Barn Party! Oak Hill's Favorite Couple Celebrates 55 Years
For the first time, in my lifetime of visits to the Catskills, I was invited to a party. Like a scene from a picture book, the potluck dinner was drenched in golden light, filtered through the windows and doorways of an old red barn. On the edges of the soft green lawn, orange tiger lilies and yellow cosmos were nodding in the breeze, and the heavens above were a perfect Crayola Sky Blue. We gathered to celebrate the 55th wedding anniversary of Mary Lou and Nick Nahas, whom I met as the owners of IU Tripp, an antique shop in Oak Hill.
"They invited nearly everyone in town, as their naturally inclusive nature would dictate, from families who have been rooted here for over 100 years to newcomers who only just moved here this year," Rob Handel, the chef at the nearby Bee's Knees Cafe at Heather Ridge Farm wrote in a post-party Facebook post. Rob has been known to pop out his kitchen window with a tin whistle to join in on some Irish reels at brunch. That evening, he joined the beloved Kitty Kelly and her band in the tent to play a set of reels and slow air. His whistle made such airy, magical music that I wouldn't have been surprised if some woodland fairies and elves emerged from beneath the tall flowers to dance around us.
As everyone around town knows, Mary Lou and Nick's community involvement goes far beyond antique shop ownership. Among the many things they do for Oak Hill, they're involved with the local government, where Nick serves on the Town Board (and is currently up for re-election!), they're devoted to preserving the history of Oak Hill, and they promote area businesses and events via the very active Oak Hill and Vicinity Facebook page.
Nick and Mary Lou's son, Chris, who always has been so kind to my family, greeted every guest, made introductions, and helped newcomers like us feel right at home.
We looked on as old friends embraced behind Nick and Mary Lou's beautiful red barn and made some new friends ourselves. When I spotted Greene County Legislator Aidan O'Connor across the room, I tried to find the right words to introduce myself and ask him for an interview without sounding too pushy or intrusive. I was shocked when he hugged me and told me how much he likes my writing and appreciates the work I'm doing.
What kind of wonderful place is this, where a local politician invites a weekender from Brooklyn to chat over a cup of tea? It's hard to put the overall loveliness of the party into words, but the joyous photo of my daughter Ramona, above, and the cake pictured beside her, begin to encapsulate the deliciousness and delight of the evening.
And just when the surroundings didn't seem like they could get more beautiful, Chris led us to a old one-room schoolhouse on property, where Mary Lou has set up two charming twin beds, carefully arranged antique china, and comfy white wicker chairs, like life-size dollhouse. (Those of us who watch a lot of HGTV might call it a She Shed, the feminine version of a Man Cave.)
Ramona, along with all the littlest guests, seemed the most appreciative of the open fields behind the barn.
For my potluck contribution, I baked a batch of Ina Garten's Chocolate White Chocolate Chunk Cookies, served on an antique plate on loan from IU Tripp. (If you want to try the recipe, I always replace the 1 teaspoon of kosher salt with 2 teaspoons of Maldon sea salt flakes, and instead of chopped white chocolate, I use a mix of white choc au lait chips, dark chocolate chips, and milk chocolate chips.)
Happy anniversary, Nick and Mary Lou! Thanks so much for inviting us to spend this special day with you.