Last weekend we went to stay with some friends at their weekend house in Upstate New York‘s Hudson Valley. It was a lovely break from a city weekend which can become a bit tedious come late August…and their home was amazing. I say amazing for a few reasons: the company, the hospitality and food were all incredible. But upon further reflection, the weekend reminded me of my own childhood getaways to the Hudson Valley–particularly watching another family enact their own lovely and loving everyday ballet–and I caught myself saying: “I remember…” more than once (sometimes aloud and sometimes to myself).
When I was growing up, we had a house upstate in Elizaville, NY–a little town not far from Rhinebeck. It was a 4-bedroom log cabin that was on an exquisite expanse of land. We had flower and vegetable gardens, a trout stream and an in-ground pool. Like most kids I did not appreciate the privilege and certainly was not grateful for all I was able to enjoy and access, especially as I got into my tween and teen years when I had to leave my friends every weekend. But as I got older I came to like, love and enjoy the house and the respite it provided.
Summers were always fantastic at the house. The pool was open and even though my Dad complained about maintaining it, I know he loved it. The garden always was overflowing with tomatoes, zucchini, cabbage and other summer delights. Bunches of freshly clipped and fragrant peonies and marigolds would be spilling from every available vase.
And the Christmases we used to have… My mother made goose stuffed with sauerkraut and apples. We would cook all the time up there, cook–> eat–> rest –> cook –> eat –> rest.
The late August weekend Princess Diana was suddenly killed we were at the house. My parents, then-boyfriend and I were spending some time up there while my father was recovering from brain surgery. Earlier that month he had a sudden seizure and they found the cause was a brain tumor. When we got the paper from the local country store, we saw the front page with the news about the Princess, and I’ll never forget his reaction… he said: “If someone had said a week ago that I would have outlived Princess Diana, I never would have believed them. No one is guaranteed tomorrow, and today is everyone’s gift.”
He died ten weeks later.
Per his wishes, we spread his ashes over the stream (he loved to fish up there). After a year, my mother put the house on the market and about a year later it sold. Sometimes I think about what it would have been like to see my kids play and swim and fish in that house. But I don’t let myself indulge in that kind of thinking for too long, and regret isn’t useful, anyway. What I’m choosing to focus on is the lesson that everyday is a gift, and it’s one best when shared with those we love. The only thing we all get is today.