At the end of The Wizard Of Oz, Dorothy clicks her ruby heels together, and intones the now famous mantra, “There’s no place like home!” For our family, Rhinebeck, New York has been home for over twenty seven years.
My husband David and I, recently off the plane from our honeymoon in Ireland, took a drive to nowhere in our “brand new” second hand Cutlass Ciera on a sweltering hot day to escape the summer heat of New York City. We relished our new found air conditioning for two hours of chatting and fantasizing about our future lives together, arriving at last in a small town called Rhinebeck. My husband, an actor, director, and teacher of Lee Strasberg’s Method, had directed summer stock in the picturesque little Hudson Valley town several years before, and was keen on showing his new bride, an actress and writer, this quaint and lovely spot.
Assailed by the glorious sights of rolling, open fields, lush green farmland, and cows, sheep, and various goats (even a few llama ) dotting the countryside, we were instantly transported back to the landscape of our Irish honeymoon (minus the castles and accents) .We knew we wanted to start a family soon, and the setting spoke to us; a lush, peaceful, tranquil place to raise our future children. The state of the art Neugarten Birth Center had recently been built, and we imagined birthing our babies in this forward thinking, non hospital like environment.
On a whim, after walking the village streets, which showcased unique stores such as Winter Sun (Summer Moon came later), and Hummingbird Jewelers, we walked into Helen Battistoni’s Real Estate office and were directed to a lovely agent, Nancy Russo.
We made an extra long wish list of what we would want in a future home, thinking it would take at least a year or two to match our qualifications. Lo and behold, Nancy showed us, within two weeks, what would become our Rhinebeck home; an old farmhouse, with two barns and a small cottage attached to one of the barns. The property included a beautiful pond into which the Landsman Kill flows, and is one of the sites of the local youth fishing contest every year.
As she showed us around for those several weeks, Nancy kept up pleasant chatter about all the wonderful attributes of this singular town that we would soon call home. She kept asking if we had friends from the city who would be interested in moving here, predicting that someday this small, one traffic light quiet town would someday be home to multitudes fleeing the stress and pressures of the city.
Little did Nancy know how right she would be, some twenty five or so years later. Since 9/11 especially, throngs of city dwellers have either settled here, just as we did so long ago, to raise families, or enjoy second homes on the weekends. Others make the two hour drive simply to enjoy the sights and treasures of Rhinebeck, staying in many of the lovely inns and bed and breakfasts in our area.
What makes Rhinebeck Rhinebeck? Some newcomers to our town simply smile and say “It’s magical!” Others say they feel as if they are in a Norman Rockwell painting., or have, like Alice in Wonderland, simply vanished down the rabbit hole into a magical new place of unending wonder (minus the Red Queen). Whether it’s the way multitudes of bucket carrying kids climb aboard the backs of trucks in April, and tailgate through the town to stock the local watering holes with trout for the annual Landsman Kill Fishing Contest, or the way the entire village shuts down at Halloween for a parade of costumed children, Rhinebeck exudes safety, warmth, good cheer; an innocence of days gone by.
Our roots have now, like the old black walnut trees on our property, grown deep into our hometown, intertwining with the lives of so many others who live here. Our children grow together in a community with a rich heritage and extensive history.
Rhinebeck became our hometown when we stepped out of that old, silver blue car on a hot July day in the middle of a heat wave, more than a quarter century ago. Like Dorothy, we had somehow clicked our respective, just married heels together, and wound up in a place we and our four children would come to love as our hometown, Rhinebeck.
What’s your “hometown Rhinebeck” tale? Let me know in the comments.