The Un-y-moon – Part II
Here is part II of the wedding series, tweaked and amplified a bit. I had several requests to re-post them together. As I mentioned in my previous post, I had a moment of caution last fall when I first wrote this series, and feared that I would alienate everyone, including my husband, by being so candid about our personal lives. But Geoffrey never reads this blog — he shuns all social media as part of his commitment to what he perceives as “higher” ideals and activities (more on that sometime, I promise) and his family, mercifully, are too busy spending their fortunes to bother with little ole me any more. So, it is safe to judiciously peel back the curtain again and ultimately update this little set of vignettes by adding two new sequels soon. In the immediate future, I will be writing about my visitors. Since I took over 1200 pictures during the two weeks they were here, I am dividing it into two posts, and then posting the third previously posted piece I wrote, “The newbie wed” and moving on … stay tuned!
Unlike most people, I like cold weather best and therefore vacations, to me, whenever possible, are ideally in cold places or times of the year. So when we were identifying a destination for the official ‘honeymoon’ to follow our upcoming winter wedding, we put our heads together and came up with two locations that worked for us for the week that we had (as we had other commitments that month). We narrowed it down to the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia and Mount Snow, Vermont. It was really a hard decision, because we both liked both places. But, always erring on the side of more guaranteed cold and snow, I pushed for Vermont. And so, in the midst of a stifling August heatwave in the city, I booked us into a charming vacation village, and thought no more about it, as the honeymoon was six months away.
As luck would have it, my husband-to-be (who subsequently took over a family business – more about that subject in an upcoming post, I am sure), a CPA for one of the big eight at the time, had to conduct an audit upstate in January, before the honeymoon. I went with him. Having gone to school for four years in that vicinity, I lectured him about the absolutely mandatory snow-and-cold-shunning clothing and equipment he needed to take with him, even though he had gone to Dartmouth as an undergrad and taken courses at Cornell himself (never in winter, and we never ran into each other during school, either, as I would leave every summer just as he was arriving to take courses, so our paths never crossed as undergrads). He was, after all, a beach boy, and couldn’t possibly, in my view, withstand the bone-freezing and nose-planking icy cold of lake-effect winters. So, I bundled up as I had done each year at school: fleece-lined thigh-high boots, insulated gloves, thermal silk long johns, woolen pants, a heavy turtle neck and of course a shearling coat (none of which animal products would I ever purchase today). I brought scarves and ear muffs and vests. I was ready.
Geoffrey wore what he always did, year round and in any weather: thin-soled Italian shoes, a Brooks Brother’s spring wool silk-lined overcoat, a suit (to meet with clients). No gloves, hat, scarf, boots, nada. It, like the upcoming honeymoon, was a one-week trip. We stayed in a cozy vintage hotel, the kind that abounds in New England, in a room with a fireplace – it was quite romantic and quaint, with breakfasts in the small colonial dining room surrounded by Revolutionary war Early American antiques. His first day off to meet the clients, I waved goodbye and shook my head as he navigated through the freshly fallen foot-high snow in his shiny Bruno Maglis. Well, live and learn, I smugly thought to myself. It must have been in the stars: I became sick as a dog and spent the entire week in bed, barely coherent. My husband sailed through the weather with flying colors and we returned to NY, me the wiser and weaker and thinner for the wear.
But, here’s the rub. For the first time in my life, I had had enough of cold and snow. Damn! Had I known in August what I knew in January I might have booked us into a sailing vacation in Jamaica (that we took another time). So, the chilling spectre of a honeymoon in Vermont in February cast a certain kind of pall over my enthusiasm.
Too late for anything to be done, we packed up the car (we had a vintage diesel Mercedes that was in mint condition) and headed to Vermont for our week of intimacy and relaxation.
Uh, not so much, as you might have suspected from Part I of this saga.
First of all, there are two ways to get there from the metropolitan area. One is straight flat, wide-open freeway, boring as all hell and fast, efficient, safe. The other is far more adventurous, small winding path-like country roads inclining and declining over the steep hills that lie in a northerly trajectory between the city and Mount Snow. It was my parochial romanticism that led me to map out the latter, picturing a stop at a country store for some old home cookin’ along the way. And for the first part of the journey, it lived up to its promise, as I started out the trip, driving my portion of the road until we were to switch off and my husband helm the ship, trading back and forth as necessary until we arrived. We planned four hours for the drive.
If you haven’t gleaned this elsewhere, I tend to be the anal/retentive type – very organized, scripted, scheduled to fifteen minute parcels, with everything planned, packed and perfect before I go anywhere or do anything. As opposites do attract, my husband is a classic oral. Unlike my strict upbringing that entailed a military-like timetable of chores and duties throughout my eighteen years under my Dad’s command, my new spouse’s family expected all seven of their children to just enjoy life, and my father-in-law generously made that possible.
The upshot of this was that we were not ready to walk out the door bright and early on the day of the trip as I would have liked. Nope. My husband slept in, had a late breakfast, two cups of coffee, read the paper, and absently threw a few clothes into a small bag. And then, on that, the first morning of our official honeymoon: called his parents to chit-chat with them for an hour. How romantic.
Needless to say, I was disappointed, sulky and growing more uptight by the minute, until we finally got in that car and started heading out of NY (but not until we had stopped for snacks, more coffee, the ATM, the dry cleaners, and fuel – this became an ongoing pattern and joke, when I could finally find my sense of humor about it, years later).
So, instead of being on sun-dappled rural lanes from, let’s say, 8 to noon, we hit the hilly patch at 7 pm in Stygian darkness. It was freezing and all the snow that had melted during the midday, was now transformed by the magic of chemistry and physics to black ice. Even a heavy Mercedes slipped around like Sonja Henie on that road. Oh, and, after I put in my first two hours, my husband (juiced up with more coffee) took the wheel and promptly started to fall asleep not 30 minutes into his “half”.
I put half in quotes here, because the four hour trip? Turned into seven, most of it slick non-illuminated mountain roads, that were crawling with big-rigs snaking in a long relentless line in both directions. And I was at the wheel behind them, peering through a dirty sleet-covered windshield for over six of those seven hours. By the time we got to Mount Snow, we had been squabbling, both exhausted, having breathed five hours straight of big-rig fumes, eaten bags and boxes of salty and sugary trash from roadside dives, which now littered my usually immaculate chariot and we were both already fed up with the bitter cold.
The “cabin” was more like a ski lodge – cavernous, sterile, sparsely furnished (why had I not known this in advance? I really don’t recall, but, didn’t I see pictures???) and about ten times too big for us. I think we counted bedding for 20 people, no joke. So, out the window immediately went my foolish imaginings of the cozy honeymoon cottage deep in the woods, with an intimate fireplace glowing where we could bond after the invigorating and meditative walk through the woods to a nearby hamlet.
None of this was the case. The nearest village was Montpelier, too far to walk and not an easy drive in a lumbering boat. But, neither was there a diesel station in Mount Snow, so we had to make the Montpelier trip anyway, because we were by arrival time perilously low on fuel. To make matters worse, the Merc was not used to the subzero temps, so the glow-plug would stick, and apparently the fuel became a thick viscous gum that meant the car would stop and start fitfully over the remainder of our stay.
To top things off, the chalet came with — I am not exaggerating — a one and a half-inch thick binder of instructions and prohibitions. The owners of the property warned about what we could and mustn’t use from supplies, what brands we must replace them with, and where to put them. What to do with every inch of that cabin, from the fireplace (walk in, and plain) to the kitchen, to any bathrooms we might use, to the disposal of the trash, the way to set and reset the alarm, to letting the gardeners into the tool shed and the fact that the whole structure ran on a generator and propane gas, the latter we were expected to replace by ordering a two-tank delivery before we left. I sat down and burst into tears and, while my husband called his mother again (!) to make sure she was recovering satisfactorily from the wedding traumas, I ran around checking all my instructions before we both fell asleep on the floor in the downstairs living area, in the street clothes we wore for the drive up.
There were other snafus that will likely make their way into future posts when levity is needed. Still, Montpelier was a nice place to go and have dinner and shop during the cold but sunny crisp days that followed that week. We had our first big argument about whether or not we were required (in order to get the deposit back, I guess) to comply with all the rules and regulations set out in that binder, or whether as my husband would have preferred, we just left the place a mess and forewent the deposit, so as to put a thumb in the eye of those ridiculous owners. Needless to say, the last day of my honeymoon saw me scouring, vacuuming, scrubbing, sweeping, polishing and installing a propane tank on my own. My husband refused to lift a finger, as he had paid for it and was not about to contribute to my insanity or theirs (the owners – they may not have known this was a honeymoon, to be fair to them; I simply don’t remember).
There is a coda to this absurd string of events, that took place back in LA, which I will save for the future. What I took away from this experience at the time, I don’t know. In hindsight, I can see that my struggling to have things my own idiosyncratic way, paddling upstream, so to speak probably led in an ironic twist of fate to all these woes. I have tried to be objective about my constant chafing against convention, always being different. Never wanting to conform or to be viewed as a docile sheep, I have actually made quite a few things much more difficult in my life than had I been more secure in my uniqueness and simply gone along to get along.
Nevertheless, you will see as I periodically unpack these past episodes here, some amusing, others only painfully instructive, there is a pattern of striking out on the path less taken and suffering or enjoying the consequences. In the meantime, I will break up this personal focus with the current events and causes that take up my life and time now that I am older and a bit wiser. So, this is just the beginning …