Over the 405 and Through Security To Ex-Stepmother’s House We Go

2 Dec

Noah at LAXIt’s been a long time since Noah and I have had a “normal” family holiday. Our family’s not normal. So suffice to say, it made sense to us to travel from Los Angeles to West Fairlee, Vermont for five days for Thanksgiving to visit my ex-stepmother, and Noah’s dad and stepmom. Family is as family does, and ours–does. Some things but not others. Like all families, normal or otherwise.

Fourteen hours after leaving LAX, we drove into Cleo’s driveway. Four decades ago, for four years, Cleo was married to my dad. She and I have been in close touch ever since–through her second marriage, her adopting her son (my brother!) Chris, my marriages and divorces, Noah’s arrival, and a lot of people dear to us dying. Noah and I climbed out of the rental car, and  crunched over the yard into her farmhouse kitchen. She had chicken and potatoes and pie in the oven. We stayed up talking until 2 am.

Cleo at T-GivingThis is Cleo remembering a kiss from Derrida. If you’re not familiar with the name, look up French Theorist Anyone Would Have Been Thrilled to Be Kissed By.

Next morning I woke up looking out the window at snow, ice, fur trees. Dorothy not in Beverly Hills anymore. Noah was downstairs, wide-eyed at the weather, and a Pendleton hat someone had at left at Cleo’s. She gave it to him.

Noah and Mom on Cleo's porch

We walked around outside.  Cleo lives right next to the West Fairlee Church. 19th- century. Stunning. A treasure of the community.

Fairlee church

Also, I got married there. Some time ago. Marriage didn’t work out but as you can see, God had nothing to do with that. The humans failed.  Noah strung up the lights for the coming Sunday service. Noah believes in God, one of the many cool things about my son. Not attached to a particular religion though. One of the many cool things. . .

Fairlee LakeDriving into town, we passed dark, delicious Fairlee lake. I’ve been swimming there since I was 12, Noah since he was 2. We played the “remember when” game: “Remember when we played tennis there, and got kicked off the courts because it was private?” (yup.) “Remember when. . .” We also talked about the future: “Do you have a plan, Mom?” (kinda.)

Then we got to Fairlee Center and went into Chapman’s–one of my favorite stores *anywhere*. Ike, the Counter Cat, was in his usual place:

Counter Cat

The counter. Next to the counter we found a singularly New England treat. (Like poi bowls at the Santa Monica Beach.)

turkey jerkyThey don’t have these cases of jerky at my Beverly Hills Whole Foods.  Newly vegetarian, I turned up my nose, while my mouth watered. Next stop the Fairlee Diner, a locale about as Vermont as you can get. Nothing without butter, ham,  syrup.

Fairlee Diner(Spot my cane?) We drove then to Hanover to shop at the Co Op. And then I looked all over town for a menorah because this year the first day of Chanukah fell on the same day as T-Giving. SO. . . I knew Hanover was WASPY, but the one and only menorah available was in a craft store and cost two hundred dollars!

It was time to return to Cleo’s and welcome our friends Mary and Jeff–who drove from New Paltz, NY, to spend the holiday with us. Mary is a kind of aunt to Noah, and he  a kind of nephew.


Noah spent the evening with his dad and stepmom who had driven from Ithaca to see him.  Jeff and Cleo talked solidly for hours because–as it turned out–they wrote about very similar theological issues. (Derrida, Death, and  Tao was all I could glean. And that Jeff had not been kissed by Derrida, but he was cool with that.) Mary, meanwhile,Mary making menorah got busy making a menorah for Chanukah. Look what the shiksa from Texas made with slate, pine–and, of course, play dough:menorahA fine addition for Mary’s resume. (AND NOW AVAILABLE IN CRAFT STORES EVERYWHERE FOR TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS.)

That night I slept the way one does in the cold,  dark, and safe, and then it was Thanksgiving.

Noah making beetsWe had many many dishes of various kinds; this is the beet man with his yellow and red stir fry. I made up a fennel and parm and olive thing that I would marry if I could and will probably never be able to duplicate. Sweet holiday moments. Not meant for replication.

T-Giving, Noah, Mary, Mom

Only once did I get into my cups and say silly self-pitying things. I found everyone lovely, and everyone seemed to tolerate me.  Even though she was under the weather, Mary cooked amazing dishes, cleaned, and made the now legendary menorah.  Cleo made everyone feel special and loved. Jeff fit into this brand new scene with people he’d never met like a real mensch. Deecie, Cleo’s sister, brought pie and belated birthday presents for me. (BIG THANK YOU, DEECIE). Noah was the best Noah ever.

And when it took us over twenty hours (two out of three flights were delayed) to get home, he just kept laughing. Especially when we got into the cab at LAX and the radio was playing “Jingle Bell Rock.” Tears were rolling down his cheeks. The absurdity of the traveling mishegas,  of the wintery song in the midst of a warm night with the windows rolled down,  palm trees bursting in air, had him pretty tickled. But perhaps it was also relief. We made it! We made a slightly crazy trip for a holiday with our not normal family. We. Made. It.

There’s been a lot of recovery this year, for which I am very thankful. Happy Thanksgiving, Dear Reader!


 Sandalled feet in BHAs my mother used to say after every trip, “Home Again, Home Again, jiggity jig.”  The next morning, back in sandals and with the sun beaming on my face, I walked around the corner to get coffee. Noah was in my apartment, registering on-line for the coming semester. The tailor and the post-woman both shouted out, “How’s the hip?!” I was without my cane. “I went to Vermont,” I answered nonsensically.

There’s no place like home: This one, that one. The other.

IMG_1459 A bedroom window

IMG_1339holds you in its frame. A view of where you’ve been, are, or will be. Home again, home again.


2 Responses to “Over the 405 and Through Security To Ex-Stepmother’s House We Go”

  1. cleokearns1 December 2, 2013 at 3:03 am #

    A lovely description of our Thanksgiving….

    missed you.



  2. cleokearns1 December 3, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    Here is one version of my lovely Thanksgiving


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