“Cuba? Why the hell would anyone go there?” said the rather candid passenger in the seat next to me.
Well, let me tell you why.
This entire post will be dedicated to my Grandma and Grandpa Cloyes; without them this entire trip would have only been a dream. They were remarkable, selfless and loved being surrounded by family. As it is with most families, it was tough having to say our goodbyes to both of them when they passed, but their daughter, my mama bear, knew exactly how to keep their selfless, family-loving attitude alive! She flew all her kids and their kids out to middle-of-nowhere Cuba, New York. Never heard of it? Neither had we.
Just to paint a picture, we have Lucas, my oldest brother, and his wife, Lisa, with their brilliant, brave and beautiful daughter, Avery. Then theres my middle brother, Trevor, who is married to Byrd. They have genius Johnny and adorably funny Joaquin. My youngest, but still older than me brother, Brent and his new bride, Nicole, left their furry kids at home. Michael and I did the same, but we missed him desperately.
All of us, fine folks, would be staying in this house…together…for 7 days…with no cell service. Dun dun dunnnn. I think we all went in excited with a hint of nerves.
As you’ve read in previous posts, Michael and I typically like to see our surroundings and take in as much of the sites as possible. On this trip, we left the house a few times, but I think we’ll all agree that our favorite times were spent in the front yard.
We flew in and stayed in Buffalo for one night, so we could wake up and drive to Niagara Falls in the morning. When I hear Niagara Falls, I always think of Bruce Almighty, “like the great FALLS, is the bedrock of my life eroding beneath me.” I wrote that from memory because I said that probably close to 24 times during our short stay here. Sorry fam. We took the ferry which you HAVE to do. Just a bunch of sardines crammed onto a boat getting soaked by Mother Nature. Awesome.
I’m going to get to the property in a bit, let me just write through the outings we had. Be patient. We did drive to Cuba that night. Go ahead and get the other Cuba, the island smothered in tobacco fields, ya that one, get that out of your head. Think Cuba, 1,500 residents and corn fields as far as the eye can see. Moving on.
We got an early start the next morning to drive out to Lake Erie, where Nicole’s family lives. We lounged by the beach for a majority of the day, ate some lunch and were back on the road to the farmhouse.
The final outing was to Letchworth State Park. Gorgeous property with valleys, canyons, waterfalls and greenery as far as the eye can see! We had nice, casual strolls throughout the park until we sat down for lunch when Michael and Lucas decided to get out the drone. Michael is an experienced flier but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t let that get to his head. Anything for the shot. I was taking photos of the two of them sitting on the curb until an “uh oh,” caught my attention. “Uh oh? whats uh oh?!” Michael got on his feet and calmly told us his drone had crashed. It was nowhere near us. The three of us got in the van to track it down and this is where he told us he thinks that it crashed on the side of the waterfall.
We asked several people if they had seen anything and one man told us he saw it crash. The direction his finger pointed left little reassurance that we’d see it again. Did that stop Michael? Sure didn’t. Over the wall and down on his belly to crawl as far to the edge as possible. Was I terrified? Yes. Was I also filming this take place? Yes. Duh. His fearlessness proved victorious! Though covered in mud, he had his precious drone back in his arms. That was enough excitement for one day. Back to the farmhouse.
The rest of our time at the farmhouse was, unanimously, our favorite part of vacation. We spent our time playing frisbee whether it was sunshine or pouring rain. We had two massive balloon fights and it was as if everything played out in slow motion with the Braveheart theme song playing in the background. No one held back. No one was safe. People were thrown, shoved or dropped into the kiddie pool; the same pool where we would replenish our squirt guns. We never wanted to replenish, but we had to. Mom bought hundreds of balloons for one fight and at the count of three everyone had a free for all. Hundreds of balloons barely lasting a few short minutes. Worth it.
Most nights we would turn on the projector and play a movie against the garage wall. We would make a fire-pit right in the grass because when you live in Cuba, you have grass to spare. Our wonderful hosts brought us everything we needed to make smores. Every time we thought they couldn’t be any more hospitable, they’d surprise us. Do you ever just take mental notes when people are naturally gracious? I’m constantly blown away by people who think of others first; it doesn’t always come naturally to me, but I’m determined to adopt this and make others take mental notes about “that one time Kayli gave me two cars.”
You would find us exploring the creek or sipping coffee on the porch. If we weren’t playing corn hole in the yard, we’d be filming a movie called The Cornfield Keeper. On a rainy day we were playing puzzles inside, and when the sun was out we were flying the drones to surprise the neighbors.
We all got a chance to “slow down” that week. We got to enjoy fishing and boating in a pond which was something my grandpa loved doing with his grandkids. It was something us kids looked forward to every single Monday after school. We got to enjoy the great sky in all its expansive beauty. It’s rare to see the night sky in all its glory back home. It reminded me of the letters my grandpa would write my grandma, one said “We have had a wonderfully clear night here tonight and the old moon surely boomed out. Several times my imagination ran away with me and I felt I could see your reflection.”
With a world consumed by screens, it was incredible to spend a week outside. As you get older, its fun to be reminded that you can still be childish in all the best ways. When is the last time you threw your brother in a pool or chucked a balloon at your favorite sisters face? Have you watched a movie outside with your entire family? Or my personal favorite…catching lightning bugs! Their butts light up, people!!
I’ll carry such incredible memories from this trip. When all of us thought we’d need our own time, we found ourselves waking up early just to spend more time together. I had always wanted to do a vacation with the entire family and this one far exceeded my expectations. I walked away from that week even more in love with the family God blessed me with.
A huge thank you to my mom and our wonderful hosts, Ken and Monica, for one of my favorite weeks!
In loving Memory of Grandma and Grandpa Cloyes.