This time two years ago, Dahlia and I were getting used to the idea of living in the U.S. once again. I started a blog. I intended to write about the transition to sedentary life in a small town in Central New York, about the wonder and befuddlement and consternation, about the shock of it all. Come to find out, I was still a stranger in a strange land. It just so happened to be the land of my birth.
What had changed? Nothing and everything. Perhaps it was me, more than I had realized until then. I didn’t get very far, not more than a handful of posts. I had a novel to chase. I came to realize novels are exceedingly jealous. They do not permit idle flirtation. They demand fidelity (my experience anyway).
And now another attempt at another blog as we head back overseas, which is less than three days away. Dahlia and I and the Dog of Destiny, our little family—finally Taiwan bound. We’ve come full circle, and I guess I’m feeling nostalgic. Guess that’s my excuse (if one is needed) for revisiting an old blog post, the very first written upon our return to the States in the summer of 2016.
Every morning for the past few days I roll out of bed groggy and stumbling, my face puffy, my eyelashes cemented and crusted over.
It’s humid. It’s early. And it’s quiet. There’s the pulsing of an oncoming headache, my back and neck stiff. It’s like waking up from two minutes of sleep after a long night sprawled across a couple of filthy chairs in some out of way airport on a 18 hour layover. I’ve been there. I know what I’m talking about.
I’m not hung over. It feels like it though, and I need a cup of coffee.
I hate feather pillows. The innkeeper seems to insist on them, despite the fact that she insisted on allergy shots for me as a kid. She thinks I outgrew this particular allergy. That must be it.
She’s gone so far as to claim that these particular pillows are, in fact, made of “synthetic” feathers. Synthetic my ass! Clearly, I’m the worse having pressed my face against them. Why-oh-why persist on defending the damn pillows?
Ah, that old familial bickering. Home.
It’s August in Central New York. It rained overnight, and it’s getting light now. Casa De La Madre is located in a sleepy town, on quiet street of manicured lawns and 50s era, ranch-style homes, built en masse, presumably, after The War. Casa de La Madre is near the end of the street, a prim white house with a barn-red door.
We checked in about a week or so ago. The rates are exceedingly reasonable, and despite the feather pillows, and the lack of personal space, it is quite comfortable at Casa De La Madre. The innkeeper keeps a tidy establishment, bakes decadent, you-can’t-eat-just one, chocolate-chip cookies, and an assortment of other delectable treats, but there are drawbacks to staying here.
For starters, Casa De La Madre serves weak coffee. In this sense, at least, it’s lucky I’m up before any reasonable person has a right to be. I get to make the coffee, the way I like it—forte! A bigger issue: there’s little in the way of privacy, which is really a problem of geography. The place isn’t big enough, and there isn’t enough space separating our quarter’s from the innkeeper’s. A narrow hallway and two thin doors separate our rooms, so there can be no arguing between Dahlia and I, no assurance of a private conversation, and no chance of romance (it would be awkward for everybody).
Another problem (which is only a problem if you’re someone like me): the innkeeper likes things nice and neat. She cultivates a fastidious, well-ordered universe within the walls of Casa De La Madre. No towels on the bathroom floor. Clothes in the hamper. No dishes in the sink. Blankets neatly folded. Beds made—always. Shoes have a place by the front door. Keys are hung there on the wall. Everything has its place. Nothing is left lying around. Which I can appreciate. Good habits. We try to abide.
We’ve adopted a strict “leave no trace” policy—leave each room as if you were never there—but old habits die hard.
The biggest drawback though is the morning entertainment—the over-caffeinated babbling, talking heads, the boobs on the tube—all the gloom and doom, all the phony outrage, all the dim-witted banter. It taunts my sanity.
The innkeeper is perpetually outraged by the news. She tsk, tsk, tsk’s her disapproval with tick-tock regularity, launches into spirited monologues of the “What is wrong with the world?” sort.
Me? I don’t really need this sort of in-your-face, daily bop-over-the-head confirmation that America is plunging head first into collective stupidity—it’s blowing in the wind.
I miss the tranquility of our morning routine—the solitude, the peace and quiet, time to read, time to reflect, sipping coffee, minds slowly, gently waking to the world.
All that said, who can argue with the affordability or the convenience of Casa De La Madre? Or the warm, gracious hospitality of the innkeeper—she treats us like family! She would have us stay forever, if she could. I’m quite sure.
But she knows, as we do, Casa De La Madre is to be a way-station. Central New York is to be a temporary respite—home again for a time. But not forever. We’ll be on our way again.