Was it Miss Scarlet in the dining room with the candlestick? Or Professor Plum in the conservatory with the rope? Unfortunately it was my mother in the billiard room with lung cancer, although none of us knew it at the time.
Our Murder Mystery Weekend on November 2, 2013 heralded a new era of family collaboration at the Wilburton Inn in Manchester, Vermont. For 26 years, our parents had run the inn with love and now my sister and I were ready to roll up our sleeves and join the family business. It was a magical night for everyone.
My sister, who is currently commissioned to pen the musical adaptation of Green Acres for Broadway, wrote a wonderful "who done it" interactive script inspired by the inn's actual history. My brother Max ran the event and coordinated the staffing and dinner. Our brother Oliver who is an organic farmer, played the turn-of-the-century farmer who actually owned the land where the inn was built -- until he lost it in a rigged game of poker. I contributed to the family hoopla by recruiting my New York City actor friends, Alysia Reiner and David Alan Basche to be our guest stars in exchange for a weekend in the bridal suite.
The Manchester Journal wrote a front-page story about this "dinner party to die for" and a waiting list of 40 clamored to be a part of this glamorous evening.
As guests poured into the mansion, our mom, aided by our bookkeeper Martha and a how to video on YouTube, was trying to figure out how to pin a sari that an Indian bride had sent as a thank you for her recent wedding.
Our mom had always loved Agatha Christie. No family vacation was complete with out a paperback featuring Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot. Our mom was a natural writer like her sister, playwright Wendy Wasserstein, only mom's creative expression came in writing letters, a novel about her beloved dog, and annual murder mysteries at the inn. She was delighted to see my sister carrying on her tradition. Our murder mystery showed us all how much fun we could have working together and bringing so much joy to our guests and small town. This was just the beginning and it promised something so good.
And then came the news that mom's cough wasn't just a cough. For six months she had dismissed it as nothing. Having been married for nearly 50 years to our dad who a psychiatrist, she thought perhaps she was just holding her feelings in, and they were coming out as a cough. The doctor at her check up three months earlier dismissed it as nothing too. But a week after our wonderful party, the reason of her cough and fatigue were no longer a mystery.
As our mom literally danced and sang through chemo and radiation, we kept celebrating at the inn. On these heals of her diagnosis came Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas and New Years, all celebrated with guests and staff and friends and family.
We celebrated stronger than ever, because her life was a celebration and we were all determined to bask in what she created rather than just grieve for her fate. When mom died on February 6th, her funeral was the grandest party of all -- with singing, dancing, rapping, crying and band of red jump suit wearing klezmer musicians who led our town into the snowy graveyard.
And then we mourned. For three months, there were no parties at the inn. And then on Mother's Day, we threw a dance party and musical brunch and we have not stopped celebrating since. Farm night dinners each week in summer. Musicals. Book readings. Doggie slumber parties. Halloween costume balls. Our family has decided that the inn should be more vibrant than ever as a testament to mom's spirit of joy and celebration.
Two years later, we are not only surviving, we are thriving. My father just came back from a vacation to see his brothers in Greece and explore the mysteries of Istanbul. My sister and brother Max and I just bought a magnificent 12-bedroom house which will be a home for our children and their children so they will always have fun together in Vermont.
My brother Oliver and his wife Bonnie are expanding too, with a new barn and new bus, and a new crop on the horizon. And the inn wraps up our 28th fiscal year with our strongest year since the go-go '80s.
And this weekend my sister hosts her third annual Murder Mystery Weekend. It will be another wonderful party in another packed house. And I hope mom is watching from above in her beautiful pink Sari, smiling and figuring out who done it. You did it mom. Thank you for filling us with so much love that we can keep growing and singing and playing and loving and always remembering you. It was Georgette. With her smile. In the Mountains of Vermont. It's no mystery. You were an exceptional mom, innkeeper, grandma, wife, aunt, and friend.