I'm sure they thought buying the trampoline would do the trick. But no, even with the trampoline, the fire pit, the tree house, the Nintendo system, the hundreds of books and movies, the big, rolling park next door and the offer to invite friends whenever we wanted, we always had the same complaint about going to our other house, a big, rambling farmhouse an hour away in a small Ontario town. There's nothing to do, we whined.
"Precisely," was the thought, that I'm sure now, was etched in my parent's mind.
It's a decade and a half later, and my husband is expertly maneuvering our car through the twists and turns of the Blue Ridge Parkway as we head to his family's house in Blowing Rock. As we turn into our gravel driveway and see the low hanging roof in front of us, I find myself chanting a delicious mantra. "I have nothing to do."
It always comes full circle, doesn't it? When I was 14, I couldn't understand why my parents would want to leave everything behind for a weekend. I get it now.
I love the charm of the house itself, built by hand by Matt's industrious Pa the same year that my dear husband was born. Nearly every piece of furnishing inside has it's own story, whether it's the trademark lazy susan table Pa is known for building or the settee under the window that came from Nanta's mother's boarding house. On my first visit to the mountain house, Nanta walked me down the hallway lined with family pictures, carefully detailing the persons and events of each sepia toned moment. I felt like I should be diligently taking notes, wondering if I would ever be able to remember which handle-bar mustached man was the family's notorious horse-back riding physician or which 1920s bobbed sister was the one who wrote all the music. I quickly learned, on my next visit back, that Nanta would happily refresh me on the details. (Whether or not I asked.)
Trips to the mountain house over the last five years have included learning how to make red eye gravy without burning down your dorm room kitchen, trips into town to get Kilwyn's ice cream, rides in the model A car and late night, rambunctious games of Trivial Pursuit and Catchphrase that probably disturbed the nocturnal animals of the area. But it wasn't until this weekend that it hit me, that that point of going to the mountain house wasn't for the things we do up there, it was for all the things we don't do up here.
There's no internet. There are very few television channels and no DVD player or wii. There's no mall, no Wal-mart, no Target. There are but a few neighbors and upon waking in the early morning, there are no street noises to indicate whether it might be 4 am or 6 am.
The nearest Starbucks? Is 37 miles away. (Trust me, I looked.)
As soon as your wheels crunch on to the gravel drive, you suddenly feel far away from everything. I have always had a hard time doing nothing at all, but that is precisely the state of being I found myself deliriously anticipating all week long. For the first time ever, in my entire (albeit short) career-life, I did not bring a single piece of work with me on vacation. I did not bring a single project or intention with me. I brought two books, my computer to write, and my camera. I brought my dog and his leash. And about eight bags of groceries. I'm pretty sure we could not leave the house for days and be all set, calorically speaking.
This morning I awoke at 6, and took the dog out for a (brief and very cold) stroll. We came back in the house and I wrestled with an unfamiliar coffee pot, before I gave up and made tea on the stove. I briefly thought about going back to bed, and realized that I had the entire day free to take a nap at some point if I wanted. A nap! I love writing first thing in the morning, before my brain really has a chance to censor itself, but most days, I open up my computer and get caught up in emails or work projects and then the day is running. This morning, sans internet, I settled in with my tea and a blank word document. The sun rose over the Blue Ridge Mountains through the back window as my words settled into the place on the page, and I thought there really is no other place I'm supposed to be right now.