To The Mountains

I am a mountain girl. So it’s no surprise, really, that my soul settles every time I make my way from these South Carolina flatlands to the echoing peaks of the Appalachians. I need merely see those distant shapes through the windshield to feel their familiar call: We’re here. We’re always here. Welcome home. 

At that moment, I let my heart go, to soar along the great blue ridges.

My husband’s heart soars, too, a fact that still surprises me 11 years into our marriage. The son of native New Yorkers, he spent summers in Connecticut with his Italian grandmother. Hockey and sailing and clam-digging, it seems, are more familiar activities to my Monetti husband. Yet where does he now feel most content?

There, in my mountains.

Just this summer, we spent a week hiking, swimming and roaming the back woods around Cashiers, North Carolina. Last weekend we returned to the area, a Labor Day getaway with our dear friends (and football tailgate buddies) the Rojeks. The house we rented was so tucked away, so remote, a distant neighbor we came upon (thank heavens) in the deep dark night got in his four wheel drive and led us there.

(We’re still toasting to this kind stranger five days later.)*

I feel so at peace here my husband said the next morning as we looked toward the forever horizon.

We both stood there quiet for a moment.

I think it’s because everything, as far as the eye can see, is so … unmanipulated. 

I kneaded the thought for a while.



It’s just as it was created he said. Just as it was meant to be. 

Ah, yes. Exactly.


**Fun Sidebar Story   While I had this Good Samaritan in hand, I had to ask the obvious question: So…do you think it’s safe for us to do some hiking here around the cabin? It’s pretty remote. I mean, should we be worried about bears?

He did not rush into his answer, considering my question for a good long minute before offering:

Umm. I think you’d probably be okay. I mean, sure there are bears. But they’re just black bears. 

And that, my friends, was all I needed to know.


College, and Grand Goodbyes

You’d think it would get easier, this facing down of another Fall semester. After all, I’ve been through it twice. What’s more, this time I carry few of the Mom-worries of her first year of college. She’s walking out my door and back into her own life a much wiser, more confident (nearly) 21-year-old—a far cry from that young girl I left standing amid a thousand freshmen on the sidewalk in front of Lever Hall.

And yet the reality of this third goodbye has left me hollow. Vacant. Carved-out.


I am thankful for this: God eased me into it this time, granting about a million reprieves. We helped her move over a week ago, you see, Tim driving the big truck to Clemson and—with the help of her awesome cousin, Julia—toting load after load after load into the apartment and up the stairs. Then the two of them headed on to Cashiers, NC, for the start of our annual Monetti Family Reunion summer vacation while Eliza and I spent the afternoon organizing drawers, arranging closets, hanging curtains. By the end of the day, her Junior Year move-in was nearly complete.

I rejoiced at not having to hug goodbye that day. Instead, she and I got in her car to make the trip to Cashiers together. I drove. She DJed. We both looked out at the mountains, singing along to our favorite new-this-summer song:

show me
how big your brave is

It’s bonus time, I thought as I drove, these two days with my girl before she’ll make this drive back down the mountain without me. I’ll think of it as bonus time.


on the mountaintop

She was generous with me, I know that for sure, during that Eliza Time of vacation. She let me have those days on my terms. We sat in the double adirondack and watched the sun set against Chimney Top Mountain. We hiked around Hampton Lake, twice. When we all gathered for dinner in the big lodge dining room, she chose the chair right beside mine (without me even asking). Most telling, she allowed photo after photo of us together.

Then all too soon it was time for her to go, to head down the mountain to Clemson. Before she left, she came along on our group excursion to Highlands, stretching time for me once again.

We shopped, we giggled, we bought matching $3.00 macrame bracelets. And then over gigantic dripping ice cream cones, she announced to the group it was time to go.

Don’t be sad, Mom she said, hugging me quickly. I’ll see you Friday.


And so we stopped in to see her one more time on our way home, staying just long enough for Tim to build the big bookshelf to go beside her bed. And just like that, in no time at all, we were out in the driveway, hugging goodbye again.

Make good decisions I said, and we both laughed at the recitation of my stock College Departure advice for her, a line picked up from one of our favorite movies.

I will, Mom, she said, rolling her eyes just a little, as always.

Then we got in the car and pulled away, and I looked back as my baby turned to walk toward the door of her own apartment.

Tim reached for my hand, knowing from experience the tears were about to flow, knowing it was time for me to let go, knowing full well the empty that awaited me, here at home.

Knowing Junior Year had begun.

Day 21: the lake hike

We’ve come to the mountains for a little family vacation, one of the traditions I love most about this Monetti clan I married into. I knew carrying on with my 30 Days of Fun would be a breeze—with Anthony and Joey around, it’s always fun.

We started our week with a little hike around the lake. Eliza came, too, and I was happy. (It seems I am desperate to soak up every bit of her before she heads back down the mountain to Clemson.)

We set out together.

a good place to start
Joey shows us the way.

Everywhere we looked, there was something interesting to see and discuss.

tree kisses
a tree trunk with scales!

Wildflowers—sweet little surprises the boys spotted in the woods.

I found my favorite hideaway. Joey and I decided we’d come back here later, to sit and read and look.


Now what?

Anthony charts our course.

I was sure we’d find a feather, sooner or later. Guess what?

the boys found two!

It was the perfect way to start the week, filled with wonder and excitement and adventure.

I can’t wait to see what we do next.

Eliza and Anthony


30 Days of Fun II