I met some angels last year in the Adirondacks. They looked like people, but I realize now that they had must have had their wings tucked up tight, probably some sort of Spanx for angels, allowing them to work unnoticed here on earth. They wait up there in a historic lodge on crystal clear mountain lake, in a museum holding a beautiful quilt made from your grandmother’s aprons, baking pies in a historic lodge, even in a smelly auto mechanic shop. They’re pros at gently thumping city folk upside their neatly coiffed heads, opening their eyes before they miss it all. They shake your soul up and slap it around a little bit too. True story, it happened to me.
Last September ,I loaded up the family in the old minivan for our first road trip to the Adirondacks, an adventure sparked by my grandmother’s aprons. A few weeks prior, I had contacted a fiber artist, Maria Wulf , and asked if she could make a quilt from the aprons. The aprons were special, worn every Sunday by an Italian grandmother, “Neno”, who gathered, fed and loved us. Maria asked if she could display the quilt in an Adirondack museum where she was doing a show, before mailing it to me. After googling the area , I knew we had to go get it, I was being summoned to the mountain and taking hostages. My kids, not used to surprise trips or Mom cancelling a school day were game.
We arrived nine hours later, passing many signs with the word “bear” in them. The Bear Laundromat, The Bear Motel, The Bear Diner. We gave up trying to convince the kids that we didn’t have to worry about being eaten by a bear, as a matter of fact, when we pulled into the lodge and were greeted by three carved bears waving happily to us, I was convinced of it. The lodge owner, Pat , welcomed us warmly, we felt like family, how wonderful..and odd. We hustled down to see the lake and Oh My God, Trip Adviser told no lies. A clear mountain lake, my first one. I don’t know how I went 48 years without thinking about mountain lakes, but I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. The Family Von Wynn, wearing their play clothes fashioned from the lodge drapes, canoed and frolicked in the mountains, it was glorious, and so unlike us. I loved it. The food was too good to be true, maybe we had died and gone to heaven?
The next day we went to meet Maria and pick up the quilt at the museum. She was truly lovely and simply glowed with creativity, I know Neno would have loved her, and appreciated her talent. A perfect day, followed by another perfect evening back at the lodge.
The next morning after another perfectly prepared meal by the perfect staff, we said our goodbyes to what felt like old friends, packed up old Bessie, the minivan, and headed down the mountain. Ten minutes into our trip, out of cell service range, Bessie’s temperature gauge started bonging an alarm, the needle reading hot. Oh, crap. We turned around and made our way back to heaven. The lodge owner welcomed us back with open arms and helped us get our van towed to the only mechanic in town, Jamie, whose shop was closed on Sunday. We were stuck. No problem, the lodge would “take care of us”, let us stay another night for free. Now I was getting a little freaked out, especially after a guest in a NY Yankees hat helped me out of my canoe..this place was not for real. Paranoia setting in completely after another delicious dinner that evening, when the owner introduced us to the entire dining room as “the stranded family”, and they all turned to face us, smiling and clapping. Suddenly, I was in my own version of “The Shining”. I told Joe that we were never leaving and would soon find out that all these people were dead and we were probably already dead too. I noticed that my son had won a raccoon, “Daniel Boone” style hat playing Bingo with the other ghosts, was wearing it happily and seemed to have adjusted completely to his new life, because we were never getting off the mountain, ever. Suspicions confirmed of this when we reached Jamie the mechanic in a full panic, and he explained that he was closed the next day as well. Jamie sensing our desperation, agreed to go check out the van, despite being closed. Now, I began wishing we were dead, because how the hell much was that going to cost?? A mechanic who has us bent over a barrel in a town in the middle of nowhere? Of course he will lie and cheat, that’s what mechanics do, at least where I’m from. Panic. We had to get back.
The next morning, Joe and I were anxious, calling our jobs, calling the kids school, waiting to hear from Jamie, who was probably replacing perfectly good parts with his damaged parts, We were both shouting into our cell phones, while people glided by us in canoes, waving to the stranded family. The lodge owner had put my son to work, no longer a paying guest, he was stacking wood, still wearing his raccoon hat. Jamie called a while later. He had fixed the van..wondered if $80.00 seemed fair. Gulp. We felt like heels. He opened his shop on his day off and didn’t charge us a thousand..that would not have happened at home, ever. Thank you angel.