Over the river and through the recollections

Published 10:12 am Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

It’s that time of year when millions flock to the airport while others flock to the grocery stores, and those who actually live in flocks, wind up on the dinner table, filled with stuffing.

Paul and I have made reservations. With zero guilt.

Having spent, years ago, four consecutive Thanksgivings at the hospital bedside of one of our respective mothers, culminating with the death of Paul’s mother on the day itself, our decision to return to our favorite inn atop Saluda Mountain for the foreseeable future is both a luxury and a continued healing of sorts.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The interior of the inn is always perfect: elegantly decorated without competing for its rustic charm. We tend not to sit near the river-rock fireplace with its beckoning, crackling flames. Instead, we sit where we always sat with our mothers when they–both in their late 80s and early 90s–were able to join us: on a sofa on the other side of the lobby, facing the two leather wing chairs with a wonderful view through the bank of windows framing the Blue Ridge. And we, of course, adored spoiling them: a glass of champagne upon arrival to toast the day, and lots of lively chatter before being seated at the table for dinner.

Joan and Christine always chose the wing chairs as they were sturdy with strong arms on which both women could lean for support as they rose. This Thanksgiving, as with each one these past several years, Paul and I will face those two chairs, now unoccupied, but with memories that are vivid in their clarity…Christine in her bright red wool suit and matching lipstick, Joan in her mauve, wool cloak and silver hair wound into a bun. They are delighted in this annual tradition, the surroundings, the sumptuous food and drink—a day they have looked forward to for weeks. When you are elderly, especially when you have lost much-cherished independence, not to mention friends, it is imperative to have something in which to look forward.

We, of course, had also spent many a holiday at home on the farm which both women thoroughly enjoyed. And as their health became more precarious these Christmases and Thanksgivings were less stressful in terms of mobility and privacy. Putting one’s feet up for a post-dinner nap on the sofa was encouraged in our house, probably less so in the lobby of an establishment. Yet, while I can still see my mother with her artistic eye turning a centerpiece just so, or moving an ornament on the tree to balance out its symmetry, the recollections of each woman’s vibrant personality seem to be stronger at the inn.

In a few days, we will be winding our way up the back of the mountain, taking in the view of the late afternoon light filtering over the pleasing collection of log and stone cabins that punctuate the countryside and the cascading waterfall that never fails to elicit wonder. It seems less that Paul and I are returning once again this year to muse on the memories of our mothers and more that we are actually joining them.

With champagne, of course.