Johnny sent me a copy of one of our favorite old Fleetwood Mac CDs, which was exciting. I truly enjoy driving around with the windows open, singing the trumpet parts. DA! DA! DA! TUSK! This came in very handy when Friday, the family migrated north and west to a bed & breakfast on Lake Arcadia. Several people have asked me what town I drove to. I don’t know. Mom sent me directions I didn’t understand and I was loudly not understanding the directions as I walked across my office to John’s desk. At work, John is one of my designated translators and as usual, when I am swearing, John grins ear-to-ear.
Tata: Mom sent me…!
John: Oooh, this is awful. “Go slow or you’ll lose an oil pan. Hey, it happens”? This says there’s another way. Where is it?
Tata: I don’t know.
John: What’s the name of the town?
Tata: I don’t know.
John: The name of the inn?
Tata: I don’t know that either.
John: Are you just going to get on 287 and keep going?
Tata: That’s my plan, yep. Until I stop.
John: Down at the bottom, she hints at the name.
John: Here, it’s on Google. With directions!
John: I’ll format and print it for you.
Tata: Get out!
John: I’ll do it in Wingdings so you can’t read it. You’ll feel right at home.
Tata: We are such dorks that font funnies may be the highlight of this vignette.
In a torrential downpour, I packed the car. Then the rain stopped. I took a nap. As soon as I got into the car, the clouds burst, and I drove the length of Easton Avenue in a blinding rainstorm at a crawl as other drivers with sonar passed me. Whatever. I’ve lived along the Raritan long enough to where speeding landed careless persons in the Canal, which is very, very stinky.
An hour later, I’m driving up and down and in and out on steep mountain roads in dewy twilight when I see the sign for the inn. I turn into the driveway and for the next two miles, roll the car slowly over gravel, large rocks and holes. When I finally get to the inn, one of my brothers-in-law helps with the luggage and the wine; I carry everything else. My stepfather Tom greets us at the door.
For five years, my mother has lived in my hometown and Tom has lived during the week at this bed & breakfast, returning to the hometown house on Fridays for the weekend. This has been better for him than driving over an hour, twice a day. We trundle indoors and drop my groceries in the giant kitchen. The voices of my four sisters, their children, two of their husbands, my mother and Tom echo through the cavernous rooms in a huge wooden house that was built on Lake Arcadia four generations ago and is still owned by the same family, which is not our family. Tom has acted as caretaker here during the long winters. Even the windows themselves are odd and oversized, which I notice after I see through them the huge lake in what might otherwise be a backyard the size of half a town. With canoes.
We drop my stuff in a room directly overlooking the lake, which Tom says is his when the inn is unoccupied. I can see why he likes it: the old wood walls, the deep closets, the view that spreads out for miles. Later, he tells me from these windows, he watched the cloud of destruction on September 11th. Tom shows me all the rooms and explains who is sleeping where. The rooms are so big I wish I remembered how to square dance.
Downstairs in the kitchen, everyone’s talking at once. Let me introduce you.
Mom: Lucy is my mother, Daria’s and my brother Todd’s. Todd is not here.
Tom: Father of Anya and Corinne, Mom’s second husband since sometime in the seventies but nobody really knows when because Mom and Tom are way cagey. Tom is a biologist, a Christian and a rational thinker. His dinnertable mantra when we were growing up was, “Cite your source!”
Daria: After me, the oldest of the kids. Followed by a drifting cloud of Jersey Chick hair. Funniest when deeply depressed. She is married to –
Tyler: Former Marine, financial planner, Ann Coulter fan surrounded by tree-huggers. Daria and Tyler have three children –
Tyler Too: Six, and just learning how to mouth off.
Sandro: Three. Smiles as he does exactly what you told him not to.
Fifi: Fifteen months and cute as a button. A happy baby.
Anya: She who has excellent taste in decorative stuff; fights a lot with Daria. Piercing blue eyes. Married to –
Dan: Landscape architect with a marked tendency to snore as soon as his butt his a chair, with good reason. Anya and Dan have two children –
Ezekiel: Three and talks constantly. Sweet like nobody’s business.
Gigi: Eight months, an astute observer, a startlingly pretty thing.
Corinne: Corinne was two when we met her. She does not remember life before she had stepsisters brushing her hair. Often speaks in tongues. Very funny. Separated from the husband I used to call “Goober.” Corinne has two children –
Lois: Resembles Scarlett Johanson. Smart, funny, smiles mysteriously through family dinners. I think she’s collecting blackmail material. She is thirteen.
Tippecanoe: Just turned seven and walks backward toward aunties who wants to kiss him. Energetic. Sweet. Thrilled to see all his cousins.
Dara: Daria’s and my half-sister from Dad’s second marriage. Dara turns fifteen this week. When I saw her in a bikini I was glad my daughter’s married. Dara looks like adorable trouble and she is. Daria, Todd, Anya, Corinne and I have been brother and sisters for over thirty years, so no one bothers with technicalities. Dara is just one of the kids; Dara and Lois are weirdly inseparable, despite living five states apart.
When I walk into the kitchen someone hands me a glass of wine, and it’s a good thing. I spend the vast majority of my time alone. For all this togetherness, it turns out I am over-sober.