THE MAYBE CHRONICLES
Just one year ago my family and I were snow tubing and cross-country skiing at Frost Valley YMCA in the Catskills, trying to maintain some sense of equilibrium amid the rather unrelenting rounds of layoffs and furloughs going on at my husband's company.
As it turns out, Rob didn't make the cut and we faced eight long months of unemployment.
And now we're back at this winter retreat, truly grateful that my husband is working again. Not that we arrived here carefree; his devoted mother, Laura, died just days earlier, at age 82. She was a close friend to me, a beloved grandmother to our eleven-year-old son, and as I gaze at the snow-covered woods and half-frozen streams it seems that once again this whitened landscape will offer up a much-needed reprieve to my family.
Much of this year has been hectic: all of us running back and forth to the hospital and nursing home while also adjusting to Rob's new job with its long commute. Needless to say, we hadn't been spending time outdoors communing with nature – our fresh-air activities mostly of the shoveling and de-icing variety. So to be cross-country skiing on this day is a complete treat, and as I look over at the icy stream meandering alongside the trail, I consciously inhale the cool air and let out a bit of the yearlong stress.We're here on this three-day MLK weekend with five other families, including twelve kids, ages four through fourteen. These are relatively new friends, brought together by our mutual friend, Bonnie, many of us first meeting up here at Frost Valley three years ago. On this day the kids are chain sledding, legs and arms linked to the kid behind and in front. It's a scene right out of my own childhood, and the adults standing on the sidelines seem aware of the specialness as cameras come out. One by one the adults give in to the enticing shrieks and laughter and sled down the rather bumpy hill, throwing neck-and-back caution to the wind.
Later that evening, it occurs to me that it's been a very long time since I've simply hung out and talked with so many women. It does have that college feel to it, and the cafeteria-style dining adds to the atmosphere. That we're all staying under one roof in the lodge furthers the camaraderie as we roam the hallways chatting it up, visiting in each other's room, sharing wine and cheese.
The next day the men decide to do their own bonding and venture off for a cable bridge hike. They come back rather energized, somehow younger looking, clearly more connected and relaxed. A few of the women decide to stay warm indoors and try their hand at candle making. But I go to the sunroom above the cafeteria, where last year I remember perusing the half-filled bookshelves, settling in with the wonderful book "Fugitive Pieces," a poetic novel about a young boy literally hiding underground, like a turnip, during the Holocaust. This time I choose Jules Verne's "A Journey to the Center of the Earth" and a catnap in the warm sun.
As usual, the days pass quickly and here we are standing in the snow-filled parking lot hugging our goodbyes. "Next year at Frost Valley," we say, our now common refrain. I know the pictures will circulate back and forth and the on-site maple syrup will serve as a memento. But on the way home it occurs to me that for our family it may not be so long--my son says he wants to go to summer camp here.