By Jessica Cronenberger
It sounded like a good idea. Sometimes life is a bit ordinary and a good idea zaps your brain and sparks some excitement. So, when my sister-in-law called and suggested the three Buffalo sisters and their spouses come and surprise their brother downstate for his 60th birthday, it sounded like fun.
Traveling in January has its own set of challenges, so we opted for the train and the ease of travel without the winter road worries. Without a care in the world, we packed for an overnight, visions of reading, crosswords and cafe car visits in our head. Life doesn’t usually follow our lofty plans, though.
The day before we left, the first indication of a travel nightmare started to emerge. We were notified that all trains were canceled on our return day. Oh well, could be worse. A storm was predicted, you know, the storm that never came. A little panic set in, but once we decided that work was not a problem, and an extra overnight would not strain our bank accounts, we agreed the extra time with our sibling was justly warranted.
His wife, anxious to follow through on this surprise, insisted on paying for the hotel and assured us all that she was so happy we were still coming. She had reservations at his favorite restaurant at 7 p.m. and scads of appetizers hidden all over the house and garage for our afternoon arrival.
So, early that morning, we embark on our journey, smiling. Two hours into the trip, and forward progress slowing, it’s announced that there is a track switch issue. It’s winter and things outdoor freeze. OK, that happens. And it did, a second time, and a third. It was the rescue engine that we needed that really put us behind. Texts back and forth to Poughkeepsie relayed our projected later arrival times, and were met with her added woes as her restaurant canceled all of the reservations because of the impending storm. Again, the storm that never came.
Now, sis-in-law has to make a dinner because pizza is not an option for her, not for a milestone birthday. She hatches a plan to get him out of the house so she can get a new plan in action. Luckily, their son needs his washer and dryer hooked up and wants it done THAT DAY, he tells his dad.
So, with the house to herself, she thaws her Plan B lasagna and will try to get her side dishes purchased and prepped. She had platters in the trunk of her car and in the basement, all out of view. She handled this debacle rather seamlessly.
Weary and finally off the train almost three hours late, the rest of the evening was good. Surprise accomplished, food ready and wine galore. We could have done without the angst of the officiating, watching football the next day, but we did have quality time with family, more good food and more wine.
The next morning, we arrive bright and early at the station only to receive three separate texts of delays piling up. The trip home was almost exactly like the first ... a need for a rescue engine in the middle of nowhere, track switch problems and a car heated so much we needed the front and back door kept open despite the single digit temps and the snow and wind blowing in.
Buffalonians are tough, members of my family are flexible. The combination made it all worthwhile!
Jessica Cronenberger, of West Seneca, is undeterred by most snow forecasts.