On April 3, 2024

Mountain Meditation: My double life and nearly opposite parents

Building our Killington Dream dream lodge, Part 7

I felt I was living a double life since everything happened Friday through Sunday. Returning to “normalcy” in New Jersey resembled acting in a surreal play.

We knew once we crossed the New York State line and entered Vermont, the magic would start. Our weekends were filled with exciting surprises that kept us on our tippy toes. We never knew what would happen next. It was always another adventure.

Growing up in the New Jersey suburbs, weekends in Killington gave me the freedom to experience Dad’s passion for nature first hand. I, too, fell in love with Vermont’s ponds, lakes, streams, mountains, forests, woods, and abundant wildlife. Dad taught me to not fear, but respect the world of nature that we humans are part of. Our setting was ideal for me to explore, collecting wildflowers to paint or press, ferns to print with, brilliant leaves for bouquets, and birch bark that I loved writing poems on. There was no end to the creativity that Vermont inspired in my life.

Few friends from New Jersey had any idea of what our weekends were really like building our ski lodge in the wilds of Vermont. Fewer still got up the nerve to venture north with us. So, I often wrote of our wild weekends for my English class. Some stories were so funny and outlandish no one believed they could be real.

When I was old enough, I invited a school friend for a Killington weekend. Nancy was courageous (or trusting) enough to travel in our cramped station wagon, cope with the outhouse and chilly elements, mice, and roof repairs. I enjoyed having her along and showed her my favorite Vermont pastimes. She never divulged what she thought afterwards but didn’t appear to want to return. Go figure! After that, only male friends joined us. They loved roughing it and pitching in.

I helped Mom and Dad a lot for a kid, but also roamed and played with the Ayers’ kids. I especially loved exploring Roaring Brook with our eager black lab, Star. After hard work in the summertime heat, Dad often joined us on a walk to Roaring Brook. There was a waterfall just high enough to flow over our shoulders and down our backs. Dad made strange noises and funny faces. We laughed as the cold water cooled us off.

Dad was influenced by Indigenous people while living in Mexico as a boy. He admired Native Americans and tribal ways of communing with plant and animal life. His sensitivity and heart-felt kindness were appreciated little in his weekday work world. But in Vermont, he was the creator of his own dream lodge and natural haven. Killington added fulfillment and meaning to Dad’s life and the beautiful legacy he was building for us.

Mom, on the other hand, loved Montclair life, her social activities and teaching piano lessons. She was active in the PTA, our United Methodist Church, and the Montclair Dramatic Club. Mom and Dad sometimes played bridge and belonged to the Cosmopolitan Club where monthly dances brought people together from many fields and nations. It was Mom’s chance to dress up in glamorous satin and lace evening gowns—quite a contrast from our life in Vermont. Since Dad had grown up in various countries as the son of an American diplomat, (and spoke Spanish like a native), the Cosmopolitan Club was a fun way to make friends from afar.

In spite of Mom’s preference for a more elegant life, she came to every weekend in Killington. As tough as it was on her delicate nature, Mom donned her work clothes and jumped into action, as long as black coffee provided her sustenance. First thing every morning, Dad started the Coleman and heated a kettle of boiling water. Then he made Mom a strong cup of black instant coffee and served her the steaming brew in bed. It worked like magic and brought her to life. Our “Energizer Bunny” was awake and revived.

I treasure my childhood Vermont weekends and vacations that are gifts that last a lifetime, as character-building, crazy happy memories I now enjoy sharing. I received a comment from an active Killingtonian, Lauren Traub Teton, snowboarder extraordinaire. I just want to say I so appreciate your comment re: my columns and paintings. Writing a column and releasing it to the world, writers seldom know if folks read or enjoy it. So, thank you Lauren, for making my day! Hint: comments are welcomed!

Marguerite Jill Dye is an artist and writer who divides her time between Killington and Bradenton, Florida. She can be reached at: jilldyestudio@aol.com.

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