This summer never really got off the ground for me. It started off okay, taking Vivien to summer school and such. It was an odd summer weather wise as it was pretty cool most of the time. Coolest one I can remember here. Then the summer took a sharp turn for me when my father suddenly fell ill and died within 5 days of his diagnosis. Put away the sunscreen, everyone out of the pool. My summer was mostly about grief and packing up his things and planning a memorial and starting to come to terms with a lifetime of longing.
There was one good day at the beach for my sister’s birthday which cheered us temporarily. There was the freakish hot week in LA that terrified me for our children’s future. But,the grace note of this summer will be what happened right after the Summer ended. We went to Montana.
Mark had been invited to Paws Up to participate in their Montana Masters Chef weekend. Paws up is a high end resort about 45 minutes from Missoula. It’s all inclusive and not cheap, but everyone was down to earth and all dressed casually. Not the kind of place we would go due to money and logistics, but if you had the bucks, so worth it. They have glamping and houses. No rooms. Once I saw their site I knew it would be worth it to haul the kids through a connecting flight in Salt Lake. Though the 4 hour delay was kind of brutal, at least they had a play area.
I’m keen on my kids reality not being just the urban sprawl they live in. I want them to have some connection to nature and this was a great place for it. Mark made “Eggs for Daphne” for a demo one day and then spent considerable time preparing his fabulous meal for the last nights meal. But, there was still nice family down time and included in the Paws Up experience are massages at their Spa Town. “> Never seen anything like it. The massage is done in canvas tents looking out onto a meadow while soft music emits from a speaker outside. Very relaxing.
There were a ton of activities available, horseback riding, ATV’s, but with little ones we didn’t do any of those. For my kids it was exciting enough to get to smash some pine cones or to say “I want to go outside” and I opened the door and they ran and ran and I didn’t need to monitor them or tell them to watch for cars. Heaven!
Vivien’s usual refrain when we are somewhere pretty far from home, “I want to live here.” me too. Especially if the food is as good in the country as it is at Paws Up. Mind you, we are food snobs and even the breakfast buffet was good, and I never like breakfast buffets. Ambrosia and hard, cold eggs that feel like rubber, not my thing. But, they had crepes with thin slices of tenderloin. Another guest chef Brian from Braeburn Restaurant in NYC made a stuffed trout and sauteed cabbage for lunch I’m still dreaming about.
One morning we went mushroom foraging with their expert. The guy was a font of knowledge about the natural world and the kids got so excited finding all the different mushrooms available. Also along the trek was Violet Grgrich of Grgrich Hills winery. She and her husband had brought their 5 year old boy which was fab for the kids and fab for us when we left them with a sitter so we could concentrate on Mark’s dinner which was paired with Violet’s tremendous wines.
Mark’s main course was Elk Bourguignon. He wisely brought a bit of showmanship to the meal and cooked it in dutch ovens in the large hearth in the Paws Up dining room. I suggested we raffle off one of his cookbooks which we did before a desert of Last Chance Peach Upside Down Cobbler (sigh). I had two helpings of that elk. I couldn’t help it!
The next morning we did one of the few activities that was good for the whole family. They have a GPS which has the coordinates for a treasure box. When we found it after a half mile hike Vivien pulled out a coupon good for a toy that we redeemed back at the wilderness outpost.
The floating sadness that hovers around me floats higher away like a cloud some days. These were such days. My children save my bacon again and again. Vacations are worth the time and money as these memories need to be made. The clouds are off in the distance when I see the memories we are making for Vivien and her dad. You never forget the strong arms of your daddy.