A&E Columns

This must be the place: ‘Of freedom and of pleasure, nothing lasts forever’

The Hayford Road in Clinton County, New York. Garret K. Woodward photo The Hayford Road in Clinton County, New York. Garret K. Woodward photo

It was nearing midnight when my mother finally beat my father, my girlfriend, Sarah, and I at cards, rummy being the game of choice and of tradition in my parents’ household. Most of the snacks had been consumed and I was halfway through a lukewarm Labatt Blue Light when she placed her last card on the pile to claim victory. 

My folks’ 1840 farmhouse sits in the rural countryside outside of Plattsburgh, New York. When the card game finished, I walked outside, the screen door slamming behind me. Heading for the barn where the beer fridge is for another cold can of Blue, I could hear the crickets and frogs from the nearby pond in the backyard.

A floodlight on the corner of the barn illuminated the pitch-black property. In the foreground is my mother’s garden where there are fresh flowers for the kitchen table each morning, fresh strawberries for breakfast and fresh herbs for the potato salad served at lunch.

Beyond the garden, I could see two pairs of glaring eyes in the bushes reflecting off the light. It was the two cats who call the farmhouse home. Big ole Scout and the prim and proper looking Banjo Jack. They were hovering next to the pond and woodpile in hopes of ambushing a country mouse. The search continued.

Crack the Blue can. Re-enter the farmhouse, the screen door slamming behind me. My dad was already marching up the stairs, seeing as 5 a.m. comes early and so does his daily responsibilities of feeding the cats and golden retriever (Madison) and getting the coffee pot ready and burping as to bring my mother a cup in bed.

Moseying to the living room to watch late-night TV news, my mom finishes her wine and heads up the stairwell to bed. The tentative plans are to motor over to Vermont via the Lake Champlain ferry for an afternoon at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe. Yes, the same Von Trapp family that escaped Nazi persecution during World War II in hopes of heading to the United States to start anew. The lodge property now features a slew of recreation options and a brewery.

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For now, in the midst of the midnight hour, the farmhouse is quiet. My folks, the cats and dogs are all asleep. Sarah and I are sitting in the back den watching the MeTV channel, happily viewing old reruns of “The Honeymooners” and “The Twilight Zone,” seeing as we don’t have cable in our Waynesville apartment. Haven’t had it since I first landed in Haywood County 12 years ago this summer.

Odd coincidences with each television program, too. “The Honeymooners” started with Ralph and Norton playing rummy. “The Twilight Zone” episode “Walking Distance” featured Academy Award-winning actor Gig Young, who is actually buried in Green Hill Cemetery in Waynesville. The episode itself is about “going home” and realizing nothing lasts forever. Dusty memories and vivid visions. Time ticks away and doesn’t stop for any of us.

And I felt a lot of eerie solidarity with this seemingly random episode blaring across the glowing box in the corner of the back den. Earlier in the day, Sarah and I wandered up to my hometown of Rouses Point, New York, about 20 minutes or so north of the farmhouse. One mile from the Canadian Border on the shores of Lake Champlain.

Windows rolled down. Sunroof fully opened. Mid-afternoon blazing sunshine. Warmer than normal temperatures for this area in May. In search of a place to go jogging, it was decided to swing into the southern end of the Hayford Road, a one-lane dirt path splitting vast cornfields. Not far from my childhood home, I used to run this section of road all through middle/high school and college.

Now, at age 39, I can still hold a steady pace along the dusty route. Sarah threw down a beach towel and caught some rays next to our parked car. Jogging down the road, visions of those summer days and winter nights trotting along in the same exact footprints as I created on this day, some two decades later. Trot along and remember. Seek perspective and circle back with conclusions about the grand scheme of things. The journey continues, thankfully.

With an hour left before Sarah and I had to be back at the farmhouse for dinner, we wandered around my hometown. Drive by my childhood home and make comments about how much has changed, how much looks the same. The big maple tree that once held court in the front yard is long gone. What does remain is the purple and grey slate roof on the barn, so too is the hedge row on the eastern side of the property where I had my tree fort.

Abandoned buildings in the desolate downtown that were once businesses I inhabited. Make note to Sarah about points of interest, at least to me and my old soul, sentimental memory. The massive lake bordering the community still smells the same, which remains comforting. A handmade sandwich in-hand from the local gas station en route to sitting by the lake to consume it with gusto.

The Sunday sunshine is fading fast, but not before a quiet visit to the local cemetery to pass respects to dearly missed family members and friends. Kiss your fingers gently and place them on the marble headstones also kissed by the sun’s warmth. Say hello and goodbye all within five minutes. It still remains hard to do so, but one must always pay respects when you’re within vicinity.

“The Twilight Zone” comes to a close and narrator Rod Serling’s iconic voice rumbles into the scene: “Martin Sloan, age 36, vice-president in charge of media. Successful in most things, but not in the one effort that all men try at some time in their lives — trying to go home again. And also like all men, perhaps there’ll be an occasion — maybe a summer night sometime — when he’ll look up from what he’s doing and listen to the distant music of a calliope, and hear the voices and the laughter of the people and the places of his past. And perhaps across his mind, there’ll flit a little errant wish, that a man might not have to become old, never outgrow the parks and the merry-go-rounds of his youth. And he’ll smile then, too, because he’ll know that it is just an errant wish, some wisp of memory, not too important really, some laughing ghosts that would cross a man’s mind — that are a part of The Twilight Zone.”

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.

Leave a comment


  • A great time. ....great memories too.

    posted by Kathy Woodward

    Tuesday, 05/28/2024

  • Loved this. Thank you for sharing.

    posted by N

    Tuesday, 05/28/2024

  • Beautifully written!

    posted by Susan

    Tuesday, 05/28/2024

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