Thanksgiving weekend has almost come to a close. It was a quiet holiday, but there was much to be thankful for. After a wild fall of weather, a quiet weekend was both welcome and relaxing. We spoke often of those who were not with us–or we with them. Of course, Alex topped the list. Ferd was right there with him. As I set our dinner table, I thought of Bobbie and used her silver as a way to insure that she and the memories of Thanksgivings past were well represented. It was sweet to reflect on last Thanksgiving and our fun visit to the Kuntz’s and Dawson’s at Lake Geneva. It was equally sweet to think of Frosts from Florida to Michigan, Texas to Georgia and the good times we have enjoyed together in the recent past.
I give thanks for my beloved spouse, for my three amazing children, for Dakota who makes me smile, for my extended family, for my friends both new and old, for my job and the security and sense of accomplishment it brings, for my crafts and the joy they give me, for good health and enough to eat and a roof over my head. I am thankful for my good fortune and mindful of those who have suffered especially this fall with the storms and I hope for the best for them.
Monday will bring the everyday rush and cares. The crazy run up to the Christmas holidays, but for the balance of today, there is time to savor and reflect.
We’ve had some truly lovely weekends lately, but none has been as completely delightful as one we enjoyed in mid-September. That was the weekend when we had the honor of entertaining visiting royalty.
Jim’s mother, Betty, has always had a soft spot in her heart for our house in CT. She has loved the Spring House since she first saw it and, when we visited them in Michigan in August, she expressed the wish to come visit. With Jim’s sister, Linda, in accompaniment, Betty and Bill came to visit for a long weekend. Linda was along to help them negotiate the trip, but having her was an extra delight. Linda hadn’t visited us in CT since the Big 50th Anniversary Celebration which took place the year Ellie was born (1993). She had never seen our house in Rye Brook I don’t believe.
Betty, Bill and Linda arrived on Thursday and spent the first day and night in Rye Brook. We had a lovely dinner and Peter was able to join us. Then Jim drove up to CT with Betty, Bill and Linda Friday morning. Ellie drove the green Subaru down from Smith. Peter and I were able to join them later Friday night arriving just in time for a nostalgic dinner at the Venetian. We had a delightful evening at the big circular table in the lovely front dining room.
The weather was ideal. The trees were just getting some color and the air was warm and had that early fall hint of falling leaves and changing seasons. We went to the Norfolk Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning and had a lovely sightseeing drive around the area. We all enjoyed just hanging out and chatting, reading and there was some napping done as well. Jim broke out his telescope which provided both entertainment and a novel view of the sun. It was perfect to have everyone with us with the exception of Alex. We had hoped he would be able to Skype us, but his training in Twenty-nine Palms was extended so we were unable to connect.
Saturday evening we dined at home. Sunday we enjoyed a big brunch and then everyone enjoyed sitting on the patio in back in the sun. Sometimes doing almost nothing is all the entertainment one needs.
After two delightful days, Ellie headed to Smith and we all drove back to Rye Brook. We had a last evening together before the intrepid travelers headed back to Birmingham. It was a hugely successful visit all around and we couldn’t imagine one thing to make it more perfect.
Well, maybe if we had the entire Frost clan together–that would have been more perfect. That’s for another day. Heartfelt thanks to Betty and Bill for making the trip and the hugest thanks to Linda (daughter and sister extraordinaire) for joining in and making it both possible and even better!
While we have all assumed Sandy was a woman, I would point out the “Sandy” can also be a man’s name. In either case, this will not be a popular name for a baby for quite some time.
As proof that I truly did not understand the storm to come, I had the excited, fevered thought that perhaps we would have a “snow day!” I don’t think I was alone in completely not understanding what Hurricane Sandy would do. Or that I would end up with five snow days.
We were driving back from Maryland. We had driven down on Saturday to visit Alex. Back east for special training, we had thought the five weeks he would spend just hours south of us would provide multiple opportunities for visits. Halfway to Maryland, he called to say his team would be working both days, all day, during the weekend. The storm threatened their training schedule and they needed to make up the time they might miss from a packed and expensive training session. We were already committed and continued driving despite our disappointment in the greatly reduced hours for basking in his presence.
We had a lovely evening; a good dinner and Alex said good night. He had a big test Sunday morning and needed to get in some study time. Sunday morning when we went for coffee, the wind was already picking up. Seeing Alex again would mean waiting until after 4 p.m. and driving home in the rain and beginning of the storm. We decided that it was time to head home and batten down the hatches—an all too apt phrase given the enormous storm surges and winds about to hit the East Coast.
What I am so thankful for. Of course, I am so thankful that our house is unscathed. Having lived through the catastrophe of downed trees crashing into the house spearing Peter’s wall with a powerful thrust and totaling the car, littering the yard like giant match sticks with fences and bushes crushed underneath, I see the other homes with damage and feel tremendous sympathy. I am thankful for hot and cold running water. What a huge difference it makes to have water for washing and cooking and drinking. I am thankful that our gas stove and oven work. What a luxury to have hot food. We have nothing to complain about. I am so glad that it isn’t the dead of winter and the chill in the house is not threatening pipes even though, as time goes by, the chill is less easily defeated with a warm sweater or fleece. Actually, as you can see in the photos, I am wrapped like a giant grape in a fleece bag which Jim gave me years ago. It was always too warm before, but it feels fantastic now.
Silence. It is so silent. All the noises we never notice and take for granted are gone; the sound of the furnace and the hot water heater; the sounds of cars passing by and the big trucks on I-287 braking by downshifting; the faint wail of the train whistle as it passes through Port Chester station; jets taking off from White Plains and passing overhead. The only noise during the day is the sound of chain saws as frenzied crews try to remove enormous trees and gain access to repair the downed lines for power and phones. Slowly the noises creep back, but it remains strangely quiet.
I do not miss the noise of the storm.; the howling and gusting wind which bashed against the house and caused the roof to creak ominously. I do not miss the fear I felt looking at our two plate-glass doors and worrying that a branch or object would crash into them, shattering the glass and leaving us victims of the storm’s raging. I do not miss the sudden banging noises when something flew into the house and we wondered what had come loose. I do not miss the feeling of being helpless in the dark just hoping that the night would end and we could see what had happened outside.
With each passing day, the lack of heat becomes more uncomfortable. There are no crews in sight to restore our power and I expect they have been busy in the city. Who would imagine that the entire south end of Manhattan would flood and be without power? It defies understanding. Walking around our neighborhood, the destruction is immense. Huge trees lying across roofs, power lines hanging useless in the air, yards unrecognizable under piles of branches and tree trunks, it all represents a huge toll on many, many people. However, all that pales against other tallies: the increasing count of fatalities, the hundreds of homes burned when firemen couldn’t reach the fires, the hundreds of thousands of damaged homes, the flooded towns. It is on a scale rarely seen in our country. Even as the clean up continues, Hurricane Sandy leaves questions in its wake. Is this a new weather pattern? How do we minimize the damage from future storms? Is this our future?
For those of you who have read my blog before, you will know that we all very much enjoyed our family member, Bud the Bird.
Bud was incredibly long-lived and, excuse the expression, truly a tough old bird. He survived many years with our cats, Xena and Zoe, both determined to eat him. But in addition to his stoic and brave side, Bud had a joyous side as well. Bud loved to sing. He sang a lot and his voice filled our house. He enjoyed singing with the birds outside. His favorite was to sing when Jim played the piano. There were several pieces Jim played that were irresistible to Bud.
Bud passed away last evening. He was simply gone. No lingering illness. I found him lying peacefully in the bottom of his cage.
Bud the Bird
When Jim and I are in CT, we love to take long walks. Most often Dakota accompanies us on our walks. He’ll walk along grinning like a fool. He loves walking along with us when we’re talking. He feels like one of the gang. Sometimes we leave him home. While I love taking Dakota with us, he does tend to dawdle and sniff and sometimes he tries to sit down because his feet get tired. When we walk without him, we can move faster.
One of our favorite walks is up Grantville Road. The short walk is up Grantville to the White House No One Lives In. The long walk is to the end of the road. The long walk is about 4.5 miles round trip, but it features a killer hill. The short walk takes about 45 minutes and the long walk closer to 90.This is the beginning of the walk. Our neighbors, Jim and Sandi, are right next door. We’ve been neighbors for 29 years. Once past Jim and Sandi’s, we quickly hit a hill which is a bit tough when you’re just getting going.
Jim really hates that hill. It is deceptive looking. It is goes on for quite a while.
While we live in a rural area, there is some multi-family housing. Above you see an example of a local condominium. Look closely up high and you will see there are many tenants. We can hear them pecking as we walk along.
We call this the Gifford’s House. The Giffords haven’t lived there for at least fifteen or twenty years, but they used to. It is a very attractive farmhouse. The addition went on after the Giffords sold it. After the Giffords a couple lived there. The woman died about 18 months ago and in the last few months some new people moved in. We haven’t met them yet other than to wave as we walk past.
I am not sharing every house we pass, just the ones we really like.
This house we think of as the Webster’s. I believe Mr. Webster was a Judge. He passed away quite some time ago and now his granddaughter has the house with her family. They are exceptionally nice and have a large garden. They also put in a pool. I think it is the only pool in the area I can think of. It doesn’t really get warm enough to need to swim that often and there are lots of ponds and lakes around just perfect for swimming.
The Webster’s house is also obviously quite old. In front of it stands a hitching post. There is lots of stone around, walls of stone, slabs of stone protecting mailboxes. There is just plenty of stone. At the beginning of the 21st century twice as much land was farmed as it is now in this area. There are lots of full grown forests with stone walls made hundreds of years ago through back-breaking labor as a farmer cleared a field for planting.
A perfect example of both the stone walls and the size of the boulders. Lucky that boulder was on the outside of the fence because nothing was going to move it. These are all souvenirs of glaciers long ago. They carved hills and lakes and dropped much debris as they went. These stone walls are all dry walls–as opposed to walls held together with mortar.
Walking up the road, the sun breaks through the trees. Every time of day has its own show of light and shadows. Sometimes the light slants through the trees, sometimes it seems almost dark in the middle of the day. It is always cool and comfortable walking up the tree-lined parts of the road.
This house, which is quite hard to see, has no one living in it. It belongs to a family who own quite a bit of land up here, but they had a falling out. This house’s owner hasn’t been here in twenty years. It is in worse and worse condition. It sits on a gorgeous piece of property which will one day be sold as part of the woman’s estate. For years, I coveted the property. It has a gorgeous sweeping field and beautiful stone walls. But I finally realized that our property is cozier and our pond more beautiful. I still love to peer at the house as we walk past and wonder what will happen to it.
After the White House No One Lives In comes a giant hill. Heading down the hill isn’t too bad, but the way back up is a killer. The hill goes on forever and at the bottom is Dale Marchione’s place. Dale is an artist and grew up on this farm. They still have sheep and chickens. Dale has a rustic studio in which he displays his art. It is bright and colorful and I very much like it. Dale and his partner, Ben, live in a 17th Century farmhouse with tiny rooms, low ceilings and a giant fireplace. It is quite amazing. A few years ago they turned the farm into a land trust so it will stay farmland forever and their animals are protected.
After Dale and Ben’s place there is just about a quarter mile to the end of the road. There isn’t much else until you get to the very end where Grantville intersects Grant Station Road. Grant Station Road has quite a bit of traffic and the zoning is for small lots. It isn’t that nice.
On the top of the hill at the end of the road sits this log cabin. It was built a few years ago and the owners are still working on the yard and the garage. They have two giant dogs who come running and barking. It is a little unsettling, but they never leave their yarn.
At this point there is nothing to do but turn and head for home. After passing Dale’s house, the big hill begins. The photo below does nothing to showcase the long, torturous ascent. Driving down the hill in the winter is also quite un-nerving. Somepeople drive miles out of their way to avoid driving down that hill in January. Retracing our steps along the road and through the woods gives us a chance to see everything from a different angle.
We walk past all of our favorite landmarks. The same trees, rocks, stone walls, houses, and other markers we have passed at least a hundred times over the past 29 years. Some things have changed. There are some new houses, but much has remained the same. We are almost the longest term people living on the road. Jim and Sandi best us by two years. Lots of times not a single car will pass us as we walk along. Those that do all wave hello.
And when we get to the end of our walk, we get to see the most beloved, prettiest house of all.
Please play video as you read this post. It is an accompaniment to the text.
Having recently read two books (WILD and Rachael Herron’s A LIFE IN STITCHES) where women wrote of their mothers extensively, I have been thinking a lot about mine.
It is very hard to believe that she has been gone almost two years. As time passes, I feel like I miss her more and more. It feels as if she has gone off on a trip and the more that time goes by, the more I think, “isn’t it about time she came home?” Enough already.
My mother was a pianist. She had studied piano in college. I think she loved it. It is hard to tell. Sometimes she spoke of the hours of practicing and of her choice of piano as a study major with ambivalence. But her piano meant a lot to her. When she and Ferd planned their move into an apartment and out of the house in which she lived for almost fifty years, she was unwavering in her determination to keep her piano. Whether she still sat down to play or not, the piano represented something important to her.
I remember when I was little lying in bed at night waiting to fall asleep, she would sometimes sit down to play. The melodies would drift up the stairs. To this day when I hear DeBussy’s Clair de Lune I travel back to that time and am once again lying in my bed drifting off to sleep as she plays. It is a song that is at once so wistful and haunting and also somehow hopeful. It is a song which ebbs and flows with emotion and truly carries the listener along on a journey.
I think it was a difficult time in her life. As a child, I was oblivious to what she was going through. I knew only that my father was gone. I missed him, but now I can understand that her life was broken. Her heart must have been filled with anger, hurt and loss. My mother once told me that divorce was the best diet on earth. That was much later. Playing alone at night after her children were in bed must have been an attempt at calming her emotions. She must have felt so alone and abandoned as she played. For me, lying upstairs, it was something beautiful.
Another memory hit me this weekend when we were in the country. Sitting in our living room is a black wooden rocking chair. This was a rocking chair my mother refinished many, many years ago. She re-finished a whole suite of furniture in black with gold stencils. It has taken a beating over the years. One arm has a broken piece of wood and it is more creaky with each passing year, but it is the chair in which my mother held my brother and I to read us stories or comfort us when we endured some childhood trauma. There is nothing like the comfort of sitting in your mother’s arms.
Of course, I was fortunate enough to rock my children in this chair as well. Amazingly, while there was no more comfortable place than my mother’s arms as a child, I found out as a parent that that is one uncomfortable rocking chair especially with thirty pounds in your lap.
When my mother died, we gave her piano to Hepzibah House in Oak Park. She would have liked knowing that her piano would bring joy to children with troubled lives. It was Ferd’s idea and it was the absolute right thing to do. They put a plaque on it with my mother’s name. One of her friends actually was there one day and saw it.
There is so much I inherited from my mother. She had a tremendous love of and sense for color. I think I gained some of that. Certainly I love color. She was both creative and imaginative. I hope that is true of me. She had a style of her own, a wonderful sense of humor. She had mannerisms and expressions that I not only see in myself, I see them in Ellie. When I asked Jim what behavior or trait of mine reminded him of Bobbie, he said, “talk constantly with your daughter.” That thought makes me both very happy and very sad. It makes me very happy to think that there is a direct line between Bobbie, myself and Ellie. Actually, it goes one step further back to my grandmother. The thought makes me sad because I would give so much to be able to pick up the phone and have a good long chat.
It was a surprise and joy that Alex was able to get a week’s leave. He arrived home just two weeks ago and we were able to spend a wonderful seven days with him.
Here are my boys lounging on the new deck. Please note Alex’s remarkable farmer’s tan. This was just after Peter and Alex went swimming in the pool with the broken heater. It was a “frosty” 72 degrees.
Everyone loves hanging out on the deck. It may have been three years in the making with thousands in legal bills, but it is a great deck and it is completely compliant with all town regs.
One of the highlights for the guys was going to a Yankee/Mets game at Yankee Stadium. It was a perfect summer day and they had a great time. Yankees won 5-4 so all was perfect. We also enjoyed several lovely dinners on the deck and Peter really got into drinking beer so the three of them had great fun trying different craft brews.
Oddly enough they don’t serve New York bagels with cream cheese at Camp Pendleton. Peter got Alex some special cream cheese with jalapenos and lox which was greatly appreciated and enjoyed.
Alex was home for Father’s Day which made that extra special. We had a joint celebration of Alex having been home and Father’s Day on Saturday night.
Here is a surprised looking Dad. Well, not really. He had chosen and ordered his own Father’s Day present and I wrapped it up. It was just what he wanted.
This is what a Marine looks like after he’s been out with his friends until 3 a.m. and has enjoyed beer, tequila, gin an heaven knows what else. It was a quiet last day before we took our Marine to the airport. All in all, I think he got the mothering, relaxing, carousing, and feeding that he needed. And I got to hug the fellow every time I laid eyes on him.