Returning to the Beloved Homestead After More than a Year

It’s been seventeen months since I last saw my sisters and my mother.  Like the rest of us during the Annis Horribilis, nobody has been able to see their families, and for me, it was absolutely refreshing to come down to New Jersey homestead once again and visit with the people I grew up with.

Relaxing with my sisters, Caroline and Anne at the homestead.
Relaxing with my sisters, Caroline and Anne at Jenny and Steve’s house in Princeton NJ.

It was important for me to spend some time with my mom, who will turn 90 in August.

She said she felt a little frustrated that she couldn’t walk on her own, and that she sometimes sees things, things that are strange and she knows they’re not real.

It must be hard to be living to an age when you are frail and can’t do things for yourself. Val said she wished she could still write but her Parkinson’s makes her shake too much.

Everyone down here is doing well during  this time of ‘about to be normal again.’  Young nephew Jackson Bush has graduated from Kansas University, and now is working at a great job, happy and thriving.

His sister Greta is going to enter college in September at TCNJ, where she will also play varsity soccer.

Kate’s son Nathan just turned 16 a few days ago.  He just got a stellar report card, and by all accounts, he’s become much easier to live with and much less of a pain.

Valerie T. Hartshorne at the family Homestead in Blawenburg NJ.
Valerie T. Hartshorne at the family Homestead in Blawenburg NJ.

I applaud this, because when you’re 15 or 16, how can you NOT be a pain?  At any rate, we should probably thank his girlfriend Michaela and of course, the patience of Kate and Jon.

I’m down in Jersey, like old times, visiting the homestead, but this time, staying in a swank above-the-garage stateroom at my sister Jennifer’s home.

She and her husband Steve have really done an impressive job, fitting so much comfortable living space in a very vertical space. It all works quite well, and it’s a relaxing setup.

We had a dinner that Jenny had created from a NY Times recipe. I scoffed when she wanted to use gnocchi, I always think that just sounds good but it’s just potato dumplings that are quite tasteless.

I suggested that she needed a little ham to jazz it up. “Oh wow, hey look what I have in the fridge, I have some ham!”

So I seared the ham we added it to the potato gnocchi, Swiss chard, leek mixture and I must say, Jen got it right, it was damn good.

Back at the Homestead

But I’m so glad to be here, at the homestead, so glad to be hanging out with these sisters, who are so interesting to me and people with whom I always have things to share and conversations of interest. While there is always much talk of new ailments, operations and other older people stuff, it all felt like old times.

Jenny got me interested in yoga after she displayed her ability to bend at both knees and get up without pain. I can’t say I’ve figured out yet, like many men my age, I creak like the tin man when I bend down like that. So she took me upstairs to her 3rd floor where two mats were waiting and she flicked on “Yoga with Adriene,” and the 30-day yoga challenge began.  I have always been put off by the notion of a ‘yoga practice’ and the many pretensions that go along with the rituals….the Lululemon, the expensive classes, the cult of thin, etc, so I was not really aiming for this.

But when I was in Tampa a week ago, we took a stretch class at Sparkman’s Wharf, overlooking the river, and it started getting me interested in being more limber. I envied a young man who was on our press trip, Brian Cicione, who was able to flex with the best of them. I see how Jenny bent her knees and got up so easily, and then I think about every woman I’ve ever met who is into yoga and they are all not complaining and not creaky. Like so many of us.

So if I can keep up with these 20-30 minute routines, and do it for 30 days, well might become more flexible and not creak so much. I’ll give it my best shot!