We returned home late on February 14th, after about a month away. While the rest of North America was celebrating Valentine’s Day with chocolate, cards, and crafts, we were driving west from Regina and just relieved to be home, from which we have been absent for four months since October, which seems crazy when I think about it. My husband and kids have been absolute rocks to put up with all of this coming and going, emptying almost 50 years’ worth of furnishings and memories from a New York City apartment, getting on a first name basis with the staff at the nearby Salvation Army, and, the worst part of all, driving on the NJ turnpike from the Lincoln Tunnel to Jersey City, the trip’s true low spot. We left last Wednesday, and made it to DuBois, PA the first night; our other stops each night, after driving about eight hours a day (except in North Dakota, where we had to keep driving past Fargo and Grand Forks until we finally, finally found a hotel room) were Danville, Illinois, Des Moines, Iowa; Grafton, ND; Regina, Saskatchewan; crossing the border into Canada north of Grafton south of Winnipeg, and home.
To counter the lows, which also included unhelpful apartment building staff (thanks to co-op board regulations and union regulations) and legal action taken by the landlord against us although my sister and I tried to explain that we had no interest either in the apartment or in prolonging the clearing out process (thank you co-op board and union), some of the highs:
* the vastness and beauty of the Canadian Shield, and the beauty of northwestern Ontario, especially Kenora, where we spent a night (all photos by the kids, often from a moving truck),
* some other sights we saw, including the Terry Fox statue in Thunder Bay, where he was forced to end his Marathon of Hope by the return of cancer; the Big Nickel in Sudbury, Ontario; and the CN Tower in Toronto,
* the magic of Niagara Falls in winter, when everything in the path of the mist is transformed into an ice sculpture,
* Le Roy, NY, the home of Jell-O, which I discovered just a few miles outside of LeRoy while reading through the AAA guidebook, because Davy has always been a keen fan of Jell-O. We made it to the Le Roy museum just minutes before their 4 pm closing time, and the staff were gracious enough to let the kids have a quick look around the Jell-O gallery while I made a quick tour of the museum shop and made some purchases. Le Roy is a beautiful village in Genesee County, with lovely old houses
* meeting Susan Thomsen of Chicken Spaghetti after about five years of online friendship, because she was kind enough to let us park our 16′ cargo trailer in her driveway for more than a week, and during a crazy snowy month which shrank driveways considerably. We also got to meet her husband, and son Junior (who quickly took in the boys and shared some Lego with them, much needed and appreciated after a week in a truck), and inlaws, who were all so warm and welcoming. And we saw her chickens, and she and Laura talked about birds together. Thank you for everything, Susan!
* Laura’s and Tom’s bird walk with “Birding Bob” DeCandido, through a snowy and icy Central Park, where they saw an adult male Cooper’s hawk, brown creepers, a white-crowned sparrow, brown-headed cowbirds, red-wing blackbirds, and wood ducks. Laura and Tom were the ones to spot a male yellow-bellied sapsucker. Although Laura was disappointed not to spot the celebrated varied thrush, she was pleased with all the other birds.
* the kindness and pleasantness of motel clerks to NYC and back, despite our lack of reservations, and modern m/hotel thinking that makes a swimming pool, free wifi in rooms, and free hot breakfasts the new standard. A special thank you to the woman at the Travelodge in Kenora who let me use the coin-operated laundry well past the 9 pm deadline to wash clothes after Davy lost his breakfast outside of Regina; and to front desk staff at the AmericInn in Des Moines, Iowa, who gave me two rooms with queen beds for $50 each, so that the kids each had a separate bed for the first time since leaving home. If we are ever in your neighborhoods again, we will be back.
* the kindness, pleasantness, and professional manner of staff working at truck stops throughout the U.S. Remarkable people who probably don’t receive enough thanks and appreciation;
* being in NYC and being able to go to Barnes & Noble on the publication day of the latest Flavia de Luce book, A Red Herring without Mustard by Canadian Alan Bradley. I bought it for Laura who started reading it as soon as possible, and it’s at the top of my “to be read” pile now. And now that we’re home, I’ve ordered, from the library, the Book Depository, Amazon.ca, and Chapters.ca, for my own reading, which at the moment seem to be limited to escapism (of the genteel and also the more murderous sort); sentimentality and nostalgia about leaving New York, the apartment which my parents had lived in since I was born, my parents; and planning our new house*:
- Reginald Hill’s latest thriller, The Woodcutter (out in Canada and the UK, but not yet in the US)
- Let’s Kill Uncle by Rohan O’Grady
- Two by E.M. Delafield, Consequences and Diary of a Provincial Lady
- Three I had a chance to page through at Barnes & Noble in NYC, something I no longer take for granted: Perfect English and Perfect English Cottage, both by Ros Byam Shaw; and Farmhouses by Marie Proeller Hueston, published by Country Living magazine, which also put out my favorite Country Living’s 500 Kitchen Ideas: Style, Function & Charm.
- Home Life Four by Alice Thomas Ellis
- A Voice from Old New York: A Memoir of My Youth by Louis Auchincloss
- Growing, Older: A Chronicle of Death, Life, and Vegetables by Joan Dye Gussow
* lobsters at Fairway, which are inexpensive and which the staff will steam and crack for you. It was Laura’s idea, and made for a delicious dinner on one of our last nights in the apartment;
* our overnight in DuBois, Pennsylvania, which I didn’t know until our arrival was the hometown of Tom Mix — my father would have laughed;
* our afternoon visit in Moline, Illinois to the John Deere Pavilion in the city’s downtown and to Deere’s world headquarters, which also had a nice display. Laura found mute swans swimming in the lake near the building.
* the beautiful barns, graineries, and corn cribs in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Minnesota
I’m sure I’ve forgotten some things, and I know the kids have more pictures, so I may have to have another post. I just wanted to post a bit about the journey, and say thank you to
* which will be a combination of these two house plans, this one for the outside details, and this one for the inside floor plan (though it needs lots more rejiggering), especially on the main floor. Work to begin in late May, and all I can say is that after having a new house as our five-year plan for the past 17 years (oy…) and everything we have gone through in the past 18 months, I am beyond excited to plan the new house. Even better is the fact that we decided the other year to keep our current house, so we get to live in it during the building process and not live in a trailer or a shipping container.