One challenge we face in moving to Vermont after living our entire lives in Maine is determining how much we should continue to orient ourselves “back home.” We have made just a couple of friends here while of course we have many friends and most of our family back in Maine. Furthermore, we are only about three hours from our families, which seems close enough to get home with little trouble but far enough to be a pain to do so. A day trip – six hours of driving – sounds pretty exhausting as I approach the end of my 40s.
And then there is weather. We are very used to driving in snow, but “taking it slow” takes on a different meaning for a three hour trip than it does for a thirty minute one. Our families understand that there are times when weather will impact our travel plans.
We weren’t really expecting that to happen at Thanksgiving this year. This was the first major family holiday since we moved away. I’ve always loved Thanksgiving dinner with my family, and though we no longer eat turkey both of our families have accommodated by making most of the sides vegan-friendly for our benefit. In turn, we usually prepare a vegan entree for others to enjoy.
Unfortunately, the weather for Thanksgiving this year called for a large snowstorm that was to hit on Wednesday. We were expecting over half a foot of snow in Montpelier, while Maine (and, importantly, points in between) were anticipating a foot or more. As the day got closer, it was apparent that the snow was forecast to end in the early morning hours on Thanksgiving, meaning the skies should be clear if we left at 8 am. On the other hand, storms are difficult to predict, particularly in the mountains, and who knew what the roads would look like. Ultimately, we made the call to postpone our trip by a day. We would drive to Auburn for the planned Friday meal with Doreen’s family, stay with her mom, and then head to South Paris to see my dad and whoever else showed up at Uncle Jim’s on Saturday.
It didn’t turn out to be a lonely holiday at our apartment, though. We’ve become involved with Vermont Vegans on Facebook and Meetup. A few days before Thanksgiving, a member posted an invitation on the Facebook page: “If you don’t have a place to go on Thanksgiving, I am hosting a vegan meal at my cabin near Stowe. All are welcome.” So I sent a note saying we were interested.
Our host was a woman named Claudia, who explained that she didn’t know several of the people who were coming, “but it’s OK, at the end of the evening we’re all friends.” She sent directions, which sent us down a somewhat-icy dirt track just north of Stowe in the town of Morrisville. When we arrived at the address, the directions explained, “there are three cabins on the property. Drive past the first cabin, and hang a right at the truck.” This was feeling quintessentially Vermont. Just past the truck was little log cabin with a rutted, mucky driveway. Today’s snow came before the ground had a chance to freeze, and thus a hint of what mud season is like in these parts.
We were greeted by Claudia, a lovely German expat who was tossing a bucket of scraps into her compost pile. The driveway was a bit tight, but we all agreed on a spot for our Subaru, and she said “if you get stuck, I have a truck, I’ll pull you out.”
Her upbeat, everything-is-good attitude would persist through the evening. We brought a bottle of wine, but Claudia confessed that there was no corkscrew, because she had given it to the people renting one of the other cabins. But then she said, “why don’t I just go over and see if I can get it back?” A few minutes later she returned with wine opener in hand, and we were in business.
We ended up a nice crowd of ten (not including Claudia’s rescue dogs, pit bull Eddie and German Shepard Maya). A few were friends of Claudia’s, one of whom had been to several prior “open invitation” holiday gatherings at Claudia’s house. A couple were friends of friends. One was the leader of VV – she was the only person we had met before. One was a guy Claudia had met at a yard sale a couple of weeks prior. And there was us, complete strangers but made to feel completely welcome.
Claudia’s cabin was rustic, but with all the critical amenities for civilized existence – indoor plumbing, electricity, and heat. The small space was warm and cozy. Claudia has a surprisingly large dining table with plenty of room for the ten humans and lots of delicious vegan dishes. The wine flowed, the conversation was lively, and the food was plentiful. As with every other Thanksgiving in my life, I had far more to eat than I needed. After dinner we played a game (alas, I forget the name) which invited personal sharing and the chance to get to know each other even more personally.
For a backup plan, this was about as much fun as we could have imagined. After a few hours we headed out in the dark to drive back to Montpelier. And when we got up in the morning to prepare for our drive to Maine, we were greeted by an unexpected inch snow squall. Though it wasn’t a big storm, it was just enough snow to make the first half of our drive a little slicker than we were hoping for. We went anyway. I’m sure it won’t be the last time.