Life Notes: A Stay at the Inn
Savoring the best part of vacation: coming home

At the inn in Vermont, the comforter matched the pillows which matched the valance which coordinated with the upholstered seat on the little armchair angled just so.

In the bathroom at the inn, the soaps were perfumed, the shampoo smelled like gardenias and the towels were pristine white. Somebody turned down our bed each night and left a plate of cookies on an adorable table that wore a piece of elderly lace. There was a deep-pile terrycloth robe with a sash in the closet that looked like it cost a pretty penny.

Breakfast was served at tables that bore not a single sign of wear – unless you chanced to sit at the antique pine table with enormous character. There was a three-course breakfast complete with warm muffins and perfectly-brewed coffee. People wished us a good morning and begged us to try the coffee crumb cake as a breakfast finale.

Outdoors, there were comfortable wicker chairs with plump cushions, and best of all, a hammock stretched between two leafy trees.

And for the first day and night, we drenched ourselves in all that away-from-home indulgence. We sat on leather chairs in the library and wandered the halls, gaping at the well-placed mirrors, accessories and the rich patterned carpeting that had a subtle, almost imperceptible design.

By our second morning at the genteel inn, we still loved the breakfast, the gardens, the lawns – but we also felt a bit uneasy. All this politeness was becoming, well, a strain. We didn’t dare put our feet up on anything the way we did at home because this was not a feet-up kind of place.

I worried about being untidy in our room – what would the housekeeping staff say? So I policed the room each time we left it, trying to earn the admiration of the housekeepers who so kindly removed the used towels and folded the end of the toilet paper into a little triangle.

That third afternoon in Vermont, I started missing the oddest things like our bed at home, which may not have been nearly as richly-appointed or as orthopedically-correct as the one in Room 14,  but that knew the contours of every inch of me. I certainly missed the pillow that I have punched into submission, the one that somehow finds its place under my head and stays there.

I even missed our kitchen table, where my husband and I linger over meatloaf and salad, not the exquisite meals we’d been eating during our stay. But I know every scratch on that table, and from it, I have a wonderful view of the tree planted three years ago that is growing like Topsy. And yes, I missed that tree.

Vacations at inns are wonderful. They are a pause in the increasingly maddening pace of modern life, an emotional comma that slows us down from the gallop. But they are tricky, too.

There comes a point, at least for me, when I want to walk into a somewhat messy room and leave my sneakers in the middle of the floor with impunity. The moment also comes when all the prettiness and politeness and the smiling at strangers at breakfast is – well, an effort.

It’s at that point that I start dreaming of going to the pantry closet, pulling out the peanut butter and digging in. Or flinging open the freezer and doing what I always told the kids not to: scooping out spoonfuls of ice cream while standing at the counter.

After several days away, I want to see my plants, the family photos that march across the old desk in the living room and the funky chair I rescued from a rummage sale when Carter was in the White House.

I even start to think about the simple pleasure of having my own shampoo, my own soap, and yes, a shower in which I know exactly how to adjust the faucets to get the temperature I enjoy.

So the last mile on the way home always seems to take forever. I am out of the car almost before it comes to a stop. The familiar street noises, the sounds of the neighbor’s dog and the amiable mess of the den all seem like old friends. And oh, that moment when my head meets my own bed pillow…bliss, pure bliss.

Yes, vacations are fine. But sometimes, coming home is even finer.

July 2012
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