In about 2004 or thereabouts, my mother-in-law bought a small cabin in the Poconos. We still lived in Colorado at the time, and really had no thoughts about moving east. It was her quiet spot, I think a place for her to come and unburden herself, to find some ‘Zen’ in building something new, something that was all her own.
She had three sons, and two were out of the house. One was married and a new father (that would be my husband), one was away at culinary school. The third was at the end of his high school career.
So there was that.
Also, her husband had just died. Her second husband, the love of her life. He had been her high school sweetheart, and they had met up after their divorces and rekindled their romance. He died pretty young, and it wasn’t fair to her.
I think this cabin was her therapy.
The draw to the cabin was the lake across the road, and the fact that her bestfriend owned a house on that lake, directly across from the cabin. These were her friend who had been there for nearly everything, and had helped her through it all. This was the friend that would be there to help her heal.
My mother-in-law spent hours and days and weeks and months making the cabin sweet and beautiful. She re-married a couple of years later, and her new husband helped her a bit, but the majority of the work was hers, done with her own hands. She painted. She put in flooring. She found lovely cabinets and other sweet pieces that worked with the room and it’s themes. She made the tiny space all hers.
She got sick before it was completely done, and died of lung cancer in 2008, just when we were settled into life in Ohio and were able to travel to her on a regular basis–and she to us. We had been able to do a couple of summer trips to her cabin, to enjoy the lake with her, before she died.
At that cabin I feel my mother-in-law’s presence in everything. In small and little ways, reminding me of her voice and her actions, the details she put into life, the way love was shown in actions, both big and small. I remember her the most clearly at this place, the place where she seemed to let her guard down and just be.
After she died, my husband and his brothers inherited the cabin. We loved coming to the Poconos and Lake Harmony, but it became harder to make the 8 hour trip as the kids got older. The brothers both live out west with businesses or families, so coming to Pennsylvania is even more of a trek for them.
There are renters in the cabin, people who use it sporadically. They are nice enough people who pay for the mortgage on the place with their lease, and we really appreciate them, but they don’t understand the love and care my mother-in-law put into the place. It’s a small place, and isn’t worth tons, but the worth of it is in the sentimentality of the place to us.
So the little issues we’ve seen this week aren’t a big deal to others. Along with the cabin, my husband inherited his mother’s eye for detail, and the fact that he works on houses for a living makes the small problems even bigger, in his eyes. None of the things are major, but he looks at them and sees his mom’s disappointment.
So this year he will return in the fall and spend a couple of weeks getting everything up to his mom’s snuff. And next summer, if all goes well, we will spend two or three weeks here rather than a rushed few days. It is a slice of heaven, and we love it.
We just need to remember how much we love it (and the people here) and take care if it accordingly.
Now, onto something quite different: Rebecca Schrem’s Unbecoming.
This book opens up in the outskirts of Paris, where the protagonist, Grace, goes by Julie. There she works as an antiques restorer, paid under-the-table by an unscrupulous owner. She’s made a very small living while trying to forge a new life away from her hometown of Garland, Tennessee, away from her young husband and his best friend, her true love, who are in prison for an art heist gone wrong.
With Grace as narrator, we learn the story of the love triangle and how she ended up in France while those two languish in prison. Reading her hometown paper online, Grace learns that the two, Riley (the husband) and Alls (the best friend/true love) have been paroled. As she tells the story of her life and the heist, she becomes more and more honest about who is was, who she is, and who she wants to be.
Unsure of whether they can find her, Grace is nonetheless sure that one or both of them are on the way to her.
Who will show up, if anyone? What will become of Grace? And what happened to the painting that was stolen during the art heist?
These are the burning questions in Unbecoming.
Unbecoming is a wonderful, thought-provoking book. Beginning with Julie, looking back, telling the tale of ‘unbecoming’ a good, small town girl named Grace. The unbecoming works on many, many levels, as Grace seems to be one of those creatures becoming and unbecoming constantly, dragging others along for the ride.
Though it starts out slow, this book builds in excitement, and the last third or so is ‘unputdownable.’ I loved it.
I give Unbecoming 4.5 stars. Rebecca Schrem is wonderful, and I am excited to read more from her!