Quiet visits

25/03/2017

garage3Some visits are quiet ones. The day is routine. Walking in any weather. Walking along the streets of a small town or the wide alleyways behind historic homes where even the garage curtains speak of a gentility. Big plates of pasta balanced on the laps of the three sisters, sitting on chairs and sofas. We are tucked in snugly on this chilly night. Mystery hour. It is about relationships. It is a slow story. One that takes time and nuance. So too, with my sisters and me. It is about relationship. Slowly moving through decades, through years of upheaval and years of the steady, almost imperceptible changes in each of us. It is a quiet visit. It is a visit that is full.

I return home, here, with sunny skies and warm breezes. Shy windflowers at my garden gate wave their greetings, faces filled with light. I am filled with thoughts of family as my key unlocks all that is before me.windflowers3.jpg

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Do you remember being angst-ridden with the knowledge that when you returned to elementary school in the autumn, your teacher would have you write – in class – that dreaded essay, “What I Did On My Summer Vacation”?  For those of us who spent our summers at home – riding bicycles, walking to the local pool, and catching lightning bugs, the pressure to find something remotely interesting could bring us to tears while gripping a pencil covered by a sweaty palm, forehead millimeters above the blue-lined paper, while offering any deal to any saint for one good idea. Only one. Just to get through the assignment with some shred of ten-year old dignity. Not such a high bar. Do you remember?

I do. And I have finally done something interesting.side

On my summer vacation I visited my two sisters, Sister #1 and Sister #2, in Bethlehem, PA. No sweaty hands this time, but joyous fingers, not to make you envy me, not because I did something so extraordinary, but rather because of this: I found the adventure with my sisters in doing the ordinary. Oh, and being of that age – yes, that one – this list will help me recall this summer – this one delightful summer – in detail as I mellow.


The summer of 2016 with the sisters included the following “special” experiences:

  1. My favorite clothing store, In The Mood, one where previously I have bought countless items (with NO tax!) closed this year.  In its place, however, is an upscale “home goods” boutique to rival any located in Washington, D.C.  Walking into Domaci as in a dream, my soliloquy reads, “I am throwing out all my furniture, and buying everything from here!”  Yes, at my age -yes, that one – I was lustful…for the table, the floor mats, the sofas…even the damn candle!
  2. But alas, Sister #2 and I had to scurry across the street to Healing Hands where our one hour therapy sessions (not a “50-minute one hour session”…you who recognize this misnomer, understand the reference, I have no doubt!) awaited each: me, a Warm Bamboo massage, and dear sister, a therapeutic Swedish one. Never has an hour passed so quickly and so peacefully. Soft music, soft candlelight, and strong hands. Well oiled, well pressed, and well done, it was a feat to get our feet to the floor, stand upright, and totter down the stairway resuming our mundane lives.
  3. The evening brought and Sister #1 brought the next adventure to the fore – fine dinning. While this may sound trés mondain, be assured it is not. Sister #2 and I have no discriminating palates in our genes; Sister #1 possesses all of them! After much first-born lobbying on her part, and sheer guilt on our second and third-born parts, we all agreed to try a “new” restaurant located in an “old” location. Many Bethlehemites grew up with The Lantern’s steak-sandwich sauce dripping down their chins. On the very steak-sandwich spot of our past, we entered an uncluttered, cool and calm atmosphere; we entered Adagio. Have you yet eaten crabmeat in white chocolate sauce? I suggest you do. Food effusiveness –“That was really good!” – is not one of my more over traits, but I remain grateful to Sister #1 for this advocacy work.  And, it was really good.

But the heat…oh, the heat the next day. One simply had to participate in the next adventure!

pool

  1. Swimming. There is nothing that makes you feel like the brave and  intrepid explorer, than to venture outside one’s comfort zone. Sister #2 had that gleam in her eye, so we hit the open road for the pool. Oh, not the one usually frequented – the municipal pool at Monocracy, rather for one where we had to follow directions, travelling up and down the suburban lanes in the hinterlands, turning at Stop signs never seen before – all to reach the Hanover Township Community Pool. Throwing our bathing accoutrements under a magnificent locust tree swaying gently in the 90+ degree breeze, we all but ran like the twelve-year-old selves to which we had reverted, and jumped in!
  2. Refreshed and energized, I talked Sister #2 into a drive-by adventure – an adventure I had quietly kept to myself- to visit an abandoned house. “It’s right on the way home!” I cried piteously. I was driving, anyway. I confess, as a child born and raised in Bethlehem, PA, I never learned anything about a remarkable man named Archibald Johnston – or his home!  Yes, kindred Moravian College graduates – that Johnston of Johnston Hall! He was quite a man; he had quite a house. Parking the car after our circuitous drive through what appeared to be a dead end, we began our early evening constitutional across an expansive green lawn, interrupting a deer, a groundhog, and almost stepping on a chipmunk. Have you ever seen something so beautiful in your mind’s eye that it hurt? It is this house. Even in its state of disrepair -bordering on decay- it is sublime. It is an evocative place. It holds memories of the past, and dreams for a future. It left me with an ache in my heart.

house

Within a few blocks came the final adventures…

  1. No adventure is complete without the solo expedition – a late morning stroll to the nearby café, Jumbars, to meet with a former colleague. Experiencing an encounter as if time had never interrupted defies the logical order of chronological minutes, hours and days. One might wonder, “What is it about this connection that allows the threads of all those yesterdays to mesh seamlessly so that time becomes irrelevant?” Amidst shoveling fresh fruit, grilled muffins into our mouths and downing it with freshly brewed coffee, both of us shared teaching stories, tales of chickens and dogs, futures yet to be. Insulated within the familial atmosphere of this place and comforted by the home-baked love of generations (Thank you, Anna Jumbar!), time stopped. Friendship resumed.
  2. Through the years on my trips “home,” I pass a lovely bookshop storefront. It is only blocks from the sisters’ home, yet I have never been inside. Today was the day. The heat was oppressive, yet one cannot remain indoors for hours on end, no? Sister #1 and I set out for a jaunt. A quick walk only a block away. She, in her charming straw  hat; I in my “Iron Pigs” baseball cap, we were the only living things outdoors. The heat. The words “used & rare books”was my bait; the opening of the door to The Old Library Bookshop, my hook. Charming. Quaint. Air-conditioned. All of these qualities kept us there browsing for close to an hour through books, photographs, until I spied a gem. An early edition, Newbery title from 1930 – Hitty: Her First Hundered Years by Rachel Field, and illustrated by none other than Dorothy P. Lathrop. Two women I admire greatly. A gift to myself,  it is this precious book to mark a treasured few days.

And so I add here,

“I could fill many pages with accounts of that first summer – of the trips we took…of the expeditions…and of all the visits from neighbors and relations who often came to spend all day now that the weather was so fine” (Field 17).

hitty

 


 

 

at dusk

28/06/2013

B 002At dusk my sisters’

voices carry from the porch,

a sweet summer cadence.

I pause.

June bugs in the twilight

lighting my way.

I breathe

before joining in

their songs.

©Tina Hudak

 

A legacy to their children from my parents is a close relationship with my two sisters.  While we are separated by many years and our personal experiences are so different, our lives are intertwined and continue to be so.  The letter B was sketched by me in Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic in 2000 while visiting my sister in hospital after a very serious surgery.  The artwork alone is a silly, frivolous piece, but to me every touch of the pencil allowed my fear to find a concrete place and let hope remain.

This weekend they are visiting. Joy and gratitude will greet them.

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