Thursday, August 13, 2015

Geneva, NY - with the Peters/Benedetti Family

I have stayed longer on Seneca Lake than I planned, because Claudia graciously invited me, and because it is so much fun hanging out with this family.  I cannot sing her husband's praises loud enough.

Mark Benedetti is the epitome of what a great husband, father, and son-in-law should be.  He has a sleeper sense of humor that sneaks up on you if you aren't watching, and he keeps Claudia laughing and sane after fourteen years of marriage, and years of friendship before that.  When they first started dating, and she was still on the fence about him, I told her that if she did not snag him, I would.

Their two daughters are delightful, and one of my greatest joys is listening to them have conversations with each other and their parents.  They are so different in many ways.  

Clelia is incredibly creative and artistic, not missing a trick.  Her wide eyes and lashes like spider palm trees follow everything and store it in her amazing brain, to analyze and synthesize.  She "gets" her dad's puns and word play.  Recently, she won the sportsmanship award on her swim team, a pretty big feat for an 8 year-old who has not been swimming competitively for all that long.  The two of us have been bonding this week over Candy Crush, playing it together on my phone.  My heart melts when we win, because Clelia's smile lights up the room.

We have a special bond because we are both the oldest sisters.  Everyone things older sisters have it so easy, but Clelia and I can tell you that is not true when you have an adorable younger sibling, like Arabella. They love each other, and all, but sometimes, and i know this from experience, it gets old being looked over for the baby.  Older sisters are just supposed to act all mature and patient, while everyone acts like we are invisible.  It is easy for older sisters to feel a little neglected.  A psychologist friend once told me that when an only child gets a sibling, it is analogous to a man bringing another wife home when he already has a perfectly good one. 

Clelia reminds me of me when i was eight years old and going into the third grade.  It was an anxious time for me because i was not confident in math.  Clelia is working on her multiplication tables this summer with her dad, and when i visited Claudia in McLean in July, I told her about all kinds of math games. Clelia looked at me like I had ruined her summer.  That's the problem with your mom's friend being a third grade teacher. She keeps wanting to talk about school.  

Arabella is a force to be reckoned with, at four years old.  This kid is a stitch, an old soul, a piece of work, a real character.  She knows all about photosynthesis, dinosaurs, and super heroes (only the boy superheroes), among other things.  Bella loves hats, and until the other day, when she returned from Niagara Falls with a cool captain's hat from the Maid in the Mist, I had only seen her in a terrific turquoise fedora with a sequined hat band.  this week, a favorite game of ours has been me on the floor of the loft with my legs on the pitched ceiling while Bella runs around my up-stretched legs.  i am very mindful when she is running, because i do not want her to hit her head or break an arm, but i also do not want her landing on my stomach, an element she added to the game yesterday.  She told me i have to make my stomach smaller. Believe me, kiddo, I am trying.  

Claudia's mom, Barbara McGarry Peters, a great character in her own right.  I will not tell you her age, but suffice to say, if you knew it, you would want whatever she is taking.  She is intelligent, well read, physically fit from a life of athletics and ballroom dancing, and well-traveled.  This summer, Barbara is reading a biography of a thirteenth century woman philosopher.  I've adopted her as one of my moms, since my mom is gone, and because we have known each other for nearly as long as i have known Claudia, almost thirty years.  I love being around her because she thinks outside the box and understands when i say things that some people think are outrageous.  Barbara is not phased. She is always up for an interesting conversation.  

And then there is Claud.  

Most of my close friendships have been forged in the work place, and ours is no exeception.

Claudia came to work at Cassidy & Associates, a public affairs firm in DC where I worked as the executive assistant to two of the principals.  She was fresh from Paris, not too far out of college, and a much needed presence in our office.  We became friends when she was assigned the desk next to me, and we spent much of the work day analyzing, laughing at, and sometimes crying about the dysfunction in which we worked.  

I have written about how supportive Claudia has been in previous posts.  The most important thing Claudia has brought to my life is positivity.  There are very few people as positive and actualized as Claud.  After a conversation with her, usually on a long walk, everything about the world feels better.  She is a go-getter in the best possible sense of the word.  Her career has been interesting and varied, and her family is everything to her. Friends are sometimes included as family, and I am so grateful for her and her family.

Last night, after the kids went to sleep, Claudia and I slipped down to the water to watch the Perseid meteor shower.  We sat on the edge of the dock, talking about our lives as if we had never been apart, while, at the same time, looking for shooting stars. It was hard, because one of the things about our conversations is that we maintain eye contact, and we kept forgetting we were meteor watching.  After an hour, we had seen a few glorious shoots across the sky, and it was chilly, so we made our back up to the cottage.

This has been such a great week, way beyond my expectations.  My friends gave me a place to get off the road , to write and rest.  The loft in the cottage is where i sleep, and it looks out over Seneca Lake.  There is a dock with Adirondack chairs, the perfect spot to watch the blazing orange, purple, and pink sunsets.

I am so used to living alone, and I always thought I would not be very good at living with people, but I love these people and I am delighted that I am with them.  As a single person, it is such a treat to have a real, nutritious dinner with a family that puts the fun in functional.  It is going to be difficult to leave tomorrow afternoon, and Claudia has assured me that i am welcome to stay until Saturday, when they leave to go back to McLean, Virginia.  Plus, she will meet somewhere on this adventure, as i travel around the country.  It does not matter where we are, because our friendship has transcended not only decades, but locations, as well.  

After six weeks on the road, I am still excited and happy that I undertook this journey, and that my family and friends are still there, despite the fact that i have been in a bubble for the past fifteen years.

1 comment:

  1. Bubbles are good and safe, they were right for us when we needed them. Here's to bubble-bursting!