This past weekend I took the three lunatic children to The House in the Woods. This is, of course, a mythic destination rooted firmly in fairly tales and folklore, and as such includes the requisite babbling creek, forbidding mountain, impenetrable forest, and small host of woodland creatures. There is wood that will not split itself, hikes that do not hike themselves, and fires that won’t et cetera. There is, of course, no television. It’s a place where a kid can be a kid, as long as said kid remembers the way most kids ended up in the majority of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
We left SOBUMD at home on this trip, to recharge her batteries free of the constant barrage of sound that accompanies our children, and to paint. Together with the Very Clever Grandparents, whose house in the woods this is, I tried to buy her as much time as I could. The children loaded into the car early Saturday morning, and fueled by coffee and gasoline we left the suburban landscape and crossed the Mountains of Myth.
Arriving, we took it in turns to try to poke holes in the iced over babbling brook, on the grounds that it wasn’t going to babble much if we couldn’t see the water running. Unleashing Number One Son on the problem solved that in a trice and the brook was shortly babbling her heart out, glad to have her voice back. The Reigning Queen of Pink, completely in her element running through a mythic forest, reacquainted herself with the brook as well, by dint of putting her foot in it while trying to leap the small ford. As it was only up to her royal pink ankle, neither the RQoP nor the brook were much put out.
Wood was split, because it does not split itself, and because wood goes well with fire. This being a 21st Century folktale, we eschewed axes for hydraulic fluid – though a 27-ton log splitter would make a great monster for any tale. Split wood was then stacked, and the RQoP made it her solemn business to drive the riding tractor. Hikes were hiked, ales were quaffed, and dinner was contemplated.
It only makes sense that the nearest town is called Lost River. Already you can imagine the quest, the charge on the young hero to find the damn river if he wants to win the girl.
The Lost River Grill is a mythic restaurant. It’s presided over by Pat, who is the Grandmother in every fairy tale you’ve ever heard – usually the Grandmother who turns out to be the Head Grandmother in Charge when you get to the end of the story. She’s a wonderful lady who seems to know everything about everyone around, presumably because she saw it already in her gazing glass before you got there. She keeps up the pretense of asking you what you want, even though you can tell she already knows. The rest of the staff includes a short Giant, only 7 feet tall and complete with beard, not an ounce of fat on him, who rushes around the restaurant on very speedy errands that no one can discern or guess, and ducking prodigiously. There is also a steady series of buxom young barmaids and serving girls who clearly belong in this story, but of mysteriously short tenure – I’ve never seen the same one working there twice.
I had the Liver and Onions. I didn’t ask whose liver it had been, because there are questions to which I fear answers, and Pat might have told me. Regardless, it was delicious.
Once back at The House in the Woods, the evening was capped by a fine young fire in the fireplace, conversations around the hearth, and Scotch whiskey older than the Human Tape Recorder.
The morning dawned with crepes made of magic and thin air – they’re wafer thin – and the magic of them was so potent that they were completely safe for the RQoP, who remains allergic to eggs and dairy (among a host of other things). Have you ever tried making crepes without eggs, butter, milk, and cream? These are magic; I’ll post the recipe if anyone’s interested. Eggs for those who eat them followed the crepes, along with the coffee of life, and another good hike. There was also a gorilla in a dress, about which the less said the better.
Finally, following more work on freeing the brook from her icy prison, a few games of chess (in which I maintain that I was distracted and not really paying enough attention, which I suppose is proved clearly by the fact that I lost one of them to the 10-yr-old), a scratch lunch of wondrous meats and a brown rye-type bread that looked completely at home in the fairy tale surroundings, and a nice visit with coffee and the only neighbors in hailing distance, we loaded up the car and drove back over the Mountains of Myth toward the more mundane suburban landscapes of home.
We stopped on the way, since we were nearing the dinner hour, at a wondrous roadside diner, which is of course its own kind of magic. The Marshall Diner has the look of a place that understands its place in the order of things – road food for those travelers bridging the worlds of magic and the daily grind, and the heart of the community for the locals, for whom this patch of in between IS the daily grind. The food is wonderful and fast, and will stick to you long after you’ve forgotten you stopped there.
Thus fortified, we returned to find a house of painted walls and halls, a final coat of alchemy there to make the old and dreary new again. A spot of late snacking, a glimpse of the Grammys, and all to bed.