August 13-20: The family’s packed into the van this Saturday morning, our border collie Bailey stuffed into a tight little barrel of a space between my two sons, Alex and Adam. We’re on a 3-hour drive through Maryland, passing through towns with names like Accident, Friendsville, Bear Creek, Licking Creek and Big Pool. We even pass a place called Negro Mountain and I’m mildly shocked because the name is so politically incorrect. Yet. There it is, for all the passing world to see.
The sky is overcast and dreary, but the earth is green and lush with rolling hills, mountains and pastures. My knees are so creaky and stiff I can’t get comfortable. I cross them, uncross them, stretch them out straight like a sliding board on the dashboard. I sit cross-legged.
Early this morning, before leaving home, I turn down a job offer in Erbil, Kurdistan. Friday afternoon, August 12, I sent every last document attesting to my past teaching positions to Oman. There’s nothing else to send after this, so if their Ministry doesn’t approve me, I’ll be sadly without a job. So far, I’ve turned down the Wall Street Institute in Ankara,Turkey, King Saud University in Riyadh, Westgate Corporation (universities) in Japan, and SABIS University in Kurdistan. At this point, there’s nothing more for me to do but relax and enjoy my vacation with my boys. If everything falls through, I’ll have to deal with it later. My life will unfold as it will, like the undulating landscape around us.
Our cabin at Deep Creek Lake is 1544 Creekside Cove. It perches high on a hill hemmed in by pines, oaks and maples. Here in the mountains at this man-made lake in western Maryland, some of the leaves are already starting to change. I see a smattering of yellow mottled leaves on the deck. Down in the basement of the cabin is a pool table where we play a rousing game. Later, the boys take some cigars and Mike’s Lemonade and we all sit out in the hot tub, while they puff smoke rings into the air.
Sunday it is cool and raining off and on. We walk along the lake shore to the dam that forms Deep Creek Lake and later take a drive around the lake where we encounter a tiny dog with a soup can stuck on his head. He is trying like heck to get it off to no avail. Mike stops the van and tugs viciously, lifting the poor little dog in the air, to pull it off. After several tries, the can is off. Had we not come along, we wonder if the little pup might have met an untimely death by tin can.
We eat dinner at the Santa Fe Grille where we have mediocre Mexican food, shrimp and steak kebabs, tilapia with a sickly sweet sauce and vegetable enchiladas. After dinner, since it is still raining, we watch a cute movie called City Island. I love these kinds of movies with quirky characters and a surprising story.
I adore this cabin because I have the upstairs bedroom and outside my room is a nice airy area, overlooking the living room below, with a table where each morning I can write long overdue blog entries about my trip to India. It’s always been my dream to write in the morning while drinking coffee at a lake cabin’s screened-in porch. This cabin has no screened-in porch, but when I open the window to a cool breeze, it almost feels like a dream come true.
Monday, I wake up to an email on my BlackBerry from another teacher who has already been at the University of Nizwa for the last year. We arrange to chat once I return home. Finally, I can get more information about life in Oman! Later in the morning, we rent a motorboat, but it’s still cool and overcast. We take a spin around the lake, shivering and huddling in the boat. We make a stop at the Lakeside Creamery, where I get a decadent chocolate milkshake and the boys get waffle cones with several scoops of homemade ice cream. Later we play the game I got addicted to in Korea (by virtue of my friends Anna and Seth) Ticket to Ride, which Adam wins.
Finally on Tuesday the sun comes out, beaming through a dramatic sky full of bulging stacks of clouds, whipped-cream-like at top with gray gauzy underbellies. The boys go wake-boarding all day and I ride in the boat enjoying their antics. They’re so grown up now; it amazes me when I think of the little toddlers and boys they once were. Adam full of confidence and bluster, Alex kind, shy, quieter and not so sure of himself. It’s a beautiful day out on the lake. Tonight, after we eat a dinner of pasta with zucchini, peppers and pesto, we watch another movie we brought along, Barney’s Version,which I’m not that crazy about.
All week I’ve been writing my blogs, but I can’t post them to the internet because, alas, there is no WiFi in the cabin. So on Wednesday, I go to a little coffee shop to post some of my blogs. The internet connection is so bad, and everything takes so long, that I soon lose patience and give up. Later, more wake-boarding and tubing for the boys, but Alex hurts his face and neck on a bad fall and swears off water sports for the rest of the day. I go tubing as well, with Adam filming and making commentary. Later, at Brenda’s Pizzeria, Alex gets bent out of shape because Adam and I talk about how you can control the thoughts you think, and he disagrees and feels we are ganging up on him. We eat our dinner of mussels, eggplant parmigiana, Rustico pizza and garden pesto pizza with a buzzing tension in the air. There is a deep-seated competition between the boys and it comes out tonight after too much together time. I think we are all needing some space. We go back to the cabin and play a game of Scrabble which doesn’t ease the pressure at all.
On Thursday, Alex decides to stay alone in the cabin while Adam goes out for another day of wake-boarding. Adam and Mike ski and the three of us eat sandwiches and shrimp cocktail and deviled eggs from the Arrowhead grocery while we motor back to the cabin. I take a long hot bath while Mike and the boys return the boat ~ our rental period is over. Mike takes the boys to the Lakeside Creamery again, but I pass because I’m feeling too fat. I relax back at the cottage and read the book I brought along, Sister India.
With no boat on Friday, we take a lovely hike to Swallow Falls. Adam does back flips into the swimming holes while Alex climbs up to the falls and stands underneath, getting soaked through. We stop at a little general store for a lunch of chicken-and-grape salad sandwiches, chili dogs and fizzy orange sodas. They drop me later at the State Park beach where I relax and read my book. I am mesmerized by a family with young kids as they negotiate how best to make a little river which will flow from the sandy beach into the lake, by hauling buckets of water to a hole they dig and letting it flow down a shovel-dug trough. It reminds me of when the boys were little and Mike spent hours building sand castles and burying each of the boys in the sand.
Alex is still feeling rather moody, so Adam, Mike and I go without him to the Black Bear Tavern where a singer plays guitar and belts out classic rock songs. A couple of beers and crab cakes later, we go back to the cabin, where we all just hang out and relax.
Saturday morning, I wake up to find someone has commented on my Nizwa blog that she is coming from Taiwan to teach at the university. It’s nice to find someone to correspond with who will also be going. Also, my work visa comes from Oman! I guess it looks like it’s really going to happen! We pack up the van and return home past fields dotted with haystacks and bursting with alfalfa, riding the roller coaster of a highway across mountains, through Flintstone and Sideling Hill, a huge man-made notch in the mountains.
I’ve been home all summer, 5 months now, but the boys were usually so busy, or I was so wrapped up in teaching my class, that we didn’t get to spend much time together. It was wonderful to have this week where we could spend some quality time together before I go to far-away lands for another year.