Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is a poem by Robert Frost that has always enchanted me since childhood. I thought of the poem last week when I went to New York City for a story I was researching. It was cold but warmer than it had been all week after a recent snowfall. I ended up in Central Park on a whim and I gasped when I encountered the sparkling scene in front of me. I closed my eyes and the words of the Frost poem came to me. I conjured an image of a horse confused by his rider’s reluctance to get from point A to point B quickly and I made a connection. I often feel that during my hectic days of getting somewhere to accomplish something that is (I believe) incredibly important, that there is, “No time.” Yet, there is something restorative about stopping and engaging in the scenery that can be worth the time it takes to do so. Even though it was not on my original agenda, I wandered along the path anyway. The beauty of the park was stunning, and even though I hate the cold, I appreciate the beauty of winter. I almost didn’t take the time to enter the park, but when I did, My being was filled with the beauty of nature and the special something that is Central Park. Memories flooded my mind. As a younger woman, I would visit the park with friends during the summer to get some sunshine or some exercise. As a younger woman, I would visit the park with a date and enjoy a picnic on the lawn or the romance of the lake near the Loeb Boathouse. As a younger mother, I visited the park with my children, visiting the zoo or riding in a horse-drawn carriage to show them around the special oasis in the center of the city. Central Park is a special, magical place, and I am grateful that I took the time to stop by and soak in all that light reflecting off the ground and the shadows cast by the trees and feel that nip in the air as I breathed in deeply the essence of a quiet place amidst the hustle and bustle. As I moved along the path, I reflected on the last lines of the poem: The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.
I grew up in an Italian American household. My father was born in Brooklyn, but both of his parents were Italian immigrants. My maternal grandmother had a similar background, and even though her husband, my grandfather, immigrated from Cuba, he never shared his culture with us. He preferred to let my grandmother share her Italian heritage, so I considered myself Italian.
As an Italian family, we grew up knowing that Sunday was a family day. You never made plans outside of the house, because dinner was going to take all day. Sunday dinner was at least a four-hour food extravaganza. After church, we sat at the dining room table, stretched to accommodate fifteen, set with crystal, china, silverware, and cloth napkins on a red, damask tablecloth. I was always expected to set the table for the family. As a teenager, the last thing I wanted to do was to sit for several hours at the table, but it was tradition and it was expected.
You would not think of changing the way the meal unfolded or adjust the time spent at the table. Every course was served in order: soup, salad, pasta, meat, potatoes, vegetables, and then the break to stretch and wash the dishes. During our short recess, we prepared for dessert; the rich espresso gurgled and bubbled on the stove, the pastries placed on an enormous platter, and the table was set with baskets of fruit and demitasse cups. Then we all gathered once again, to close our meal. The aromas of the coffee served with a twist of lemon peel, and a small glass of Sambuca was a treat for the senses. When I smell it today, it immediately brings me back to my dining room table and all the people seated there.
The pastry platter was passed and we would choose a delicacy. I would never eat the cannoli; I thought the filling was strange, and the dried fruit was bitter. I usually selected the pignoli nut cookies and a tiny eclair frosted with chocolate. The pastries, had an essential place at the table because my grandmother brought them to New Jersey from the Brooklyn neighborhood where she lived. Apparently, they were authentic, and everyone looked forward to them with eager anticipation.
I never really understood why the meal had to be so long, why we had to eat the foods we always served, and why we had to put social plans on hold for the entire day, but as an adult, I wish I decided to continue the tradition to some degree. The modern family cannot seem to make enough time to sit for hours and linger over conversation and coffee. I guess that is why the holidays help me remember to be grateful for the family around the table; the laughter shared and of course the traditional foods that remind us of our heritage.
Road trips are some of my favorite getaways. I love to jump in the car and drive. Don’t get me wrong, I love to fly, but the simplicity of getting in the car to get to my destination fills me with an instant gratification. There are no lines or security checkpoints and I can usually arrive someplace in a matter of hours. It all starts with an idea of where to explore. Next, I enjoy planning out the route, setting up my accommodations and then packing my bags. My love of road trips stems back to a simpler time when my family could not afford airfare for five people. We would road trip from north Jersey to the shore and stay on Long Beach Island for a week. We called it going down the shore. I remember heading to Gettysburg and learning about the Civil War. I was intrigued by the stories about the area and the battles that took place there. Or that trip we took to Virginia Beach, when I found a zillion shells and kept them at home in a jar as a keepsake from the trip. I loved the journey as much as the destination. I also loved the roadside food stops along the way. I had simpler tastes then, I ordered a burger and fries with a vanilla shake everywhere we stopped. I plan to do some road tripping in the new year and I will keep you posted on where I am headed. Maybe I will even inspire you to plan a getaway of your own.
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all that you are thankful for. I’m grateful for the health of my family and friends, for laughing around a table while we savor delicious food, and for toasting all that we have accomplished since the last holiday. I’m also thankful for the ability to turn my passion into a profession. I love to explore and learn about places near and far. I have always enjoyed writing and journaling about my impressions of those areas, but I never published them. I created this site to share my travel experiences with you as well as links to articles and photographs that are posted along the way.