ife's journey takes us down many roads; some smooth and others, as we say in the country, seasonal and bumpy, and only passable at certain times of the year. Yet, all
roads lead us somewhere.
One summer morning in late July 1993 was especially sweet, glorious, and lush. The beautiful valley that ﬂowed softly from our front door resembled a giant jewel-toned quilt. The perfectly formed squares of early corn dressed in verdant green were stitched up against golden expanses of wheat, ﬁlling the soul with the promise of plenty. The air was still dewy fresh, not yet burning with the midday heat to come. Western New York summer days are the very reason we who live here tolerate all the badmouthing our winters receive from the rest of the country. We are immune to the national news headlines proclaiming that Buffalo and Rochester are being buried in snow. It's all worthwhile to us because, when spring, summer, and fall are here, there is no place on earth more beautiful.
My husband Brock was born and raised in a small city out- side of Buffalo. After our marriage, we moved to a new three-story condominium in a trendy, year-round recreation community outside Torrington, Connecticut. Lakeridge, with its environmentally proper architecture, was tucked discreetly in the Berkshire Mountains of western Connecticut.
For many families it was a second-home community, and those who purchased there were mostly from New York City. Lakeridge's advertisements in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal promised the "good life." It was a wakeup call that wasn't wasted on us, especially since we had two young children to keep occupied in a safe environment. It would also ease our guilt at having to leave them so often for business travel. (In those early years we traveled extensively because of Brock's auto racing commentary for CBS sports.) Aside from the beauty of the place, it boasted its own ski slope, a lake, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, equestrian trails, and a couple of ﬁtness centers-perfect solutions for the needs of our newly formed family. We thought my two children Sean and Stacy, would be so occupied they wouldn't even know we were away. It turned out to be a parental fantasy. After about six months in "paradise," they were bored to death with condo life, and it gave Brock the perfect opportunity to con- vince us to move to his beloved western New York State.
Brock and I met in the mid1970s. He was writing for Car and Driver, Sports Illustrated and Playboy magazines. I was freelancing in marketing and publishing. We met at an annual event thrown by Car and Driver at Lime Rock, Connecticut. At ﬁrst it seemed we had nothing in common. Never in a million years would a dating service put us together. Brock is
a laid-back Type C personality and I'm a driven Type A. Yet we share some very deep and profound beliefs, and we soon discovered that our approach to life was the same.
So, after our false start in Connecticut, we moved to Wyo- ming, NewYork, population 350 is located halfway between Buffalo and Rochester in one of the largest agricultural counties in the state. The landscape resembles the countryside of England, with its rolling hills and fertile valleys. We bought a house called Farmstead.
Farmstead was the culmination of the dream of C.B. Mat- thews, a rival of John D. Rockefeller in the natural gas and petroleum business. Designed in the earlier Federal style, the
house reﬂected the opulence of its era and Matthew's station in the community. Six beautiful ﬁreplaces and breathtaking woodwork adorn its twenty elegant rooms. Once the center of a thousand-acre farm, Farmstead's orchards produced a wide selection of apples that were shipped by the barrel to France. It also boasted the ﬁrst Black Angus cattle in the area.
In 1909 Matthews hired architect Bryant Fleming, who later founded the School of Landscape Design at Cornell University, to enlarge and remodel the original farmhouse, built in 1822. Fleming and Matthews traveled to Italy in search of light ﬁxtures and other décor for the house. After its renovation in 1910, Farmstead provided shelter and comfort to seven generations of the Matthews family.
With the passing of time, the Matthews family left Farm- stead. Yet Farmstead stood straight and proud awaiting its next love affair with a new generation of devoted owners-the Yates family.
As we began our process of restoration some seventy years after the Matthews family had put its mark on the house, I realized that my usual impatience and desire to have things done immediately would have to take a backseat to the massive scope of the project. A house that size had its own timetable. I began to think in terms of normal time versus "Farmstead time." Farmstead time was slower, more thoughtful-and demanded our full attention. The exquisitely detailed carved moldings, the positioning of the rooms, the badly damaged silver plating on the lighting ﬁxtures and the elegant glass sconces all needed special craftsmen to refurbish them. The attention to detail employed in creating this special house had to be respected.
The calming, old-world atmosphere that Farmstead exuded was a stark contrast to my childhood years. As the only child of a successful but alcoholic father, I lived with a daily diet of tension and high drama. My mother tried to create a sense of normalcy for my sake, but with little success.
I quickly learned the child-of-alcoholics' coping skills of seesawing between parents. Without other siblings to buffer the pain and confusion, I would yo-yo back and forth, trying to placate and accommodate the two people I loved most. I became the shock absorber for the emotional chaos that en- gulfed and immobilized our small family unit. Maintaining the equilibrium and stretching out the good times became my most desperate preoccupation. The angst caused by loving both of my parents and not knowing what I could do to make them happy overshadowed all of my childhood days. For a while I believed that if I behaved better and was more successful, I could ﬁx the broken parts of my family.
The strongest bond my father and I shared was our love and appreciation for music. A frustrated band singer, he and my mother worked hard to help me develop my musical talents and aspirations. The one thing that they did share deeply was a belief that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to. That seemed to make them as happy as they could be together, I tried always to succeed and bring them some joy. Their loving faith in me was a gift that I'll always cherish.
My teenage years, although lonely, were ﬁlled with end- less singing, dancing, and acting lessons. Through hard work and dedication I became part of two summer stock companies The Lake Placid Playhouse in Lake Placid, New York and the Dorset Playhouse in Dorset, Vermont. Even though I was a good student and my hours were ﬁlled with music and theatre, I constantly struggled with the need to do more and make my parents proud. It wasn't until much later that I accepted I was incapable of ﬁxing their problems. Only they could do that.
I met my ﬁrst husband when I was eighteen and attending Denver University. He was a handsome, bright young man and seemed to be the antithesis of my father. When I brought him home to my parents in New York, to my astonishment, my father liked him. My mother, with her customary sharp instincts, was not so impressed. Since I loved him, she went along, putting my happiness over her instincts.