I grew up with, “Wow! That’s your mom? Are you sure she isn’t your sister?” A compliment, of course, to how young my mom looks and a comment on how much we look alike. In some ways we are also very similar, and traveling with Mom, more than any other “being with Mom” brings out the best and worst of me. Not only do we possess many of the same quirks, but the ones that I seem to notice a lot are the ones that I don’t necessarily admire and often make a mental note, “Remember to not do that.”. However, when she told me more than two months ago that she was presiding over a “Commitment Ceremony” (a heterosexual “unofficial” marriage) in Vermont I agreed to go because I haven’t been to Vermont in awhile, it ensured “mother-daughter” time, and I love to watch my mom perform. It doesn’t really matter what she says or if she says anything at all; her whole five-foot-one-and-a-half self lights up the stage. And I wanted to be the proud daughter of the Presidor.
So we set off. I, unfortunately, received the “no-sense-of-direction” gene from my mom, making travel that much more…interesting. Thankfully she had a GPS for which of course she was missing the correct car charger (to her credit she did go to the Verizon store to turn on the Navigator)But no worries, because the smart-phone was fully charged. Well, half way up on 89 the phone starts to die. Annoyed, I say, “Why didn’t you write down directions?” so I had to google the directions and write them down.
Vermont is an enchanting state. Green everywhere. Part of the enchantment, too, of course, are roads minimally marked, torture for those who are written directions reliant and literal, (“but where’s the big sign”TOWN HIGHWAY 5!!!”). We forget to clock the mileage because we are so busy talking and expect the big highway sign. As we drive on Route 105 West, ten miles past the turn (“I told you!” I say gloating-yet-frustrated)Mom asks me to call the wedding party. Embarrassed, defeated (haven’t I learned how to solve these problems myself yet? How come I didn’t think to buy a map or remind my mom to), I call and we drive back 8 miles to find our turn-off. And then more confusion. Another phone call. The road changes name. Are we on the right road? No one said anything about the road changing names. And finally we are merrily on our way, turning into a driveway that must be the right place, the place that “we can’t miss.” Nope. Wrong. Now we are on someone else’s property. And another phone call. I am so angry at our ineptitude and what I interpret as my mother’s inability to take charge (or my own) and bother the poor bridal party to escort us to our destination. My mom is laughing and is shaking her head, ready to tell a story.
The bride is beaming in the backseat as her “sisters-in-laws” take us to the home in which we will be staying. I am so touched by their kindness, hospitality, and ease with the situation. “We’ll escort you back to camp, where the ceremony is going to take place. Don’t worry.” And even apologetically say, “So sorry you got lost. To us, it’s so familiar that we forget how tricky it can be.”
We get to the house. Mom is beaming, laughing, and says to me, “We did it!” I roll my eyes, and think, “yes, but can’t we do anything without it being a production?” We change and drive down to “camp,” where a cabin sits on at least an acre of green. A lake is in front of us. There is a swing, a hammock, and two lawn chairs set out. To the right there is a tent with eight tables where the sisters and I set out table-cloths and gorgeous home-made center-pieces. There are at least fifteen children from ages seven to twenty. The teens run around, the younger ones following and then it is time for the ceremony.
The couple enters from the green enchanted forest, elegantly dressed, barefoot, and escorted by their dog. My mom greets them, and then stands between them. The couple’s combined five children stand off to the side. My mom introduces each part of the ceremony, with eyes glowing, regal-like so that we are eager to hear what’s next, glued to our spots. At the end, she invites the “congregation” as it is, to figuratively “stomp and laugh” with the couple as they embark on their journey as partners. A beautiful finale to a simple and sweet service.
Feeling awkward because I am neither a teeny-bopper nor a senior, nor do I really fit in with the family of 20-something year olds I make conversation here and there, still not quite able to shake off the stress or resentment of the day. Mom comes over and says, “I think we’re done here, and I feel awkward because I don’t really know anyone. Would you be disappointed if we left?” “No, no, not at all.” I say, relieved and also dreading the four hour drive back. She hugs the couple and says good-bye, and Sister-in-law offers a ride back to the house. Again, I am struck by her kindness. Leaving her brother’s wedding ceremony? To help? And no resentment? She takes us back to the house, thanks us for coming, and gives us each a big hug. We load up our bags and head off.
Mom notices my frustration and tiredness. She pulls out the mom-guilt. “I wanted this to be fun.” I try not to roll my eyes, thankful that I’m driving, so that I can’t look at her. Secretly I’m disappointed too. That’s it, I think? I wanted to have fun too, and adventure…we pull over to a rest area to take a break and mom says, “Do you want to stop some place to eat?”
“Sure,” I say. And also thinking, we have to find some place? We have to find a gas station and we do not have a clue as to where we are going…, Oy. Still, Mom’s spontaneity is rubbing off on me. On Mom’s phone, ARIEL’S, a restaurant, comes up with four stars and as a place not too far away (whatever that means). The owner answers. “I’m not sure what time to make the reservation because I don’t exactly know where we are!” I say. “Well,” he answers, “you are not that far, I’m sure. Take Exit 4 and I will give you an easy way to get here.” Are we at exit 5? Exit 4? Mom, who is not afraid of asking for help or talking to anyone that walks by (a quality of which I also possess and of which I have mixed feelings) asks the guy in the car next to us, “Scuse me? Do you know what exits we are between?” And, as his wife and children use the restroom he pulls out the map to figure it out (Mom doesn’t read maps). Another man comes up to us and says, “What are you looking for?” and there, is my five-foot-one-and-a-half-mom in the middle of two men looking at a map she can’t read. And as it turns out, neither of the men can help us either. But my mom has a huge grin on her face as she gets into the car. Wow. People in Vermont are really nice…
We get back into the car and the owner of ARIEL’S stays on the phone with us until he is sure we know where to go. “Take a right at the general store and you can’t miss it.” I love that there are still such places as general stores! Once again I can not believe our fortune at the kindness of strangers. On the way to the restaurant Mom wishes over and over again for a place to swim in the morning and a place to stay overnight. I just like the idea of crashing.
We finally arrive at the restaurant, and as we are waiting for the table mom says, “We did it! What, I don’t know…” I assume the daughter-rolling-eyes attitude. “Why does everything have to be such a production,” I mutter under my breath.
The restaurant is casually elegant. Everyone is older than Mom by at least ten years. But the owner and his wife are glad we made it. The ingredients are fresh and local (Mom got a chilled pea soup and I ordered oysters and then gnocci with fresh vegetables). During the meal, mom asks our Hostess (the chef, we found out later) about where we could possibly stay overnight and the possibility of swimming. Without hesitation she says, “Well, there’s a spring-fed pond right behind us. It was written up in YANKEE MAGAZINE as one of the top five places to swim. And there’s Bed & Breakfasts around. I’m not sure what they have available, but you might-as-well try.” My mood has perked up, and does so significantly more, when the dessert I ordered is placed before me. “I call it a meditation-on-chocolate” the Chef-Owner says smiling (chocolate-flourless cake with home-made whipped cream and rasberry sauce dripped perfectly on the plate).
Mom has been outside calling B&B’s, which all except for one that didn’t answer the phone, are full. “Well we might-as-well try the one that didn’t answer their phone. But it is Saturday night.” We park in front, and a lovely woman, Connie greets us at the front porch. “Do you have a room?” we ask with baited breath. “Yes,” she answers, “but you’ll have to share a bathroom with the gentleman across the hall. “Oh I think we can manage that!” We look at each other and like small school-children giggle and tell each other how excited we are (BROOKFIELD BED & BREAKFAST).
“For breakfast,” Connie tell us, “I’m making french toast with mascarpone, buttermilk, and orange. I also put out fresh fruit, yogurt, and granola. Oh, and are you a tea or coffee person?” Mom sheepishly tells her she can’t eat wheat. “Oh, well then for you I will make scrambled eggs and give you fresh fruit.” Holy moly. A spring-fed lake, comfy beds, and a customized breakfast? I’m moving here! (Mom points out that I would still have to work and the winters are long. What a bummer.)
Mom’s spontaneity, ability to get lost, and her boldness in talking to strangers and asking for help perhaps trumps the frustration and anxiety that I feel when I’m with her on such adventures (although I’m not quite ready to say, completely.. ) She gets this twinkle in her eye when she gets an idea in her head, and a broad smile covers her face when we have finally found our destination and triumphs, announcing “WE DID IT!” The same kind of glow as when she is performing or talking about something of which she is passionate. It’s almost as if a story is brewing before she even gets there (or wait, is that me?). At the very least they are qualities that lead to a sense of adventure, an invitation for kind strangers to find us, and a means to finding new paradises: the name of this one being Brookfield, Vermont.