A couple of months ago, I was asked by the pastor of a church in Amish country to substitute preach for her while she had a vacation. Since the weekend of the preaching gig (my first paying one! How exciting!) fell between my graduation and our 7 year wedding anniversary, I took the liberty of booking an inn room nearby. The drive is about an hour from our house and I certainly didn't want to drive it that Sunday morning. The deacon who was my liaison with the church recommended the Red Maple Inn so I booked there.
Friday night, we arrived around 6 and took immediate advantage of their hors d'oeuvres hour, drinking hot tea and wine by the fire as we munched on cheese, crackers and grapes. J got comfy in their massage chair, too, while I curled up in a cozy wingback and read the sequel to Chocolat, which is called The Girl with No Shadow and is great. We finally made our way to our room with our luggage. It was a very nice size, with a little balcony looking out over fields and with a very generously-sized tub fitted with Jacuzzi jets. Ahh. We popped out for dinner at Cogan's Village (Idiot) Eatery. It was plastered with all kinds of interesting posters, signs, license plates and such, like a more authentic version of what TGIF is trying to do. They advertised lousy food & bad service (or was it vice versa?) but we found that not to be true. Okay, the French onion soup kind of sucked, but J's New England clam chowder was tasty and our main courses were good. J had liver and onions for the second time in December while I chose one of the daily specials, a big dish of kielbasa, potatoes and peppers all fried up together. We were both drooping from colds and the comfort food was perfect. We spent the rest of the evening relaxing in the room, J oohing and aahing as she sank into a deep hot tub of bubbles.
In the morning, we went down to the dining room for the "delicious" and "amazing" breakfast we'd read so many comments about in the room's guest book. I was, quite frankly, disappointed in the selection and quality. It was not even on a par with the Comfort Inn where we stay when we go to Cross Lanes, WV. Comfort Inn! I don't understand why the breakfast (or the bed) got rave reviews. When I am paying as much as I did for a room with breakfast, I expect the breakfast to be higher quality than a decidedly non-luxury motel chain's continental breakfast. Ah, well, the fireplace, hors d'oeuvres hour and tub made up for it. Besides, we were in for more good food than we realized that day.
After breakfast, we first drove over to the church, to make sure we could find it come Sunday. It was really fun because we kept seeing Amish folks in buggies & wagons or walking along the road with covered dishes in wagons they pulled behind them. Neither of us had ever been in Amish country before, for any period of time and it was exciting to see that kind of community. It was cool to see the clothes flapping on the lines & the enormous and stunning draft horses in fields, too. After we found the (quite old and very picturesque) church, we drove back to Burton and poked around the town square a bit. J got a cafe au lait and I fell in love with prayer bowls at a shop featuring hand-crafted items and art. I picked up a darling Christmas bear in a robe and nightcap for dirt-cheap and we got some locally produced maple syrup and maple sugar candy at the sugar house located in the log cabin in the middle of the square.
When we'd seen the whole square (and I'd fallen in love with a huge birthday cake of a house), we plugged in J's new GPS and let it guide us to Chardon, where we had reservations for afternoon tea at 2. There didn't seem to be much in the way of shops in the main square area, although we did find a cool antique shop where J picked up a 1950 lesbian-themed pulp and I got several black and white photos to add to our collection, as well as a delightful brown velvet hat from Marshall Fields, complete with gorgeous hat pins. Again, for a song. We also located a drug store & picked up some cold meds. We seem to have bad luck with December getaway weekends-the year we went to Oglebay for our anniversary, J had a raging head cold, too. This one was milder, luckily.
When we arrived for tea at Rosepointe Cottage, we had to wait for our table. The entire front room was dripping with bridal shower guests. It was fun to watch them having fun with one another. We waited in the cute little upstairs shop (the tea room is in an old house) and I got to leaf through some books about Emma Lea and her adventures with tea. Then, it was time for tea. There was only one other table in the back room, filled with a family of women. We guessed two sisters and the 40-something daughters of one of the sisters. One of the daughters was wearing a wonderful hat and reminded me of my dear friend Suzanne, who has delicious adventures and lives in a house worthy of feature in Martha Stewart Living. I wanted to go up to her and say, "Will you be my friend?" Another sister reminded me a good deal of Ina Garten. They were fun to observe.
We were too busy enjoying our tea and hatching plots to have a monthly girl gathering to observe too closely, though. J got some kind of tangerine tea while I chose Earl Grey, my perennial favorite. We each got a cup of the amazing corn & pumpkin chowder, perfect for two sick girls like us. Then, the tea commenced with plates of scrumptious tea sandwiches. There was cucumber and ham salad and cream cheese on date bread and chicken salad in a mini croissant. I think there was another-should have taken notes! Next came a scone for each of us, served with plenty of clotted cream and jam. Finally, a plate of "tea fancies" that was not terribly appealing due to the facts that A. we were already quite full and B. they were still a smidge frozen. Tsk, tsk, tsk. No matter because the rest of the food and the whole atmosphere were so refreshingly delicious. J decided that she likes taking tea so much that she wants us to do it once a month. I have no objection whatsoever! Lady food, pretty dishes and a room overflowing with estrogen? I'm there! I've already done some research about others in our area. I definitely want to take her to Miss Molly's in Medina, where our art group had such a fun Christmas tea. I wish J had been able to attend the tea, but we can at least go back.
After tea, we went driving out to Middlefield to check out the cheese factory. We picked up some dill butter cheese, some sharp cheddar spread and some colby-jack there (as well as some more maple candy for my sweet tooth). Then, we checked out this very odd gift shop with a ton of beads, Indian stuff and hokey gift items. Really cheesy stuff mixed in with really neat stuff. I found some glass earrings for my ma, a non-fakey dreamcatcher to replace my beloved one that got smashed in the closet door (don't ask) and one for my cousin, Leah, who I'd already gotten a tiara for, but who had expressed a desire for a dream catcher, too. We drove back to the inn as dusk came on, marveling at the buggies and spirited horses that we passed. We even saw a teenage girl in a cloak just turning up her long lane.
Back at the inn, we again enjoyed wine & cheese by the fire, chatting with the couple we'd met the night before and both using the massage chair. Then, we headed out for our anniversary dinner at the Welshfield Inn, which we chose due to their unpretentious menu and history. It used to be a stop on the Underground Railroad. How cool is that? It was utterly lovely outside and in, with a gracious porch and big trees in front and low dark-wood ceilings inside. Somehow, we managed to score a table right by the fire, which was so cozy and perfect. Our waitress was so on the ball, but not at all overbearing. We started with their amazing rolls, one variety savory with seeds and salt sprinkled on top, the other a handmade cinnamon roll that was tops. J ordered pan-seared scallops with asparagus and peppers in a lovely cream sauce made with chardonnay, lemon and lobster. I had a salad of mesclun with Granny Smith matchsticks, grapes, blueberries, toasted walnuts and Gorgonzola tossed with a hint of raspberry vinaigrette. Both were immensely pleasurable to eat. We both chose specials for our main courses. J had a splendid halibut dish, again with a light cream sauce, with all kinds of sprightly veggies and a side of wild rice pilaf. Mine was a plate of gorgeously braised short ribs with a red wine reduction, plated with well-made mashed potatoes and perfectly-cooked, vividly green beans. It was a shame that we had no room for dessert because I have no doubt it would have been as stellar as the dinner.
After dinner, it was my turn in the tub. It was so lush and relaxing. I miss the one in the apartment we first shared, where we would take our Monday bubble bath with the YSO blues show after the kids went to bed. I miss the skylight, too. We would make love and hear the rain hitting the skylight. Sigh. I hope we can have those things, and a fireplace, again sometime. But in a bigger place. With room for a library & a studio. With a front porch and back deck like the ones we enjoy here. With a gourmet kitchen. Dreaming never hurts!
I awoke Sunday morning feeling entirely too wretched for words, all snotty and coughing like a tubercular ward full of patients, as well as with a churning stomach. I don't know if the stomach was nerves, but it did feel much better after the service, so I assume it was. Damned inconvenient! The service itself went great. I got incredibly nervous once I started sussing out the congregation, but I left the gay stuff in the sermon and they seemed to like it all just fine. I had a number of people come up to me with specific compliments, instead of just "Good sermon" and a handshake. Actually, there was no hand shaking because I didn't want to pass on whatever vile bug I'd picked up. I hope they didn't find that too weird for words. I also got a swarm of older women gathered around me telling me the most wonderful stories about the history of the church, the area, the women's suffrage advocates there in the 1870s...it was great fun for an extroverted history buff like me. I'd've gone to lunch with them in a heartbeat just to hear more stories. It's a very small congregation (I heard they worshipped 45 Christmas Eve) and many are descended from the founding families, so it was just fascinating.
I also heard from the man who served as liturgist (who, incidentally, joined the church in 1935!) that they'd been on the verge of a vote to leave the denomination over the marriage equality resolution. In that very meeting, a man who was descended from the founding families stood up & said that he hoped that he could someday marry his partner in that church. And that, my friends, ended talk of leaving. Like magic! He also told me about the funeral of one of the church saints, an African-American man who was very well-respected by everyone. At his funeral, his son's partner stood up and spoke with great beauty and great love about "the man who would have been his father-in-law." That, too, helped the congregation see more clearly how Jesus would have them act toward gay people. Finally, he told me about another church in the area that did leave over the issue. The pastor made anti-gay stuff "his holy grail" and ended up losing several valuable members to the church where I preached. I'd no idea of any of this backstory when I chose to preach with an inclusion of LGBT issues and honesty about my own life. I'm glad it worked out. I am more convinced than ever that it is crucial for anyone in the LGBT community who can afford to come out (meaning, won't lose job, home, kids or anything crucial like that) to do so. I think it's one of the key factors in increasing acceptance.
After church, we decided to meander our way home on backroads, through Little Italy and other enticing as-yet-unexplored parts of the city. Had we both felt better, I imagine we'd've stopped somewhere like Guarino's for lunch. As it was, we dragged ourselves into The Pub for goat cheese dip and a split roast beef sandwich. Then, we took our sick butts home to bed, with tea, by 4 p.m.