Staycation Stop #5: Jaunt in Germantown

When I was a little girl, Sunday afternoons were spent visiting relatives. My grandparents, Mama Lou and Granddaddy, would pick up my sister and me in their green Ford and we’d take off—windows down–to the country where great aunts and uncles waited in Sunday best. Tired and hot from collecting eggs from the hen house, harassing hissing geese that gathered in disapproval around the pond, and chasing wild kittens we could never catch, we’d sit with the grownups in Aunt Cat’s parlor. A master storyteller, her voice would melodically rise and fall over the hum of the air conditioner. Too short to reach the pedal, Penny and I would take turns pumping and playing the Victorian organ in her cool living room, curtains drawn, lit by lamplight.

Adored as the most beautiful sister, the eldest of my grandmother’ s siblings resembled Catherine Hepburn—tall, statuesque, and confident. Gracious in a grand way. The original Lady Antebellum, she’d serve refreshments despite my grandmother’s protesting we had just eaten so she shouldn’t go to so much trouble. It was a Big Sis/Little Sis game they played because, as cousins can confirm, guests never came to my grandmother’s without Aunt Lou offering them “cream” from the “deep freeze” either. Holding tongs with pinky extended, Aunt Cat would fill glasses from the ice bucket, offering us Cokes, coconut macaroons, Fig Newtons, and shortbread cookies with chocolate icing. Classic treats made special by a silver tray.

Something about Germantown reminds me of those genteel weekends in Gracey, Kentucky. It also transports me to adult getaways in Savannah and Charleston. The gardens and architecture of the 19th century neighborhood recall what’s best about the South—Sunday afternoons, good manners, hospitality. Last week I strolled through Germantown with my friend, Sara, and her son, Trent. She bought dinner from the fish market and I introduced her to The Cupcake Collection, a place my sister had previously shown me. In fact, Penny and my niece, Emily, had just left there. She had wanted to treat her daughter, home from SCAD, to the bakery–no doubt because Emily frequents a cupcake shop in Savannah and has learned to decorate cakes from my sister, a Master Baker herself. Turned out Penny and I were simultaneously celebrating the spirit of summers spent with Aunt Cat and Mama Lou. The Cupcake Collection is gearing up to deliver, but last week I was glad I returned to the family tradition of taking time to “just visit.” To enjoy loved ones with a whole lot of sugar going on.

Sara and I caught up while noticing gingerbread latticework, entrance gardens, and courtyard fountains. Years before she became a wife and mom we walked and talked around Rome, stopping for a gelato rather than a cupcake beside Trevi Fountain. With much behind us and more to come, it was nice to staycation in Germantown and remember the best times at home or abroad are sharing simple pleasures with special people.