Posts Tagged ‘Washington & Lee’

Day Twenty-One: W&L Hospitality Wars

05 Jul

Sadly, our time at Chez Tison has come to a close, and it’s time to get back on the southbound trail. The Tisons were back to work & camp, and the Willims were back in the car. Our first stop? Westport, only a few miles down the road, to retrieve our dear Remy. Because of his “exit bath” he was fluffy and sweet smelling, though anxious as all get out, as we piled him back into the car. I cannot imagine the mental gymnastics this poor pooch has been going through these past few weeks. First I put him in the car for a four days sojourn northbound – including a stop in a home with a backyard like he’s used to, then a hotel room, then a jaunt into NYC and a night in a big city apartment, then arrival in absolute doggie nirvana, where we proceed to spend 2 full weeks. He was clearly under the impression that it was a relocation, not a vacation, and settled into his spoiled existence, where every day included hours of vigorous ball chasing along the edge of and into the water. Then, this halcyon time comes to a close with me packing the car, and driving several hours to drop him off at an unfamiliar kennel, and leave him there for 3 nights. To be fair, it came highly recommended, this kennel, and I did spring for the 3 play sessions a day package, where in addition to his indoor/outdoor run, he got to mingle with other dogs and have personal attention from kennel techs. But then, I pick him up and he realizes that I have not left him forever, just in time for him to go back into the car for another long day of driving. I think maybe we should have shared one of his Xanax.

As we are driving south, I am noticing my fuel range dip lower and lower. Deciding that it was probably best to fill the tank soon, I got off at the last exit before a long bridge, and started looking for a station. I’m in the groove, looking for the best place to stop when Avery pipes up from the back, “Are we still in New Jersey?” I had to think about it for a second, but did confirm that yes, in fact, we were still in New Jersey. When I asked her why, she responded simply, “Because that means you can’t pump your own gas. Someone else is going to do it for you.” For goodness sakes! Good thing I have her on this trip with me! I had totally forgotten that, and would have definitely been yelled at if I had exited my vehicle at the pumps. That was certainly some stress avoided. Who says the kids aren’t paying attention to my ceaseless prattling on with random facts?

Today, as we were hopping from one W&L home to another, the W&L Hospitality Wars were launched. A friendly competition, no doubt, but a fierce one. Well aware of the deluxe accommodations and generous hospitality provided at Chez Tison, there is a very high bar, but Pete, being the competitive sort that he is, was aiming to clear it. For those of you W&L alum following along, especially you class of ’95ers, I am here to tell you that Pete Tapley grew up good. Pete was always a super nice guy, fun to be around, smart, genuine, silly, funny. But I have to admit he was one I couldn’t picture grown up. It could have gone either way. He could have been stuck in immature frat guy mode eternally (you all know someone who fits that bill), or he could have turned into a fully functioning, productive member of society. I am happy to report that he is the latter, but still retains the joie de vivre that made him such a wonderful friend back in the day. Mr. Fitzwell still lives, but now he’s the husband to a beautiful, funny, intelligent and driven wife, and the father of two handsome, polite, funny, and talented teenage boys. And did I mention that he can cook? Wow. He can cook. So much so, that at dinner I was going back for seconds of his roasted broccoli, which is the single vegetable I have never been able to stomach. And his omelettes? To die for. He’s officially my omelette guy. (Don’t worry, Joe, you’re still my General Nostalgia guy. Always.)

Pete is the consummate host, and was gracious enough to take us all in, including Remy the fluffy beast; who promptly thanked him for his hospitality by vomiting on his kitchen rug. Embarrassing. And as I walked in the door, he had the first round of cocktails ready. In a glass emblazoned with the W&L Trident he poured a daiquiri over trident-shaped ice cubes. Off to a strong start. It’s always such fun catching up with an old friend. On a shaded, screened porch over a well-mixed cocktail or two, even better. Round two, was clearly meant to knock me over. Ever heard of a French 75? I probably should have been concerned when Pete asked, “Does gin offend you?” But I knew I was in good hands, and the resulting mix of gin & prosecco, with a little simple syrup and lemon juice was delightful and refreshing! Clearly, the W&L hospitality wars were about pacing. As the third and final round, which I nursed for quite a long time, was a mint julep, made with an abundance of fresh mint. (The Tisons had the multi-night advantage, where the Tapley residence was a single night stopover, so Pete was pulling out all the stops!) Dinner was delicious, and dessert was inspired. Why use marshmallows for s’mores when you can use stale Peeps?! The sugar coating caramelizes in the fire adding a unique and tasty flavor and texture addition. After dessert and some visiting out on the back patio, we headed inside for a little impromptu concert performed by their exceedingly talented 13 year old son, Wim. Remy was loving the attention being paid to him by their older son, Jack, and we all enjoyed listening to Wim play some of his original songs on the guitar. One of them Cherry even got up and sang along. It was truly delightful, and I fully intend to say things like “I went to school with his father,” and “I once had a private concert in his living room,” when Wim becomes famous. Holy cow, can that kid write a song.

It was such a short visit, partly because the drive that was supposed to take 6 hours took a little over 8. Blerg. But it was so pleasant just hanging out with Jack, who I’m hopeful will be playing lacrosse at W&L in another two years. I’d be happy to think of a young man like him being part of the next generation of Generals. And Cherry, who is funny and sardonic, just like me. And Wim, who is darling, and quirky, and soon to be the next huge singer-songwriter sensation (and he darn well better come through on those backstage passes he promised!) And Pete, who grew up good, and continues to be such pleasant and entertaining company.

And the winner of the W&L Hospitality Wars? ME. Me and mine. I feel so blessed to have such beautiful friendships that have spanned the decades with people who are so generous and gracious. I am definitely the winner in this scenario.


Day Nineteen: General Nostalgia

03 Jul

There is frequently a gap in my travelogue once we are in residence at Chez Tison. Is that because nothing noteworthy occurs, or there is nothing to report? Far from it! It is because we keep ourselves so busy, with activities, but also with the pure pleasure of just hanging out together. There is little I love more on a summer night than just hanging out around the fire pit (or sitting on a park bench!) conversing with these two. And since we stay up well past our old people bedtimes, acting like our college selves, I quite happily fall behind on documentation. But I also want to be sure to get everything down, because I don’t want to forget a moment of this. To that end, I will revert for today to a less narrative and more bullet point style list of our exploits in the fair town of Fairfield…

Breakfast: How do you know when your college friend still knows and loves you? When she buys you a box of Lucky Charms, and then forbids the 5 children in the house to touch it. Cannot even begin to fathom how many bowls (pounds?) of Lucky Charms I consumed in the Letitia Pate Evans Dining Hall from 1991-1995. But for the kids, Joe stepped up behind the griddle and cranked out batches of pancakes. Their kids eat reasonably portioned meals, mine fall on the things they like like hungry wolverines. But he managed to make enough to satisfy them all. Pro tip: when replacing the egg in pancake batter, sweet potato baby food makes an excellent binder, that turns out slightly sweet pancakes. And when you run out of sweet potato baby food, applesauce makes an reasonable substitute as well. The mango peach kind made for a slightly tropical and delicious pancake.

Outdoor Activity: A hike around Lake Mohegan. It was nice to head into the woods. Only time I felt vaguely bad about not having Remy with us because not only were dogs permitted, but there don’t seem to be any leash laws in Connecticut. He would have loved this place. It was a fairly easy (only a few uphills), not overly technical hike through the woods, along a stream. Nice to be outside breathing some fresh air and getting some exercise. (Relevant side note: Holy crap am I woefully out of shape. Ironic side note: I was wearing my Krispy Kreme t-shirt.)

Indoor Activity: A field trip to a little slice of heaven called Bass Pro Shops. I’ve been in a BPS before, but it was nothing like this one. They have really come a long way in terms of decoration and design over the years. It was AMAZING. Unfortunately, I didn’t really get a chance to look around much because I got stuck at the indoor catch-and-release kiddie pool. Seriously. There was an indoor pool filled with an assortment of fish, and they were letting little kids fish for them on little rod and reels. There were a bunch of employees baiting hooks with worms, and while Beau and Harper, Sam and Trey, rapidly caught their fish and posed for their picture, Avery was having no luck at all. And it wasn’t because she was doing anything wrong at all, no, her form was perfect, and her patience was that of a saint. But the guy baiting her hook just wasn’t doing a good job of it, so these wily, been caught a million times before fish, were able to steal her worm without a single chance of her being able to set a hook. It was frustrating. At least to me. But she took it like a champ, just shrugging and saying, oh well, sometimes you don’t catch anything. Meanwhile I wanted to jump in the pool and catch one with my bare hands just to shove it on to her hook. This particular Bass Prop Shops, also happens to have the most insane underwater-themed bowling alley. We didn’t bowl, but we did partake of a late lunch at the attached restaurant. Which was surprisingly rather good – at least they didn’t mess up my bison burger, and they had delicious fries.

Dessert: How could it be a trip to Fairfield without a stop at Sunny Daes Ice Cream shop?

Backyard Fun: Joe dragged the small bouncy house out of the basement and the kids went crazy. Some were in and out of the hot tub. There was a corn hole smack down (See, Tony, you’re not the only one who falls to the champion.) A gorgeous afternoon – sunshine, decent temperature, a little overcast, but it kept it from being beastly hot.

Dinner: Taco Night!! Tina puts on a serious spread.

Dessert: S’mores over the fire pit. I became the beneficiary of the children who love to roast marshmallows, but were forbidden by their strict parents to eat too many of them. Can I roast another marshmallow and give it to you? Yes. Yes, you can.

Celebration: After forcing the children to bathe for the first time in days, it was time for the Tison Family Backyard Fireworks Display in Celebration of America and Tina’s Birthday. It started with running around with sparklers in the backyard, as the fireflies flashed. Then it was time for the main event. Joe had picked up an assortment of ground-based fireworks. He and Beau went halfway up the backyard to set up, and the girls set chairs up along the edge of the patio for a viewing station. They also worked hard earlier in the day to make scoresheets for everyone. The idea was that before every firework was lit, Beau would, with a pithy comment, announce the name of it. We, the viewing audience, would find the firework listed on our scoresheet, and mark a score from 1-10 for each individual firework. At the end, there was also a space for us to name our favorite firework shown. It was quite an extensive list. The full display had some really cool fireworks, some that looked exactly like the three before it, some that were surprisingly good, and only one that was a dud. Then the girls tallied the votes, taking longer to do this than the actual fireworks display, and reported back the rankings. The clear winners were Razzle Dazzle and Pyro Fire. Or rather, the clear winner was me. I mean, really. How lucky am I to have friends like this to spend the 4th of July weekend with?

Once the kids were finally shuffled off to bed, it was time for an annual tradition. A very exclusive W&L reunion at a very exclusive location. About 4 years ago I created a check-in location on Facebook called The Firepit at Chez Tison. (Tina suggested that we also need a check-in location for their new hot tub – I believe we’ve settled on The Hot Springs Spa at Chez Tison.) But anyway, sitting around the firepit, drinking, laughing, reminiscing, to me, it is one of the sweet spots of summer. And there are certain things that are quintessentially Washington & Lee University. If you went there, you know. One of those things is a perfectly mixed Beam & Coke. Sure, other people drink them, but they are, or at least used to be in the early 90s, the signature cocktail of W&L. As I had my first sip of the cocktail Joe had mixed me in a Class of 1995 20th Reunion Tervis mug, I thought to myself, this tastes like nostalgia. Taking a look at the Trident on the mug, I said, “That’s it. Henceforth, this simple cocktail (a perfect proportion of Jim Beam & Coca-Cola with a wedge of lime) shall be known as a General Nostalgia.” It’s going to be a thing. Just you wait.

A few hours later, the readily available wood was burned, a few General Nostalgias down the hatch, and laughter all the way around, it was into the wee early morning hours and time to retire. But not before wishing Tina a hearty Happy Birthday, and determining that, indeed, what every PTA needs is a dad who looks like Rob Lowe…



Days Seventeen & Eighteen: Old Home Week

25 Jun

This is always the portion of the trip where I fall behind in my blogging. Because staying with friends is not conducive to writing a recap at the end of the day. At the end of the day with friends it’s time to go to bed because you’ve likely stayed up late talking, and/or drinking, and possibly kicking someone’s tail at cornhole. But I’m going to give the brief recap of the past two days. Nothing fancy. And certainly not schmancy.

Tuesday: Went to visit Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Perhaps that seems a random place to visit, especially when we had to kind of go out of our way to visit it. But, not every kid gets a town with her name in it, and seemed the least I could do to take my daughter, Harper, to visit Harpers Ferry. And I’m so incredibly glad I did! Because the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park was awesome. Truly. The old town (lower village?) is really cool. It’s a combination of an actual working town (shops, restaurants, lodgings), and restored buildings and museum exhibits. We also hiked up the old stone steps to see Jefferson’s Rock (Benjamin Latrobe, designer of the US Capitol building, took a trip with Thomas Jefferson to visit Harpers Ferry, and made a sketch of old TJ next to a double stacked, teetering rock. Since that time they have added supports to keep the rock in place, but still kind of cool to think that we’re seeing the same landscape that Thomas Jefferson saw on his visit. Then we continued up the hill to visit the Harper Cemetery. A beautiful, rolling green space, and strangely, part of the Appalachian Trail. Harper, of course, especially enjoyed the day, because what kid doesn’t enjoy a day where it’s easy to pretend that it’s all about them?

After leaving Harpers Ferry (and an obligatory photo op at the post office), we drove through some of the gorgeous Virginia wine country on our way to the Tapley’s house in Chantilly, VA. Nothing says adventure like staying with a college friend you haven’t seen in 20 years! Honestly. Pete was a dear friend in college, and I have enjoyed rekindling a friendship between the adult versions of ourselves via Facebook, but most of all I appreciate his delightful wife’s willingness to host a random (obviously crazy) woman and her three young children. It was so much fun. Pete’s home is lovely, his wife is delightful, his kids are great, and believe it or not, he is an amazing chef! Seriously. The omelette he made this morning, including leftover grilled veggies from last night, was bar none the best omelette I’ve ever eaten. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Yesterday afternoon, we stopped by their house and picked up their younger son, and I took the four kids to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Oh. My. I was in nerd heaven. The Discovery is there. The actual space shuttle. The last one to fly. It was amazing to see it up close, and I found myself getting strangely emotional about being in the same room with it. I tried to explain the significance of the space shuttle during my child hood, but they just couldn’t process the information. The hangar is packed full of other significant bits of aviation history. Such as the Enola Gay. That’s right, the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb. And an Air France Concorde. Might have been the very one that my own grandparents flew on across the Atlantic. Anyway, I was totally dorking out, and I loved this museum, even more than the kids.

The kids loved meeting and playing with the Tapley boys, who, despite being older, were gracious and kind to my younger children. We let them stay up crazy late while the grown-ups talked. It was nice. For all of us. Especially by this point in the trip I need a break from the kids. And let’s face it, they need a break from me. It was nice that a basement game room gave us both the separation we needed. It was fun to discover that Mr. Fitzwell is still up to some of his old shenanigans, and it was a blast meeting the woman that became his wife. They better be careful what they wish for, because Chantilly, Virginia, just became a spot in the permanent rotation for CMRT.

Today was a long driving day, but totally worth it. First, we got a chance to run around the campus of my beloved Washington & Lee University. Our route from Nova to Charlotte, NC took us down I-81 South. And there is absolutely no way I was going to be able to drive by the exits for Lexington and not stop. So, we made a quick stop in Lex Vegas – a brief hello to my friends, a quick snack at Sweet Things Ice Cream Shop, a spin around the bookstore so I could properly empty my wallet, and, of course, some photos on the lawn with Lee Chapel and the Colonnade in the background. Judging by the traffic we ran into later, we should have cut the visit even shorter than we did, but it was worth it. Lexington holds a strange sway over me – though I guess it’s not too strange since I spent 7 years of my life there – and I wouldn’t have been able to stand being so close and not visiting.

Unfortunately we did run into significant traffic in the late afternoon, but eventually we made it through and arrived at the Taylors’ Matthews, NC, home. We went straight to the pool, and despite our late arrival, the kids got a good long time to swim and play together. Which was awesome. The Willim 3 have been missing the Taylor boys since they moved from GCC, and the pool facility in their neighborhood is awesome – a win-win for everyone! Once again the kids got to stay up late playing as the grown-ups talked. Mine should be fairly wrecked for tomorrow, and probably pretty excited about just being lazy, and hanging around at the Taylors conserve energy for a swim meet. But eventually we did chase the kids off to bed – with very little push-back from the exhausted little ones. There may or may not have been an epic battle involving bean bags that ensued post childrens’ bedtimes, but as soldiers who fall valiantly on the field of battle deserve respect, I will report no further on the events that unfolded in the back yard.

And now, as my head is spinning from exhaustion, I will end by saying just this: I’ve had an amazing past two days. Reconnecting with an old college friend. Visiting said college campus. Being awash in nostalgia. Then visiting with friends who have been the cornerstone of my life with kids. It’s like old home week around here. And that is the very best kind of week.


** No editing. Perhaps I’ll catch the typos later, but I. Can’t. Keep. My. Eyes. Open.

© 2010 Krista Lindsey Willim