project someone else designed with impossible goals and budget. Neither option is pretty. To get involved in writing research proposals for work means a sacrifice several days of personal life to each proposal, a mad fit of writing outside office hours, under pressure of clock and page count. It is not an episode of creative writing – proposal madness is something else. The alternative, managing the impossible project, just spreads the same volume of pain out over a much longer period.
There are colored lights on trees, on houses, on porches, white lights in the shapes of reindeer and abstract cones representing trees. In the past week she had been discovering how the new neighborhood celebrates the holidays. There’s not much in the way of twinkle lights, or anything with motion. It is all very traditional, with lots of wreaths with red bows, and electric candlelights in windows, and dainty white lights, or big colored lights. Very, very tall trees have been decked out with colored lights streaming down from the top. Tonight, small brightly colored lights twinkle outside their house.
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