Monday, May 16, 2016

Treehouse guests teach what to count on

            Whatever happened to that old school custom of family first? My three brothers live in Virginia, Florida and Arizona. Rarely do they visit me in Vermont. If I’m lucky, I see them once a year when I travel to them, but at least we’re in touch through email. For Fern Forest Treehouse guests Robinson and Carleigh, however, family is their rock.

Rob’s mother came to New York from the Dominican Republic when she was seventeen. He still has relatives in the Dominican, most of whom don’t speak a word of English. (By the way—baseball is BIG in the Dominican with exported stars like Red Sox David Ortiz, who learned to speak English pretty well.) Spanish was Rob’s first language, which comes in handy when he meets with Hispanic clients in his job as insurance agent and financial consultant in Providence.

Carleigh’s dad moved from Italy to the U.S. with his family when he was nine. He taught her to love everything Italian. During college she spent a semester in Italy and was nearly fluent when the term ended. She and Rob met when they were students at Providence College. Other than the language of their parents, they had a lot in common. They went bowling. They fell in love.

            Carleigh, a willowy brunette, lives with her folks in Connecticut and is finishing up her undergrad degree, after which she plans to study psychiatric nursing. When we asked why she chose such a challenging profession, she said, “I’m calm. And I like helping people.”

Rob is strapping and compact with the dark handsomeness of his native island. After college he stayed in Providence for work, but he and Carleigh get together on weekends. Last weekend they drove to Vermont to stay in our Treehouse. Lucky for us.

            These two make no bones about being first generation Americans. Carleigh wants to learn Spanish so she can talk with Rob’s grandmother and aunt. I joked that if they get married, their children have the opportunity to be tri-lingual, but at twenty-three, they haven’t thought that far ahead. Whatever they decide, though, family will be at the forefront. Carleigh’s parents were in Burlington for the weekend to pick up her sister, a student at UVM, and twice she and Rob drove an hour from Fern Forest to meet up with them, Friday night for dinner and Saturday afternoon for lunch. They seemed happy to do it.

            “We wanted to see a little of Burlington anyway,” Carleigh said.

            Maybe commitment to family wears off after living in this country for centuries. My ancestors came from Germany in the mid-18th century and settled with other Germans in Maryland. After a few years they all loaded up their Conestoga wagons and drove south into Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, where they bought farmland. Farm families stayed together out of necessity. No one in the Valley owned slaves, and sons and daughters worked alongside fathers and mothers to eke a living out of the land. They were proud of their work, proud of their heritage, and proud of their families.

            But things changed. Young people went off to college and found work in cities. Because of distance, families broke apart. Carleigh and Rob reminded me of the way things used to be—the way they’re supposed to be. They also reminded me that in spite of the bickering and accusations among candidates during this election year, the future is hopeful. As Rob says, the stock market is due for another rough ride, but not to worry. The outlook always gets better again.

What helps during those downturns? One thing we can always count on—family.

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