For several weeks during the spring of 1959, my mother, brother and I were the sole guests of the Trapp Family Lodge. My mother spent a lot of time conferring with the resident priest, who also took the trouble to teach me double solitaire, a big step up from the game of war. Her eyes were always red-she was trying something new called contact lenses-and my father hadn't come with us because, she said, he was "confused."
My brother and I spent our days exploring the woods and playing with the six Von Trapp grandchildren down the road. Their mother, Erica, would make puffy pancakes called pfannkuchen, which seemed to do wonders for my mother's bleary eyes. As they jabbered in German, we lit out for the barn with its new kittens and a hayloft you could jump from.
I've resisted returning to the Lodge-or compound, really, which is what it became in the wake of the Sound of Music musical (which opened in the fall of '59), the movie ('65), the introduction of a cross-country ski center in '68 and a fire that destroyed the main house in 1980, prompting a much larger replacement. Today the place is Hyatt-huge. How could gemutlichkeit possibly be stretched to such a scale?
Easy. It starts with the bellman, who has perfect pitch for joshing with children ("You don't want pizza and a movie with the other kids, right? I'm sure you'd prefer a long quiet dinner with your parents"), and blossoms in our room, where a round pine table beckons in the window nook-a lot like the one where I'd honed my card-sharp skills. Scores of children mob the afternoon singalong led by Rosmarie Von Trapp (Maria's daughter, now 81) and some even make it through the decidedly elegant dinner, wriggling in and out of their chairs.
One spring day my father showed up, no longer confused but contrite. It's not always easy, being a family. Some families, however, manage to make it an art.
LOCATION Six miles from Stowe Mountain Resort, four from Stowe village and 40 miles from Burlington Airport.
DETAILS There are 116 rooms, 100 condo units, 62 miles of cross-country trails, snowshoeing, sledding, sleigh rides, a fitness center, indoor pool, restaurant and tea room.
DIGITS Rates run $265-$635, breakfast and dinner included. Reservations: 800-826-7000 or 802-253-8511; www.trappfamily.com.