Sunday, April 22, 2018

Welcome to the Cottage

Visit often enough and you stop being a guest and start being family. Or so they tell you.

Although I'd gotten up at 6 and briefly admired the sunrise of complementary blues and oranges on the river, I didn't officially get up till after 9 and then it was to find my host still abed and my hostess (and girl crush) contentedly sipping coffee by the river-facing windows.

I sat down near her to start our all-day conversation while she sipped and I ate oatmeal, an exchange that lasted until the man of the house emerged to say, "Karen, we're going to have to have an uncomfortable conversation" as if about to share dire information.  Not even close. You don't have parents on the Northern Neck for over three decades without hearing the "inadequate plumbing" admonitions on a regular basis.

Honestly, I was flattered. Guests don't get the toilet paper lecture, fam does.

Once the love of his life and I set out for a walk - a must for me after not getting one yesterday - nothing was going to deter us, not people speeding by us leaving us to eat their exhaust, not my friend realizing that her shoes were inexplicably rubbing blisters on her heels, not wind gusts that made it feel like March instead of almost May.

Five plus miles later, I'd walked two new roads, lamented a tract of land that had been clear cut since my last visit and heard stories about the families who play musical houses rather than stay in the same one for long.

That said, I'm still getting used to being here off-season. Ordinarily, we'd get back from walking and start packing up to get on one of the boats, but despite having seen a few head out this morning, it was far too chilly for warm weather chicks like us to even consider any boat time.

Deck time, though, was well within our lounging capabilities, especially with libations in hand and seagulls providing an aerial show.

After that, we had no choice but to get cleaned up because company was a-coming and I wouldn't want to look like the seedy member of the clan to new folks. Now that I've been privy to deep, personal conversations between the happy couple on multiple occasions, I have a duty to represent the family well. Or at least as well as I can.

Coming to dinner were a judge and a former teacher who arrived with reinforcements - a bottle of French Rose, beer, a savory chili cheesecake with guacamole and a chocolate caramel torte - to accompany the steaks and kielbasa being grilled, along with pork tenderloin, twice-baked potatoes and the mesclun salad with blueberries, red onions, candied pecans and craisins in raspberry vinaigrette that awaited them.

It was enough food for Cox's army (as my Richmond grandmother used to put it, not that I've ever known who Cox was), so once we all sat down, we were there for the duration as the evening light became dusk and then dark.

Quickly taking center stage was the former teacher, who told us her favorite thing to make for dinner was reservations, complained about the roving coyotes who live in her neighborhood and disparaged the man in charge of the free world, at least until her husband reminded her that she'd voted for him ("I was tired of the way things were and I thought he'd change things," she said weakly).

Truth be told, I believe it was my first meal with anyone who'd voted for the groper-in-chief.

The judge, on the other hand, was droll and mustachioed, but also wise and succinct. Talking about his daughter's current relationship foibles, he said he'd offered only one piece of advice.

"Relationships should make you happy...most of the time," he'd said with all the gravitas you'd expect from a judge. Chiming in was my very happily married hostess, who added, "And it shouldn't be that hard," to a chorus of amens.

None, by the way, louder than mine. As my charming host likes to say about having found his true love, "It was a crooked path that led straight to you."

Now I know it's the one time the path matters less than the destination. Arrived, as Siri would say.

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