It is easier to leave than be left. When you are the one leaving there are no empty spaces to fill – you can become immersed in the going, in new environments and sights and experiences. And so I took the opportunity and, for a few days, we left our partially empty nest and explored a brand new place. I chose a destination that I always wanted to visit but that held no particular sway for my boy and would at least not completely bore my remaining children: the Hudson River Valley. It had the added appeal of being a place I know my father would have loved, with the river, the railroad and the legacy of FDR. This post, 20 years to the day after he passed, is for him.
Let me say now that my kids were fabulous sports and that I told them this repeatedly as I stuffed them with food they loved.
Everyone deserves to get their way sometimes, and I made sure that we all had a say in what happened each step of the way. I fed my inner history geek with visits to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s sites, the Vanderbilt Mansion, historic Hyde Park and charming Rheinbeck, NY. The weather was sweltering but the views were fabulous, and I will never forget a golden hazy afternoon driving down the Taconic Parkway toward the river – we were the only car on that undulating road, and it was as though we were moving through time toward the bygone days of FDR, the Vanderbilts, and the railway chugging along the river, with each view painted to perfection by someone perched upon the hills. Oh, that I had been driving something other than a minivan, but no matter.
I was determined that this summer would mean something more to us than surviving camp and preparing for college. I wanted to give a little of what I got from my childhood, trailing my mother though cities and museums and restaurants, only half listening but loving being part of something that seemed bigger than me. I like being where things happened, I like knowing about those places, I like sharing what I see and marrying it with what I read. All of this generally requires a lot more talking than the autistic mind would prefer, and so my inner narrator has in many ways become the blogger (see also, Lettershead).
The complicated story of the Roosevelts was not lost on me as I toured the vastly different homes of Eleanor and Sara Delano Roosevelt. Each of them doggedly pursued the agenda life set before them, with many changes of course and myriad joys and disappointments along the way. Both raised in privileged surroundings, one used money to exert power, the other to buy whatever freedom she could get for herself and selected others. We looked at their things, looked at their spaces, and talked about their influences on the presidency and the nation, independently and through FDR. It reminded me that there is only so much you can plan, only so much you can expect to preserve, and that if anything is to prevail it is the spirit. All else is fleeting at best.
Photos: Overlook of the Hudson River from the Vanderbilt Mansion, Hyde Park; The Eveready Diner, Hyde Park; The stream at Val-Kill; Corner walkway of Springwood, the Roosevelt Home; View of the Stone Cottage from Val-Kill from Eleanor’s Val-Kill cottage, with ramp for FDR in the foreground.