Oh, it feels very good to be home.
I knew I was home when I started to see gypsy moth caterpillars! (Cute little guy on my pizza box.)
I also missed this history. What a wonderful place to experience it, too: Sackets Harbor -
a US Navy shipyard, complete with an Army-constructed fort and barracks from the War of 1812.
General Ulysses S. Grant slept here a few times. Many of the houses and buildings are from the early 1800's. My brother, Seamus, and I sauntered around and even came across a restored fire department pushcart that men would actually push to the burning structure and pump water from. The marina was filled with contemporary watercrafts, where once military schooners sailed, paroled and protected.
An important battle was fought here and we came across a few canons that had been dredged up from Lake Ontario's murky bottom - a salty relic of the historic conflict.
Back to a little cush living. I am in an 1802 restored B&B with my father, step-mother, and brothers. My sister would be here with her family, but she's currently just beginning her cross-country migration today from Denver, Colorado. (They'll be here soon!) Our cousin Rachel is getting married to her partner of several years, Laura, tomorrow, and we're all here for the festivities.
Rachel's parents (my aunt and uncle) are actually ministers and will be marrying them at their house this afternoon.
I am singing/playing Indigo Girls' "Power of Two" for the processional. So happy to be contributing to their day. This is a wonderful grand finale for my cross-country trek - to be able to immediately see all of my family (on Dad's side) in one fell swoop!
I am so thankful.
So, since I last blogged, Danene and I had a fabulous last few days together. We made it through Ohio and a rainy Eerie, Pennsylvania
and finally into New York.
I was amazed at the vast wine country up here! It's like I never left California. (Oh, yes, I DO plan on visiting those at some point.) We were disappointed that the weather did not cooperate for camping, as we had hoped. We literally followed a bad weather front from Colorado all the way to New York. Well, at least we got one night of camping in. There will be many other opportunities to get out there this summer. I'll be just a stone's throw away over the VT border from the great Adirondacks up here in upstate New York and plan to do some hiking and camping in the "forever wild" forests so wonderfully restored and preserved thanks to the efforts (and funds) of so many environmentally conscientious folks in the area. It made me imagine an entire state (minus NYC - that's irreversible, I think) completely and forever wild - dare to dream!
Before getting here, we stopped in Niagra Falls as Danene had never been before.
Then, once again, got rained out of camping plans and ended up, instead, at a hotel on the outskirts of Rochester, NY. I knew my mother grew up in a little house outside of Rochester, so I texted my aunt as we passed by and asked for my grandparents' old address. Within seconds, the return reply came in and, as it turned out, we were only minutes from the house (ah, the small miracles of technology!). Danene was fine with taking a little detour before we checked into our hotel for the night. What an experience!
We pulled into the familiar driveway, but it looked like no one was home. So I walked up to the door and knocked. I glanced down to the right of the brick landing upon which I stood and noticed a small Japanese Maple. This was my mother's favorite tree, and I took it as an encouraging sign. The door opened abruptly and I smiled and introduced myself. "Hi! I'm Bridget Heaney. My grandparents raised my mother and her brother and sister here and I have many memories of..." But the face behind the screen door interrupted me.
"No! I'm sorry. You just cannot come on my property and snoop around like this. You'll have to leave. Do not take any pictures."
I was taken aback. "Oh! I'm sorry. I didn't mean to..."
She continued, "A few months ago some creepy looking man with dark hair came around here claiming the same thing you're saying. He was tall and pale in a dark suit. I don't know who he was, but I told him to please leave. I just can't have people snooping around my house. It's a privacy issue, you know."
I could not imagine who that "creepy" guy could be. I assured her I was just the granddaughter of the previous owners of the house, and told her that I understood and that I would leave. No problem!
The woman took another look at me as a sweet, old Irish Setter (the only breed of dog my grandparents ever had) sat panting and smiling at me through the bottom of the screen. My mother's last dog was an Irish Setter, Rosie, who outlasted her by just a few months. I took this as another good sign and didn't immediately turn to go.
She then said, "Who are you, again? Who were your grandparents?" I told her. "Oh, yes. I still get mail for them." I smiled. She seemed to soften a little. "OK. Well, why don't you meet me around the side. Perhaps I can just show you the back yard."
"Great!" I went to get Danene, who had heard us talking and was standing beside the car in alert mode. I whispered to her as I passed, "She said she'll meet me out back. She's not very friendly, but seems okay." Danene decided to come with me just to be sure.
The woman came around back and opened the gate. When she saw Winni, she smiled. "Oh! You have a dog! What's her name? Is she friendly? Okay, well, she can come in, too."
We were making progress. I introduced Danene and she introduced herself to us as Mary Lynne. She was a Literature professor at a nearby university. Mary Lynne began to feel more comfortable with us and told us why she was so hesitant to let me in. Apparently the family who bought the house from my grandfather (after my grandmother died in 1988) had a bit of a bad reputation in the neighborhood. In fact, it was so bad, no one would talk to Mary Lynne about them. She said everyone clams up when this family is mentioned and that they had the house wired to the hilt with security alarms and cameras. There was also some secret room with double locks or something they had built upstairs. She surmised they must have been mafia or in a witness protection program. The mob in my grandparents' house - Whooda guessed!? Scandalous!
Well, it was like a warm rush of remembrance after that. Unfortunately, there was a pool where my grandfather used to tend to his quarter-acre garden, but the cherry and apple trees were still standing tall and fruitful. The widow's walk over my grandparents' bedroom leading out from my mother's second floor bedroom was just as I had remembered. Mary Lynne mentioned that she had bought the house because of the Irish Setter weather vane on top. Oh, yes! I had forgotten about that! I mentioned the Irish Setter connection and Mary's face lit up. Not only was Rosie my mother's last dog, but my grandparents used to breed, show and raise Irish Setters. Mary Lynne then showed me where she buried her last two Setters in a flower garden around the side of the house. She also took us inside the house and we couldn't help but notice the books! There were about 10,000 in all, she explained, including some early 20th century first editions. She did her dissertation on Sylvia Plath.
Mary went on to tell us about her mother, who had just passed after a long battle with Alzheimer's, and for whom Mary had just built a coffin and buried. Mary was, in fact, writing a memoir about the experience. Well, by the end of the visit she was offering us strawberries, tea, doggie treats and even to stay for dinner. We had to move on, but thanked her for her hospitality. We got a quick view of my grandparents' old bedroom, which was now Mary's study (looking just like a professor's study should, and as I hope mine will look someday - with books and papers strewn about from floor to ceiling), and the living room, in which we celebrated several Christmases and where my grandmother used to play piano. In fact, I have my grandmother's baby grand in storage, and where it used to stand in that living room, now stood another piano - Mary's. There were too many parallels for this to be a chance encounter. We exchanged emails and promised to keep in touch. I may even help Mary edit her memoir while I'm in school. And here's the funniest part: This past weekend, at our cousin's wedding, my brother, Seamus, told me that just a few months back in February, he had stopped by our grandparents' old house just outside of Rochester only to be shooed away through the screen of the front door by a woman with an Irish Setter. Seamus and I had a good laugh over that one. I have since assured Mary Lynne that Seamus is harmless, though dark, tall and creepy...well, he can be sometimes ;)~
So, that was quite an adventure. Danene and I slept well that night and the next day I dropped her off at the airport in Syracuse, thanked her profusely for being such an amazing friend (who packed so lightly!!!),
and watched her walk into the terminal for her flight back to Lancaster, PA to spend the weekend with her family who missed her dearly. I then drove a little further north to spend the weekend with my family in Adams Center, NY for my cousin Rachel's wedding - an incredibly beautiful celebration of love, life, and family! While I stayed in historic Sackets Harbor, NY in a sweet B&B with my family, Winni had a fun stay with a local big animal vet, Dr. Mel, I called her, who happened to be the B&B owner's daughter and who offered to take Winni for the weekend. I love rural communities for that kinda stuff. Winni went on a few farm calls with Dr. Mel and we even got to meet local equine orthodontist (definitely a first for me), Tom, who laughed and held up a horse's skull for us saying, "This is one we couldn't save."
Apparently Tom just survived a horse rolling over on him after the horse got spooked by some bears on a late night ride home from a local bar. Like I said, gotta love rural communities for that kinda stuff...and for street signs like this...
I have to hit the hay. It's been a long weekend and I'm cozy on this twin bed (Winni's on the other one). I've actually made it to Hartland, Vermont, (pop. 3,223)
where Dad and my stepmom, Lucia, and little brothers, Micah and Asher, have made me feel very welcome. I kind of feel like I'm on vacation for the summer in a cottage in the mountains - a very large cottage.
I'm looking forward to the solace in this "el campo verde"
and the arrival of my sister and her family who are moving into a house literally steps down the street from here. Maybe I'll have some fun stories to relay from this small town this summer before I begin school. Please check back if you'd like to and thanks so much for keeping me company all this way! It's been an awesome return trek. Keep enjoying the journey out there!!