My favorite Billy Joel song is the less popular “You’re my Home”. Life as an Army brat played right into the lyrics as I moved around a lot when I was young so I never really had a place I could call my very own until I fell in love with my eventual husband with whom I was married to for just shy of 38 years. Thing is, once you find that certain someone and as a couple you have the opportunity to acquire the “right” home together, Billy’s lyrics, while still lovely, don’t adequately portray how truly special it is to live and love in a dwelling that just “fits”.
We stumbled upon Hodge Podge Lodge over thirty seven years ago. It was only up the road a piece from where my new husband and I were renting. I never gave the long empty, perpetually for sale, seemingly sad house much notice until one summer day when we were walking back from the swimming hole (yes, really and it’s still here) I decided to take a peek into the dirty windows.
To say I was mesmerized at my very first glimpse inside is fairly accurate. The feeling of looking into my future was pretty intense. We were only twenty four years old, certainly not looking to buy, but how could I pass up finding out more about this oddly long house with what appeared to have not one, but two unique fireplaces, real knotty-pine on some of the walls AND ceilings along with nooks and crannies throughout!? The magical acre that surrounded the building was overgrown, buggy and poison ivy saturated but when I squinted a little and took a moment to dream I saw my garden beds, my little pond, my fairy stuff and plenty of room for outdoor entertaining. Another look and I saw our not-yet-born kids growing up here along with a sweet collection of cats and dogs. I was hooked. Fortunately my partner in life was willing to agree to our biggest impulse buy ever! Hence, Hodge Podge Lodge (fondly, HPL) and my Patchwork Garden was born.
We started out slowly, at a snail’s pace really, transforming what was once another family’s “place” (I know this because years ago the previous owners very grown-up children asked if they could spread some of their mom’s ashes down by the creek) into ours or more accurately, mine. The love of my life was no handy man and I, in turn, am no traditionalist. Whimsy is how I roll (even though my career choice was, uhm, restrictive to say the least). That being said, my personal time, my HPL time, for the last 37 some years has been filled with silly photos, tons of super-fun parties, my-style paintings and edible landscaped gardens.
My husband easily went along with my HPL vision while often reminding me he was just along for the ride. Occasionally he’d put his foot down, like when I wanted to put terraced steps down to the creek or create a fitness trail around the perimeter of the property (usually when it required “muscle” from him), but more often than not he let me meander through life at the lodge however I saw fit.
Through the years parties and get togethers were many! Obviously since I write a blog about it, you already know I’m very fond of food and drink. Cooking is my passion followed closely and not unrelated by gardening. Our social events at HPL through the years are numerous and varied. There was the 60’s Retro Party, the Sangria Competition, and the Halloween Happy Hour where I read everyone’s tea leaves. There were countless Christmas parties, after B-ball game parties, Ladies luncheons and even a “St. Patrick’s” Day or two. Tablescaping (not sure that’s a word) is just like painting for me and to be honest I’m better at it! I love to start with a bare table and create a beautiful table tailored to the festivity at hand whether it be grandiose gala or an intimate dinner for two.
Traditions are huge in our family. Although not always, food and drink naturally plays a role in most of our traditions. We always had Crème Brûlée French Toast on Christmas morning, Spaghetti for the big guy the first night of basketball practice and Pork “Floaters” and Sauerkraut every New Year’s Day. Our famous Shrimp Spread (see my post “History, It’s in the Making” to know more) showed up often. Through the years at HPL, I’ve extended family traditions into my gardening. I grow a whole bunch of herbs. Years ago I developed my own double secret herb mix called Jen Blen. I use fresh in season, but also dry, package and label it. It’s then given to family and friends. I also make make blends of “Charsley”, “Chasil” and “Thanksgiving” all of which that are family staples that make their way to my grown children’s kitchens every year (yes, my daughter and son have become foodies in their own right). I “press” flowers and herbs and use them in art work. I’ve pickled cucamelons while my daughter created Cucamelons Photography! And of course there’s my social media favorite…. Friday Food Faces.
Things were not perfect at Hodge Podge Lodge. The outdated wiring was a challange that has ever-so-slowly been replaced through time. For years our well water had a tendency to have the appearance of chocolate milk a couple of times a year until we invested lots of money we didn’t have into a heavy-duty filtration system. Poison Ivy has refused to vacate still and deer families and the resident ground hog seem to think the flowers and vegetables planted is their very own all you can eat buffet.
Our home life, like everyone’s, was filled with our own unique set of challenges. Ours was my husband’s health. Early in our marriage, my husband was diagnosed with a kidney disease. Chronic gout, a blood clot and a resulting pulmonary embolizism, kidney transplant, hip replacement and a triple by pass followed through the years. Always an extreme busy man, to everyone outside the home my husband’s health problems were hardly noticed. He rarely missed work except for required procedures and as a varsity basketball coach for 37 seasons he did NOT miss pratice or games….no way! At home it was different though. Hours were spent filling his meds box for the week (in recent years has was taking 26 pills a day, not to mention the monthly infusion given to him at the office or at home). Late night trips to the ER for an elevated heart rate happened several times but somehow he always got stablized so he’d be back at school the following morning. Inside and outside home improvement projects were put on hold in order to address the current health issue. Some of our family holidays can be remembered by whatever ailment “Papa” was suffering from at the time. Thing is though all this happened within the walls of our Hodge Podge Lodge, our family safe place.
Eight months ago my love, the father of my wonderful children, the person I have laughed with the most in my life died unexpectedly. While my grief is still immense, I am so thankful that my little Hodge Podge Lodge is filled to the brim with the sweet memories of our 40 years of life together. The way I look at it your “home”, whether it be your people, a place or both, intertwined with simple pleasures and traditions give you a sense of belonging.
We all have it in us to find true happiness, whether it’s with a true love, a place, family relationships or simply self-care. Find your “thing”, find your “person” or find your “place”. Just know that once you find it, no matter what happens you’ll never lose it. Memories live forever. Love, in all it forms, lives forever. I wish you love.
“I’m just someone who likes cooking and for whom sharing food is a form of expression” – Maya Angelou