It is all about expectation, whether it is a medical procedure, a holiday dinner, or a family visit. As much as I know this to be true, I was still not prepared for the deluge of thoughts, memories and feelings that flash flooded on my last trip to New Paltz, New York to visit my mom.
My friend Jo, who had not been to the area, was coming with me, and my mom and I wanted to show her the spectacular Mohonk Mountain House and also the home outside of town which my parents had built and lived in for 25 years following my graduation from high school. I had only lived in this open, light filled haven in the woods for two summers, and it had been 15 years since my mom had lived there.
As we drove slowly down the bumpy uneven lane I recalled the Christmas Eve we slid down the last portion on foot because the snow had fallen so quickly during dinner with our friends that our small car could not make it up the hill in the driveway. As the 80 foot cliffs of the Shawangunks came into view I breathed deeply, aware of the tremendous calm that accompanied the sense of well being this place engendered.
There was the small pond directly beneath the dramatic cliffs. Each of our daughters had caught her first fish here and my mother swore that the snappers who inhabited the pond wouldn’t bite while in the water. Easy for her to state so confidently from the safety of the deck. We declined to try out her theory.
It was a crisp fall day with the temp in the mid 60’s, just as our wedding day had been, here, 26 years ago. The hawks had circled protectively overhead, and we pointed out the route my husband, his parents, each of our siblings and my parents and I had walked up to the porch where we took our vows. I recalled the rows of people sitting on what is actually the septic field before moving to the back where a large tent had been set up.
The couple who live there now showed us the interior. They had installed dark, almost black stained bamboo flooring which was a striking contrast against the white walls. Where my parents had covered the walls in artwork from around the world, they had created a more Zen like, minimalist beauty.
The tree we had planted over my dad’s ashes had been replaced by decorative grass which had grown to an astonishing eight feet in height. They had placed Adirondack chairs on an extension of the deck to enjoy the scene. It was bittersweet to be here, wishing this sanctuary were still a more regular part of our lives.
On to Mohonk Mountain House where we spent our wedding night. We had arrived in our wedding garb after first visiting the DIY car wash to rid my husband’s truck of the paint eating shaving cream which decorated it. They took us to our room, opened the door, and we were greeted by two lovely twin beds with a stunning carved nightstand in between. They looked at us, regarded the set up and declared that “this will not do” and promised to return with bedding for a king size bed which the twins became when turned sideways and put together.
Outdoors was the glacial lake with surrounding cliffs and color coded gardens and trails which make this the captivating destination that it is. As we walked around the lake I recalled spending time there as a child as well, swimming in the clear aquamarine water and running around the maze of walkways by the beach area. We had stayed in this hide-n-seek heaven when my dad played in musical performances in the evening.
The deep sense of home the area exudes was undeniable. The connection to my roots, my family, and my tie with nature were palpable, almost overwhelming. I wondered why we have not returned more frequently, apart from the expense of spending a night there. Perhaps it was the idea of bringing someone new to enjoy it with, to show off its special character that brought fresh appreciation. Having it be 70 degrees, sunny and dry didn’t hurt either.
Next time I will be in a better position to be ready for the onslaught this combination would render. It will make going home that much sweeter.