The hubby and I headed out into the country earlier today, near Cook Forest, PA to visit with many of my in-law’s. We visited with the hubby’s sister and her own hubby at the Lucky Buck Lodge; their soon-to-be full time home and shared offices, nestled in the Allegheny National Forest. The hubby’s parents, a couple of nephews and a niece and various significant others, and my other sister-in-law and brother-in-law joined us as well. We packed lightly, only planning for one night’s stay; Oboe had more packed than we did. We planned to spend Saturday afternoon with the family, Saturday evening in a local hotel, and Sunday back at the Lodge for an extended family/friend’s last blast of summer picnic.
I brought my laptop in tow, primarily because it’s a new laptop for my new job and I wanted to get it all set up and tested out and ready to go for my first day in my new position. I planned to tinker with the computer during the almost two hour drive, but that was only wishful thinking. You see, the hubby needed me to play navigator, with his handwritten (and often wrong) directions that couldn’t be read by the most brilliant of minds. There was no way to co-pilot, decipher terrible writing, look for the ‘crooked tree next to the tipped over cow near the fresh spring’ and play with my new computer.
When we arrived at the Lodge, I knew we reached a new, little piece of heaven. It was nearly eighty degrees outside, but not back in the forest. It was cool and serene. The Lodge is still under re-construction (being transformed from a hunting lodge to a full-time home), so the smells of fresh pine wood, homegrown tomatoes, and the forest filled my senses. The wrap-around porch was littered with a variety of comfy lounge chairs, and the smell of pasta and fresh sauce (yes, my in-law’s celebrate their Italian heritage even at a country picnic) made me salivate. My cell phone was without signal. For the second time this summer I was unplugged and disconnected from the world. Until I looked around.
My nephew was tinkering with some handheld electronic contraption. Three or four laptops with satellite Internet were strewn about the living area of the Lodge. Within minutes, I was curled up in an anti-gravity chair, covered head-to-toe in Deep Woods Off and my great-niece’s Winnie the Pooh blanket, and my laptop was nestled on my thighs. I played and practiced and became comfortable with my new contraption. I ate pasta and meatballs and home-baked bread (plus some heavenly ricotta cheese cookies crafted by my mother-in-law). When the loud and boisterous storytelling began around the Sambuca-covered kitchen table (yes, the same stories we’ve heard for years and years now), I escaped to the deck, to my laptop, and globbed on the bug spray again. (It’s difficult to type when one’s fingers are stuck together- - that stuff is like glue. I’m surprised bugs don’t just stick to people’s arms and legs instead of flying off in another direction).
Out of the corner of my eye I watched Oboe cover every piece of ground surrounding the Lodge. Thank goodness for the myriad tags on his collar; when I couldn’t see him at least I could hear him. I watched my twin niece and nephew (he’s home on leave from the Air Force) nearly kill themselves playing tether ball. My four-year-old great niece Bella (“beautiful” in Italian) periodically checked on me and her Pooh blanket, as I sipped on a nice Riesling and ate giant, purple, seedless grapes. My mother-in-law, the hubby, and my nephew’s girlfriend played a Player-piano together as beautiful music escaped the windows of the house. I learned about the workings of a compost toilet (OK, I could have lived a full life without learning that lesson) and admired my brother-in-law’s handiwork as he personally re-constructs his family’s lodge – once a schoolhouse, torn down by family and transported piece-by-piece to its current location, building an outside brick and marble fireplace and making dozens of improvements inside as well. The fireplace is really the conversation point of the property. Two pieces of marble frame each side of the fireplace and symbolize both my sis’ and brother-in-law’s parents, two additional pieces of marble represent them as a couple, and seven additional marble pieces represent their children from other marriages and various pieces of marble represent the number of grandchildren from the family. Much of the wood for the Lodge comes from family inheritances, from the family’s original farmhouse – all reconstructed to build a new life and a new future.
Lucky Buck Lodge, soon to be re-named to something that, too, symbolizes a new life and new future, a true haven to escape M.S. for a few days (without really needing to unplug from the world at all)!