Camp Compo: Stories From Higley Hill

“Let us not be too particular. It is better to have old second-hand
diamonds than none at all.”
~Mark Twain, Following the Equator

It was as if he tucked his wallet in his back pocket, zipped up his ski jacket, and walked out the front door, never to return again. His snowmobile suit still hung in the closet and his clothes filled the dresser draws. The liquor cabinet was well stocked, the ice cube trays full, and the fridge was loaded with mixers. “Can I make you a cocktail?”, Rich asked the first night we slept in the house.

Vermont House 2

His name was Richard, too. Richard Compoletero. It sings like some of the names in Moonstruck, and reminds me of the scene when Rita Cappomaggi answers the door and says “It’s Johnny Cammareri” in a lilting voice.

Compo passed away five years ago but his personality still fills the rooms of the funky little house we bought, more like a summer camp by a lake or an old ski chalet decorated in the style of 1970’s Italian trattoria meets the gothic vibe of Barnabas Collins of Dark Shadows.

Italian Trattatoria

 

His three sons inherited the house, and I suppose like many of us, their busy lives interfered with their plans to use the place as a vacation getaway. As the years passed by, they continued to keep up with the bills and the real estate taxes but their kids grew up and the wives most likely tired of the place, so they visited less and less often, until one day they hung a For Sale by Owner sign by the front door, behind a pine tree, barely visible from the road. And so the house sat empty for a couple of years, until the day my husband’s good friend since first grade, whose name is also Rich and lives up the hill from Camp Compo, happened to notice the sign and a realtor he knew in the driveway.

Vermont Rich called us right away and gave us the phone number. My Rich reached the youngest son. “What a coincidence,” he said, referring to the unexpected phone call, not the fact that his name is also Richard. Fortunately, for the sake of this story, he goes by Randy. “We’re about to give the house over to a realtor.”

“I know,” Rich said, and explained about his friend driving by, and how we worked at an inn in Connecticut but were looking to buy a house in the area. “It would benefit both of us if we bypassed the realtor.”

Randy needed to talk to his brothers but soon got back to us. They were all eager to sell so he told us where they hid the key. It was a slow time of year at the Inn so the next morning we hopped in the car and drove up to inspect the place.

We’d seen a lot of wet basements in Vermont, crazy septic situations, deteriorating roofs, and other home improvement situations that were daunting. Camp Compo was clean, the roof was in good condition, and the pool table kind of sealed the deal. That and the Defiant wood stove. We knew old houses well. Our home in New Hampshire was built in 1728, and although we didn’t want to repeat that never-ending DIY project, we thought we could manage this if we could settle on the right price. Because of course, there was the not so small problem of a tumbling basement foundation that needed immediate attention. But our friend Vermont Rich is a stonemason, so we had that going for us.

IMG_4167

Rich & Rich playing pool

We called Randy and made an offer that after a bit of back and forth he and his brothers agreed upon.

“I checked that Inn you guys work at and you seem like really nice people. Those are some great reviews you have. I feel good selling the place to you,” Randy told us. I guess it’s true what they say. What goes around comes around.

Compo was quite the improvisor. He also recycled long before it became the environmentally correct thing to do. The original house was a traveling bank. Some time back in the late ’60’s/early 70’s, he owned a crane operating business so had the equipment to also move a “pop-up” bank around to several locations in and around Stamford, Connecticut. Once one permanent bank branch was built he’d move the unit to another location, and when the project was completed he moved the modular unit to this ten acre chunk of land he owned in Vermont, where we now live. Two years later he built an addition; a great room with a west facing view of Haystack Mountain and some amazing sunsets.

Sunset in Vermont

Haystack Mountain at Sunset

He also worked on a house that needed a new entry way and when he tore down the existing structure, he saved some of the posts and the shed-like roof, and used them in the front entrance to the great room. Randy told us he and his father had a hell of a time taking the thing down. It was full of hornets nests and both of them got gang stung dismantling it. They kept one of the nests and tucked it in an eave as a personal sort of shared heroic memory. We’ve left it there for now because someone who recently stopped by to visit told us he saw people were shellacking them and selling them for a couple of hundred dollars on-line. The things some people collect never ceases to amaze me.

The fully stocked liquor cabinet was actually an improvised wall in the kitchen cabinet made with a piece of cardboard duck-taped to the shelves, separating the booze from a set of gold, green and brown plates, bowls, and coffee mugs. On the shelves with the Sambuca, Gordons London Dry Gin, Tito’s Vodka, Johnny Walker Red, and Cointreau was a container of I Love My Carpet and an unopened package containing something called a toilet flapper, so I’m not quite sure why Compo separated the improvised liquor cabinet from the dinnerware.

He certainly enjoyed his creature comforts and once he settled in to putting up his feet and relaxing, it appears he did not like to get up to answer the phone. I got rid of a dozen old phones, rotary and push button. They were set on little tables throughout the house along with a pen and a pad of paper nearby.

He also had a gadget for everything. In the drawers we found one of those wooden tongs that grabs toast from a toaster, an apple slicer, a tool to make watermelon balls, a garlic press, an electric can opener, a Vermont bullshit meter, a back scratcher, and something called The Giant Destroyer, two gas cartridges that kill gophers, moles, rats, ground hogs, skunks, squirrels, and ominously, Others. I’m glad we found this on a shelf along the stairs to the basement, not the liquor cabinet.

Once the foundation is fixed, we still have work to do but most of it’s cosmetic. We do have to rebuild the front entrance, for now we’re walking the plank, and a big priority is rebuilding the sunset view deck. Eventually, we plan to replace the wall-to-wall carpeting with hardwood floors. Paint the walls. Do something about the bathroom. We’re not planning on getting in over our heads here. We’re off the grid, living a simple life, making our wants few except for that biggest of all desires. Time to live life. Time for me to write. Because if not now, when?

At some point, Compo’s personality will fade from the house and ours will take over this humble abode. We’ve already hung our pictures and moved our furniture in. Some of Compo’s worldly possessions, like the couch and the dining room table, now reside in an apartment in Providence where my youngest daughter will be living off Broadway when she returns from studying in Germany. But we did promise Rich aka Randy his Dad would remain here in spirit. By the pool table Compo left us we are going to hang the homemade sign that hung by the front door above For Sale by Owner. Every once in awhile we will make a cocktail, an old-fashioned real drink, raise our glasses and toast Mr. Richard Compolatero, in a lilting sing-song Moonstruck sort of way, for this beautiful spot on the planet where his simple vision and endless ingenuity will always reside.

Compo

Off The Grid: Stories From Higley Hill

One Saturday morning, we woke to the sound of Tough Mudders driving by, creating more traffic then we hear in an average week. Trucks, motorcycles, and even Masaratis whizzed up and over the hill from Marlboro on the dirt road side of Higley Hill where Whoopi Goldberg once owned a house, down into Wilmington, then north to Mount Snow to compete in athletic events that involve slogging through mud. Our house is set behind a buffer of trees. I was exhausted, the Mudders barely disturbed my sleep.

dirt road

Turkey Crossing Higley Hill

Since we’ve moved to Wilmington, I have spent only half my time here. I’ve been driving back and forth between Rhode Island and Vermont, helping my parents and my daughter with the everyday hassles that are life in America in the 21st century. But each time I cross the border into the Green Mountain state, a huge weight lifts off my shoulders and I breath a sigh of relief.

We currently live off the grid. We have a lot of work going on at our house. We bought this little place for $60,000, cold cash, for sale by owner, no realtors involved. Rich was a former home inspector so we saved money there, too. Our biggest expense is re-doing the cinder block foundation which caved-in some time ago, probably from rough winters of freezing and thawing, or spring floods. We don’t know the details but Rich has jacked the house up a bit, eased the weight of the house onto cribbing  and a couple of steel beams we borrowed from a friend of a friend, and we’re ready for another friend of a friend to pour a cement foundation tomorrow.

cribbing

This is cribbing a house

So for now I manage without Wifi at the house. I find my Internet connections in various places. The town center of Wilmington has free access. Sometimes I just park on the street in front of the town hall, roll down the car windows, quickly check email, and scan the New York Times headlines to see if I’m missing anything important. This summer there’s a lot of important and disturbing news. It is one of those times in our nation’s history when the center isn’t holding.

Wilmington Flood Stats.JPG

Wilmington, VT Town Hall

I was a couple of days late on the news out of Baton Rouge and Minnesota, two more black men killed by police officers, but I was in Rhode Island visiting my mother at the new nursing home she has been moved to when the shooting in Dallas occurred. I was staying at a friend’s house and we caught the news as it was breaking.

On my return to Vermont, before heading back up Higley Hill to leave the mad world behind, I parked in front of the town hall to get online and check the latest news out of Dallas, somehow not noticing the sign, No Parking From Here To Corner. I was oblivious to the steady stream of traffic passing through town — tourists with kayaks on their roofs, towing RV’s, bicycles on trunk racks — until a policeman poked his head in the passenger side window.

“I’m sorry, you can’t park here,” he politely said, pointing to the sign. “When the big delivery trucks come through town they need this spot clear so they can make the tight turn.”

I apologized profusely, told him I forgot all about the sign, and for some reason didn’t notice it today.

“That’s okay,” he said. “I think you should be able to get the Internet around the corner.” He straightened up, walked a few steps, and peered around the corner then returned to my car, leaned in again and said, “Yeah, there’s a few spots around the corner. If you can’t get it there, the public parking lots in town have access, too. Just look for the signs with the big “P” and an arrow.”

This time I thanked him profusely and moved my car around the corner.

I now use those public parking spaces where there are Welcome to Wilmington signs on the back of colorful benches set among yellow sundrops, purple iris, and orange poppies. One day while I was sitting on a bright blue bench reading about the FBI’s findings on Hillary Clinton’s email habits and feeling depressed about the upcoming election, two women in a car with Tennessee license plates parked next to my car and asked me if I could recommend a good place to eat. Still there when they returned, now answering emails and checking book sales — I sold three books the day before! — I asked how their lunch was, then somehow mentioned I was an author and happened to have a book in my bag. I offered it to them for free but they insisted on purchasing it. So I sold a book on a bench that day, and three more on Amazon, and things started looking up.

The Saloon in Dover is also a good spot for finding a connection, and if they’re not open the bartender told me, “just park in front and you’ll get the signal.” Sticky Fingers Bakery, a tiny shoebox of a building with no indoor seating, is across the street. One rainy Sunday I made a late morning cinnamon bun run only to discover they were sold out, but the guy behind the counter told me a fresh batch would be ready in ten to fifteen minutes.

“No problem,” I told him. “I have my laptop and some things to do on-line. I’ll wait in the car.”

After a half hour of getting swept away on the world wide web, I heard someone knock on the window. It was the bakery guy, rain dripping off his beard, his shirt getting wet.

“The buns are ready,” he said. “I wanted to let you know so you could get them while they’re still nice and warm.”

Sticky Fingers

Sticky Fingers Bakery Dover, VT

Today is July 18, the first day of the Republican convention, when Donald Trump officially becomes the standard bearer of the Grand Ole Party. I thought we might have Internet service by now, but we’ve decided to hold off for a bit longer. It’s not as stressful being off the grid as I imagined it would be. As a matter of fact, it’s the other way around. The stress is out there, beyond the Green Mountains, back on the grid where the 24/7 news cycle reports the constant headlines of a world that has lost its bearings and can wait until tomorrow or the next day or whenever I decide to come back down the Hill to send more breaking news my way. Let’s hope the crazies are staying  safe in the open carry state of Ohio. I myself am going to read a book tonight and try not to worry about where we go from here.

higley hill sunset

Sunset on Higley Hill

A 4TH OF JULY TALE: STORIES FROM HIGLEY HILL

Monday, July 4, 2016: My Dad is 83, my mother is one year younger. Maybe I should have written that sentence the other way around. My Mom is 82, my father is one year older. At 59 years old, I am their eldest child. No one is feeling young around here at the moment.

In the month of June, shortly after I left the Inn to move to Vermont and finally had time on my hands to get away, I started driving from Vermont to Rhode Island to try and help my Dad fight bureaucracy. I’ve been getting nowhere. There is no direct route from here to there, and I mean that in many ways.

To physically get to Rhode Island I travel various routes and state roads from Southern Vermont through Massachusetts to Warwick where my parents raised me and my siblings, and lived most of their lives until they lost their condo in a fire on February 21st of this year. I pass through old mill towns and other forgotten places that have been riding the riptides of American prosperity and poverty over the past several decades. Cities like Brattleboro, Leominster, Fitchburg, Worcester, and smaller towns like Millers Falls, Athol, Pawtucket, and Slatersville.

woonsocket downtown

Downtown Woonsocket, RI

A distinctive feature of the landscape I pass through are the empty old factories, many with the tall brick chimney you can see from a distance, the mills where textiles, costume jewelry, and furniture were once Made In America, they are no longer the beating heart of impoverished ghost towns where meth and heroin addiction are serious problems. Interstate 91 also travels through these parts and is now referred to as the Heroin Highway. The issue became a hot national topic when presidential candidates went begging for votes during the primaries in the New England states.

Woonsocket empty building

Empty building in Woonsocket, RI

What I am doing in Rhode Island is visiting lawyers and barging in unannounced at the offices of the woman who runs the condo association and the guy who was the property manager until he got fired.

One early morning I followed my Dad through downtown city traffic that turned into local suburban strip mall traffic, until we finally finished our day’s business and headed south through beach traffic on Route 95. I don’t know how this 83 year old man does it, running endless errands that require trips to city hall to notarize something and visits to insurance agencies to argue about claims adjustments and deductibles, but I can tell you he is exhausted and beaten down.

Woonsocket for sale

Restaurant for sale in Woonsocket, RI

He doesn’t handle adversity well. He lived in a time when the GI Bill put him through college, a teacher’s union fought for his pay raises and healthcare benefits, and his retirement has been covered by a generous pension. He was able to put his kids through college with the help of Pell grants, scholarships, and our summer earnings. He retired and traveled the United States, whose history he taught for thirty-two years, and also made it to several European countries. I look at my generation and wonder how we got from there to here.

Woonsocket reflection in window

Another empty building in Woonsocket, RI

Life was good. He had healthy kids, no major illnesses, no lay-offs or financial worries. He never acquired coping skills to weather the bad times and is now ill-equipped for the perfect storm that has hit him. My mother’s Alzheimers’ and the fire at the condo are too much for him to handle at this stage in his life.

There are various reasons given for why nothing has been done over the past four months to get the six unit owners back into their homes after being displaced by the fire. None of them are good, most of them are excuses for incompetence and mismanagement. It’s a common case of he said, she said.

I made an appointment with the consumer reporter at WPRI News to meet me at the condo and tell my family’s story on camera but the staging for the roof had finally arrived and the condo association promised the work would begin on Monday, the day before my mother’s 82nd birthday. Flag Day. My Dad asked me to give them a second chance.

Woonsocket radio

Former radio station seen through the window Woonsocket, RI

A week later I was back in Rhode Island. My mother had settled down, the meds were working, and after five and a half weeks on the geriatric psych floor of a hospital in Providence, they had found a bed at a nursing home not far from the condo. I was going to meet her there, along with my Dad, when she arrived by ambulance, and help get her settled in. After crossing the Rhode Island border I got a phone call from my sister informing me that the woman who handles the nursing home’s admissions was on vacation and paperwork had been misplaced, things got overlooked, the bed was given to someone else. Blah, blah, blah…….

I can’t describe what I was feeling, the words I was yelling loudly, alone in my car as I swung into the parking lot of the condo. Not that this was their fault, but they had their own string of fuck-ups unrelated to the nursing home and I needed to yell at someone. I took a few deep breaths before calmly walking into the office where I wanted to see some heads roll and get some real, not bullshit answers about why the work hadn’t started on the roof as promised.

Woonsocket Parms building

Corner building Woonsocket, RI

More excuses were given, something having to do with permits, hurricane regulations…. I stood and listened to the background noise of bullshit while trying to control my temper. It’s the property management company’s fault, they’ve been fired, the condo has detailed notes of the steps they’ve taken to rectify things, the owners could have the possibility of suing the property management company for rent money as this project is going to take awhile and no one will be moving back into their homes until mid-October. Best case scenario.

“Have you been updating the other tenants on all of this?” I asked.

“Yes, we send out emails. Your father’s on the list.”

“My Dad lost his computer in the fire. He doesn’t have a smart phone and he was never very good at email to begin with. Two weeks ago my mother wasn’t doing very well in the hospital and we thought she might not make it. My Dad told me he wanted to bring her home where she could lay by the window and look out at the Narragansett Bay. Then he got choked up and said, I can’t do that because I don’t have my home anymore.”

I was playing the sympathy card.

“We’re doing our best. It’s moving forward now. These things take time. They’re starting the roof tomorrow.”

Oh really?

The following day, I walked from my sister’s house over to the condo and took photos of the hole in the roof covered with a bright blue tarpaulin blowing with the wind off the Narragansett Bay. There were two roofers in the portico where my Dad used to park his car. They were eating and drinking coffee. In the office they had told me they would be working inside today on something called a two hour firewall. I had driven three hours from Vermont and again I got nowhere. There is no easy way to get from there to here where I was now standing, feeling lost and helpless in the wealthiest nation in the world where I hear we have the very best workers, the very best healthcare, the very best of everything.

So they say. I got in my car for the three hour drive back home to Vermont.

Outside of downtown Providence, not far from the on-ramp to Route 95 North I passed a junkyard full of discarded American trash, things people no longer want. A pile of consumer detritus. An American flag flew in front of it all.

Providence Trash

Providence Trash

Not long into my journey I pulled off in Woonsocket to take a walk and find a cup of coffee. The only times I ever came to this mill town were on the school bus when I was a high school hockey cheerleader. Yes, I was a cheerleader. Any time I find myself playing the cocktail game Three Truths and One Lie, the “I was a cheerleader” fools them every time. Most people believe the lie “I shoplifted when I was in high school” and think the cheerleader is the lie. I’m not sure what this says about me but it wins me the game every time.

Woonsocket Blackstone River

Blackstone River Woonsocket, RI

I parked the car along the Blackstone River that once provided the water power to the textile mills that closed during the Great Depression then were revitalized during World War Two only to close again in the 1980’s, the decade of Ronald Reagan, that led to the 90’s when Bill Clinton signed NAFTA. Since the factories closed for good, unemployment remains high. In March 2013, the Washington Post reported that one-third of Woonsocket’s population used food stamps, putting local merchants on a “boom or bust” cycle each month when the EBT payments were deposited. The median income for a family of four is $38,000.What I mainly saw on my walk through town was bust and very little boom. Across the parking lot was the The Museum of Work and Culture where a few school busses were parked but other than that the city was quiet.

Woonsocket Bienvenue

Welcome to Woonsocket

Woonsocket is referred to as the most French-Canadian city in the United States. In the early 1900’s a large wave of immigrants crossed the border from Quebec to work in the New England mills. My grandfather, my mother’s father, was one of them. He first worked in a textile mill in Newmarket, N.H. not far from where I lived in the house on River Road for 23 years, then he moved to Pawtucket where he met my grandmother and eventually became a U.S. Citizen. I am not sure if he crossed the border legally. All the years I knew him he spoke broken English and called all of his grandkids Joe because he couldn’t remember our Irish names.

At one point, 75% of the population of Woonsocket spoke French. A French language newspaper was published here and French language movies were shown at the local theater.

Woonsocket newspaper

Woonsocket newspaper

As I walked the city streets I wondered if my grandfather, and my father-in-law who was also a French-Canadian immigrant, were ever accused of being rapists and thieves. Did English speaking Americans complain when a shopkeeper spoke to them in French? I know my mother spoke French until she was eight years old and then quickly learned English to fit in, like most children of immigrants eventually do. When my siblings and I studied French in school she was very little help, having forgotten her first language. I often wish she had raised us to be bi-lingual. The Bienvenue sign painted on a brick building gave me hope that somewhere in America’s angry heart immigrants are still welcome on these shores.

I never did find a coffee shop but I took a lot of pictures before I left. I spent the rest of the drive home passing through more of America’s discarded cities and thinking about that pile of trash on the outskirts of Providence. I fantasized about renovating the lovely old empty buildings in Woonsocket set along the river where you can go kayaking or drive a few miles out of town and hike Purgatory Chasm. It’s not a bad place to live.

Why can’t we work with what we have? Why can’t we revitalize our cities? I asked a lot of questions with no one riding shotgun to answer them. My younger daughter is flying into Frankfurt, Germany next week to study at a wine institute in Koblenz. I flew out of Frankfurt over thirty years ago. It’s a very American looking city rebuilt by Americans after we bombed it during World War II. Clearly we are capable of revitalizing cities.

Rents are rising everywhere. The homeless population in San Francisco is reaching a crisis level. Couldn’t some hot shot techies move to places like Woonsocket and work from home on their laptops? Open a few decent restaurants, improve the school systems….? But wait a minute, that would take a village as someone once said. A society that believes we are in this together and when one city fails we as a society fail too. How is that going to happen? A few days earlier Congress couldn’t pass one single bill to enact a sensible gun law after the Orlando shootings. They couldn’t agree that those on the no-fly list shouldn’t be able to buy a gun. How the hell do we expect to get anything done if we can’t all agree on that?

My radio went in and out as I traveled the highways. Hitting the seek button I found some public radio where they were discussing the two years and seven million dollars spent on the third Benghazi investigation which has reached the same conclusion as the other two hearings. I thought about Woonsocket and other towns and what they could do with seven million dollars. Frustrated and disillusioned, I hit seek once again and found some bluegrass.

Back at home I sat on the deck and watched the sun set over Haystack Mountain. It’s now a private ski mountain. You have to be a member. Golf courses and country clubs have been like this for years. I walked many a private beach in Florida because like the Native Americans I believe the coastline doesn’t belong to any individual just as the air we breathe is also something we cannot own.

I recently heard of someone who received a phone call from a renowned surgeon on a Sunday afternoon. I also read about a lake that received environmental protection and tax-exemptions that reduced the wealthy homeowners property taxes in exchange for public hiking and fishing rights, however the townspeople can’t get past the gates and No Trespassing signs. It is they that bear the brunt of the reductions in the tax base that covers schools and fire departments and other social services, but no they can’t fish in these waters.

The folks with the big lake homes and private ski mountains are a small minority who have access to power. They don’t want to fish and golf and ski with you and I, and the way things are now in America, they don’t have to. We all bear the brunt of their privilege.

On this 4th of July evening while my husband golfs at the public course over at Mount Snow instead of the course at Haystack because that is now private, I look out at the setting sun and think about Vermont and how far away it feels from the rest of the world’s chaos, despite that damn private mountain. I wonder if New Zealand is like this, only better. I think about what it would be like to up and move to the other side of the world. I’m pretty good at picking up and relocating. But then I remember the words of Barbara Kingsolver that I recently read in her collection of Essays From Now or Never: High Tide In Tucson. It is from the essay Jabberwocky.

“A country can be flawed as a marriage or a family or a person is flawed, but “Love it or Leave It” is a coward’s slogan. There’s more honor in “Love it and get it right”. Love it, love it. Love it and never shut up.”

I am not about to shut up. If you’re listening, let me hear your questions and maybe together we can find the road from here to there.

 

The Bank Notes: Stories From Higley Hill

The story begins with a telegram sent from Henry Turnbull, Vice President of the Hanover National Bank on the corner of Nassau and Pine Sts. in the City of New York to a Mr. Eugene Van Nest at a post office box in Wessington Springs, South Dakota. On November 29th, 1922, Van Nest contacted the bank with his findings regarding the “Onida situation” and Henry Turnbull writes in reply: “In view of the unsatisfactory conditions at Onida, we think it would be advisable to exert some pressure at this time.”

Apparently someone named Glanzer borrowed $10,000 and has not made good on the note. Mr. Turnbull feels a payment of $7,500 would be reasonable. Mr. Glanzer had at some point said the money could be raised among the Mennonites, and Turnbull is advising Van Nest to use pressure in that direction.

Hanover note 1

I found these letters in a wall of cabinets in the front bedroom of our house in Vermont, along with extension cords, caulking tubes, owners manuals for extinct appliances, old telephones, a box of cords and chargers that belong to who knows what, an old heating pad, lightbulbs, paint brushes, a PoPiel chicken rotisserie, and coffee cans filled with nails. What is this obsession men have with keeping old nails?

I also found a torn, yellowed piece of newspaper from The Brattleboro Reformer:

Van Nest

Lt. Colonel Eugene A. Van Nest of Marlboro, Vermont has been placed on the retired list of the Army of the United States at his own request. Colonel Van Nest, who enlisted in the N.Y. National Guard Jan. 2, 1899, is a veteran of World War I, during which he served as a captain of Artillery from its beginning to its end, and was assigned to organize the U.S. Guards in the Eastern Department to relieve 10 regiments of infantry.

Our house is situated on the Wilmington side of Higley Hill abutting the Marlboro line. The paperwork I found is in regards to a “banking mishap” that Mr. Van Nest of Marlboro is investigating in Wessington Springs, South Dakota for the Hanover Bank of New York.

On a letter dated December 4, 1922 , there is a small note written in faded pencil on the margin of the letter. “Peter was his brother-in-law, also a Mennonite.” Is Peter Glanzer’s brother-in-law? How did the Mennonites get involved in this mess? Is this Mr. Van Nest’s handwriting? After retiring from the Army did Van Nest become a traveling private investigator?

From what I can gather reading the legal mumbo jumbo of these documents The Hanover Bank is owed money for collateral on the Onida loan. Long before email and text message, people wrote like this: “Your letter of November 18th has come duly to hand.” Close to a hundred years later these letters are now duly in my hands.

January 10, 1923: Things start to get a little clearer. Michael and Rebekka Glanzer borrowed $10,000 from Onida Loan & Investment Corp. on April 2, 1921, due on April 2, 1922. Legal action on behalf of the Hanover National Bank was brought to the Circuit Court of Minnehaha County, S.D. on January 3, 1923. As of January 10, neither Michael or Rebekka has appeared in court but they have until February 2nd to “appear in order to prevent a judgment being taken against them by default.”

I am currently dealing with legal mumbo jumbo of my own. I have been to a lawyer’s office in Providence and have contacted the local media regarding a fire that took place at my parents’ condominium  on February 21st. As of today, June 20th, there is still a large hole in my parents’ roof. There has been a lot of back and forth, the condo association blaming the property management company, and vice versa. Roofing permits were never acquired and work estimates weren’t requested until three months after the fire. I pour through insurance documents and condo association’s by-laws. My head spins and my eyes glaze over.

February 9, 1923: The letters are now typed on very thin stationary as fine as tissue paper. They are stamped Mailing Copy and sent to Henry Turnbull from the offices of Bailey & Voorhees, Attorneys & Counselors at Law in Sioux Falls, S.D., recommended to the Hanover Bank by Mr. Van Nest.

In the February 9th letter Bailey & Voorhees admit this to Mr. Turnbull of Hanover Bank: “We should have acknowledged the receipt of your letter of January 19th, but on looking over our file it seems that was not done.” And furthermore, “If Mr. Van Nest gave us further instructions, they have inadvertently been misplaced.”

Suddenly this tale becomes all too familiar. On one of my trips to Providence to help my father with legal mumbo jumbo and insurance insanity we spent a morning checking on what remains of his wordily possessions at Enviro Clean, a place that specializes in cleaning mold and fire damaged goods. We sniff the now cleaned upholstery on his sofas and chairs. We inspect the tables and toilets, then sit down with the friendly and informative Jamie who tells us yes indeed, it did take the condo association and property management company at least four, most likely five weeks to bring in roofing engineers to estimate the work that needs to be done.

“Usually most places get the estimates a day or two after the fire. Your place is on the Narragansett Bay and there’s a lot of wind off the water so I would think they would want to get right on repairing the roof,” he tells us.

Yes, I would think so, too.

The next letter is also dated February 9, 1923 and if not for this date it would seem as if the information was plucked from the headlines of the past few years regarding the Great Recession, not the Great Depression which is looming for our cast of characters including Henry Turnbull, otherwise known as Dear Sir.

A suit has been “instituted against the Glanzers in the circuit court of Minnehaha County, S.D. on the $10,000 note. On February 1st, the day immediately preceding the last day which the defendants had to answer the action, they appeared in action by Mr. Clinton J. Crandall, Jr., an attorney of Onida.”

That is legal speak. In other words, the lawyer for Onida Loan showed up to represent the Glanzers the day before judgement would be passed due to default. Mr. Crandall served a demand that the trial be moved from Minnehaha County to Sully County. Bailey and Voorhees, the lawyers for Hanover Bank, returned the demand unsigned because they “do not see (their) way clear to sign it as the matter now stands.”

“Our complaint in the action is the ordinary one on a promissory note given to a third party and transferred by such third party to the plaintiff (Hanover National Bank) for value in the course of business and before maturity. The answer of the defendants (the Glanzers) to the complaint is in substance a general denial thereof. In addition, the defendants in the answer specifically deny that the Onida Loan & Investment Co. sold, endorsed or delivered the note to the plaintiff and that the plaintiff is or ever has been the lawful holder and owner of the note.

Whoa! If there are any legal minds out there reading this blog correct me if I’m wrong but did I just read that Onida Loan transferred a bad loan, the loan the Glanzers defaulted on, to the Hanover Bank and now the Glanzers are denying this and saying the loan always ever has been owned by Hanover? And apparently this is just an ordinary, every day old complaint that happens along the halls of justice in American courthouses during the course of day to day business?

Why do lawyers, and insurance companies write like this? To confuse and befuddle us? To discourage us from reading volumes of arcane language and legal terms that are full of loopholes and exceptions to the rule so they can hose us all in the end when we file a claim we thought we were covered for? Isn’t this something there should be laws against? Didn’t we fix all this after the Great Depression? Then overturn it all in the 80’s and 90’s when our short term memories left history far behind and we were hoodwinked by political propaganda and more mumbo jumbo?

“As near as I (Attorney Crandall) can find out” the Glanzers gave a $10,000 note to Onida Loan “to be held as collateral to all their indebtedness and delivered a real estate mortgage valued at $28,000 upon all their real property.” Onida Loan then wrongfully sent the Glanzer note and mortgage to the Hanover Bank as collateral for their own indebtedness.

Attorney Crandall also states that Onida has informed him that they have made an agreement with Hanover Bank who will except “other paper in lieu of this note and mortgage”, but for some reason, after Onida furnished the other paper, and Hanover accepted, Hanover failed to return the Glanzer note and mortgage.

Well, isn’t that just a fine mess. Apparently Onida has agreed to release the mortgage and cancel the note as soon as they get it back from Hanover, and they are offering to throw in a deed to eight acres of land in Hutchinson County, South Dakota worth $3500. Now I’ve been to South Dakota and I was curious to see where exactly this land was so I Googled it. It is not far from Sioux Falls and the Nebraska border, in what appears to be the middle of nowhere.

Attorney Crandall then adds this parting shot: “My clients (the Granzers) of course, are bankrupt, although they have not started any proceedings on that line, but certain it is that they have been the victims of some unscrupulous banking methods.

“I do not pretend to understand the legal strategy of this action, though if you investigated the means of my clients you must have known that a judgment against them is worthless.” Crandall goes on to ask that Onida Loan and Hanover Bank agree to dismiss this action.

Homeowners bankrupted. The victims of unscrupulous banking methods. Keep in mind, this is 1923. I know, it’s confusing. I too was beginning to think it all just happened yesterday.

February 19, 1923: On a recent Saturday, our roving bank investigator, Mr. Van Nest, was in Wessington Springs, S.D. “where he chanced to meet a Mr. McConnell of Onida Loan. Of course he took advantage of the opportunity to talk to Mr. McConnell about the Glanzer matter.” Van Nest mentions he heard Hanover Trust is not interested in taking Onida’s offer of eight acres of land in Hutchinson County in place of the defaulted note.

“Mr. McConnell, of course, went on to say that times had been hard, that the Company had been unable to collect money which would ordinarily have been paid months ago…..”

Blah, blah blah. I think we’ve all heard this song and dance before. The more things change, the more they stay the same. But again the plot thickens.

“Mr. McConnell then proceeded to claim that he had recently discovered in the files of the Company, a letter from (Henry Turnbull) dated in the latter part of 1921.”

There’s quite a bit of he claimed, he recalled going on here but the gist of this particular lost then found letter is that an agreement was made with a Mr. Allen, another lawyer from Hanover Trust, to substitute the Glanzer note for a note or notes belonging to one Mr. Vanderhook, and reduce the indebtedness from $10,000 to $5,000. McConnell admits the $5000 payment was not made at the time of the agreement but it has been made since and therefore Onida is entitled to have the Glanzer note returned to them. He also “intimated that (Turnbull) had overlooked this correspondence when (he) wrote to the company in reply to the company’s letter of the 3rd inst.”

Van Nest says he was not advised of these details and asks McConnell for copies of the correspondence from the latter part of 1921, and “(McConnell) says he will be glad to do so and would do so during the present week. It remains to be seen if he does that.”

Well isn’t that just fine and dandy. I am reminded of Paula, the woman who runs my Dad’s condo association, and the time I called her to ask when the roof would be repaired as it had been three months since the fire and a bright blue tarpaulin was still flapping in the breeze blowing west off the Narragansett Bay. Her reply was, “I’m going to take care of that this afternoon.” This afternoon? I could barely hold back my anger. She told me the past month has been difficult. Her past month has been difficult? How about my father’s past three months since he’s been without a home and my mother was moved to a nursing home because she wasn’t adjusting well to the temporary apartment they are renting and is now on a geriatric ward at a hospital in Providence?

Since then three weeks have gone by and it remains to be seen if the roof will ever be repaired.

I suppose we have to remind ourselves that humans are not perfect beings and many of them don’t do their jobs very well, or maybe they just don’t give a shit.

In the meantime, Bailey & Voorhees wrap up this letter with the following suggestions: They presume the Vanderhook note is good although in a previous letter it was referred to as the Vanderkolk note, so there is a possibility there are two notes owned by people with similar names or the legal secretary was having a bad month of her own and made a few typos. It happens. Apparently quite often.

McConnell claims the notes are good so Bailey & Voorhees have decided to go with that, and it occurs to them that “if that is the case, it might not be a bad plan” for Hanover Bank to institute a suit on some other outstanding notes because there won’t be any money forthcoming from the destitute Glanzers. They mention a Hal Howard’s $1500 note and H.C. Fitch et al’s $10,000 note.

Does this remind you of recent headlines regarding junk bonds, and bundling of bad mortgages, and scenes from the Academy Award winning movie The Big Short? Are you feeling good about the money you have sitting in your savings account earning .05 interest while the banks do God knows what with it? Are you thinking the mattress might be a better place to keep your hard earned money? Because I certainly am.

March 17, 1923: Kudos to Mr. A. R. McConnell. He has furnished the alleged letters from November 1921 as promised. Van Nest then met him in Sioux Falls and all McConnell could do at that time was to continue to offer the eight acres of land in Hutchinson County. Bailey & Voorhees on the other hand, are advocating lawsuits against the other notes that seem more promising than ever collecting a dime from the Glanzers, who may be Mennonites and might still be working the congregation for help with this situation but I haven’t come across anything regarding the Mennonites since the first letter. I think they have washed their pious hands of this mess the Glanzers got themselves into.

The last letter regarding the ‘Onida situation’ is also dated March 17, 1923 and was sent to Mr. A.R. McConnell of Onida Bank. If you were hoping for a happy ending you should reconsider where you gather your news on current events. There are very few happy endings outside of movies when lawyers, guns, and money, and I might add politicians, are involved in the story.

The Hanover Bank is emphatically “not interested in the exchange of securities proposed by you (McConnell), to wit: the substitution of a deed or a lien on land in Hutchinson County, S.D., for the Glanzer note.”

Bailey & Voorhees have examined the letters McConnell sent them dated November 1922 and they aren’t buying his story. “The situation with respect to this particular matter is not as you seem to have understood it and the correspondence does not bear out your contention.”

As B&V are reading it, an agreement to pay $5000 was made between Mr. Allen of Hanover Bank and Onida Loan in payment of Onida’s indebtedness to Hanover Bank, but only if the $5000 was free of any other collateral and was made promptly. Neither of these things happened. The payment was not made promptly and when it was made it was not free of collateral. It was made from a first mortgage of $5500 and therefore, Hanover Bank is not willing to surrender the Glanzer note, therefore legal proceedings will continue against the Glanzers unless Onida pays the full balance they owe to Hanover Bank. In addition, they have informed Onida they will be filing a lawsuit against them. The letter is singed Very Truly Yours.

So as I understand this, and correct me if you think I’m wrong, loans are being used to pay other loans, banks are exchanging loans with each other to pay off debt, and the Glanzers are left holding the empty bag.

I found one other short letter sent to Mr. Van Nest on stationary from The First National Bank in Onida, South Dakota during these trying times in the plains states while robber barons and flappers Charlstoned their way through the roaring twenties. It is a bit cryptic and I am wondering if it has to do with the Glanzers.

We need a hog.JPG

January 4, 1923: Dear Sir, We are writing to you regarding the chattel held by the Hanover National Bank on Montieth and Jones of this place.

They are in need of a male hog and we would like to have your permission to take enough money out of the proceeds of hogs sold to make a purchase of a hog such as they could use.

It is necessary that they have such help if they are to continue their operations.

May we hear from you continuing the matter.

The signature is illegible. Who are They? The Glanzers? Van Nest was no longer in South Dakota when the letter was sent. It was returned and then resent to Red Hook, New York. Was this former neighbor of mine, Mr. Van Nest of Marlboro, Vermont able to help them?

Return to Sender

Six years before Black Tuesday banks were dealing in hogs in lieu of collecting money people couldn’t come up with. Lessons were learned. Laws were enacted and decades later, during another renaissance of income inequality and robber barons of a new age, overturned.

The presidential election of 2016 is a long, nasty summer away. We have a choice: a former reality TV star and real estate tycoon who sounds a lot like some dangerous heads of state who came into power after the mess the Glanzers and others lived through versus a highly qualified woman who has some explaining to do regarding paid speeches to the likes of Goldman & Sachs. I know who I am voting for but at the moment I am still rooting for the elderly democratic socialist to get his agenda regarding banks too big to fail and income inequality onto the Democratic party’s platform, and if the lady in the pantsuits succeeds this November, as I hope she will, I will hold her feet to the fire regarding this matter.

I am not sure how these letters found their way into my house. Like Mr. Van Nest, I have some investigating of my own to do and I’ll share them in future stories from Higley Hill. In the meantime, I am left wondering if the Glanzers ever purchased that male hog.

There is one thing I know for certain and that is this: we ignore history at our own peril.

 

Epilogue: An Innkeeper’s Journal

“Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life”
~ Mary Oliver

It was a year in a life. My one wild and precious life.

A full life is filled with missteps, hardships, laughter, and joy. Like Sam Ryder in my novel Life Is all This, I think we must make sense of time spent, and I too have always been a fan of the epilogue for after making sense we must move on.

Time spent. Think about that term for a moment. Life is short, years are precious, and how we spend them is priceless.

What did I learn, if anything? I like to think of myself as a decent judge of character but possibly I am not as good as I once thought. In my defense, I usually enter into relationships with an open heart and an open mind. I trust most people are good. This time my trust was misplaced.

Am I too old for another adventure? Does life ever settle down? I believe in my case the answer to both questions is an emphatic No. Apparently I am not too old to evolve and change, to learn new life lessons. I may have come out of this past year a bit more wary, slightly cynical and distrustful, but it won’t last. I created Sam Ryder and I agree with him on this, life is good and I don’t need a T-shirt to remind myself of that sentiment.

I don’t imagine anyone leads a settled life. I looked up the definition of settled and found this: adopt a more steady or secure style of life, especially in a permanent job and home. In the past few months I witnessed my parents lose their home to a fire,  my mother move in to a nursing home despite my father’s best efforts to keep her at home, and my own move to Vermont. Life constantly changes. We continue to learn and grow from every experience, good or bad, and to paraphrase Tom Petty, we can learn to fly though we ain’t got wings.

The sunset from our deck on the first night in our new home was stunning. As we drank cocktails and unpacked boxes, the music on the local radio station was a playlist I couldn’t imagine improving upon. Ray Lamontagne, The Cure, Dire Straits, Dave Matthews, The Allman Brothers, Mumford & Sons, Ben Howard.

Vermont sunset from deck

This small piece of the planet where we are now living is populated with artists, hippies young and old, eccentrics, and people who work with their hands making furniture, stone walls, art, and poetry. Despite the tumultuous world we live in at this moment in time, I feel calm.

The owner’s wife called on the Saturday after we left the inn. I was out of cell phone range and missed the call. She left a message. “It looks like we have an almost full house and I can’t find the guest book. Do you know where it is?”

Was she talking about the bible? The reservations book with the names and dates and notes on eating disorders or the need for a blowup mattress or feather free bedding? The one with the numbers I gave to her husband each Tuesday? I left that on the reservations desk where it always resides.

I look out the window at Haystack Mountain shrouded in fog. It is a gray, rainy Sunday in May, similar to the weather when we first returned to New England full of hope and optimism for this new venture we were embarking on. During the past days of our new life in Vermont, we have been licking our battle wounds, sleeping late, unpacking boxes, but mostly healing.

A friend asked, “Does it hurt?” Well yes, of course it does. Innkeeping is the sort of job you put your heart and soul into and even when you’re ‘off-duty’, you’re on. You live where you work, you adopt a new lifestyle. We were required to answer the phone from nine a.m. to nine p.m seven days a week, forwarding the calls on “days off”.  On the job is where you reside. And this was someone else’s business we were making this sacrifice for.

And that is when it dawns on me. She is most likely looking for the guest book that usually resides on the table by the front door. The book that has very few empty pages left and is filled with testimonials I copied into my writer’s notebook on days I was so beaten down I couldn’t find the words to tell the stories. I carry them with me like talismans of my own. I too Mine the Divine.

Here’s a small sample of what is in that book:

Sheila & Richard – Thank you so much for the wonderful hospitality! This was our 3rd stay here and you two are a breath of fresh air! We can’t wait to come back!” ~ Paul & Melinda Haddock

“Thanks for the warm welcome and delicious breakfast. Wonderful night’s sleep. Glad we found you. Off to Vermont to get married ~ Steven & Daisy.

Applesauce pancakes

“We stayed here the night after our wedding. It was fantastic. So beautiful. Sheila & Rich, you are amazing! :)” ~ Steven & Kayla

anniversary package

Wedding Night Package

“Sheila & Rich, you guys are amazing. We’re already talking about coming back in the fall.” ~ Andrea & Bill

“Out traveling every once in awhile for business you find yourself in an amazing place like this with beautiful innkeepers. Thank you Rich & Sheila!” ~ Kendra Eliagoni, Boulder, CO

Carriage rides

“Thanks for your flexibility, hospitality, welcoming presence, and all around good cheer. We hope to see you again.” ~ Celeste and David Welch, West Hartford, CT

“Rich & Sheila, you guys are amazing!!!! …Take care and stay warm and sweet.” ~ James & Brenda, NYC

cocktail hour

“Richard & Sheila you were a total delight! Oh the conversations.” ~ Thanks Ellen & Al

“Thank you very much for the much needed rest.” ~ Bus Driver Brad Thomson, Lubbock, TX

“Thank you so much Richard & Sheila for a spectacular retreat.” ~ Lauren & Colleagues, Yale University, New Haven, CT

breakfast buffet

“Thank you Rich & Sheila (not Ralph!) for a most lovely stay. Perfectly peaceful ‘Staycation’ ~ Meghan & Paul Geary, Hamden, CT

“Great place. Best innkeepers in the world!” ~ Dino Federici, Wethersfield, CT

More roses

“What a wonderful place to wake up on our first morning as a married couple. Thank you so much for looking after us so well.” ~ Jon & Jess Stuart, Brooklyn, NY

“After only 24 hours I feel like a new person! Charming Manor & even more charming hosts. Thank you so very much.” ~ Ani Church

Flavored water

Our short one night stay was absolutely fantastic. I felt like a guest at Downton Abbey! We shall return again.” ~ Jim & Carol Foley, Norwalk, CT

“Thank you…Rich & Sheila, A class Act! See you soon.” ~ Mill

“Will tell everyone about this gem. :)!!!! ~ Linda & Gary, Valencia, CA

roses and champagne

“Another great time. This time we met the new innkeepers, Rich & Sheila. Great people and we loved the music discussion.” ~ Kathy & Dave Simons, Naugutuck, CT

“Those who know, know awesome stay” ~ 704 KCA

“Rich & Sheila went above & beyond to make our stay memorable. We will be back. Happy New Year.” ~ J.M.

Roses in the hall.jpg

“The room & ambience was terrific. However we will be back because of the relationship we made with our wonderful innkeepers…Thank you Sheila & Richard for making this an experience we will repeat.” ~ Gail & Joe Petrowsky

“There is nothing to say but…WOW! Thank you so much Rich & Sheila.” ~ Tom Drennan & Sharon Davis, Madison, CT

“Thank you Rich & Sheila for a little bit of heaven. Wonderful feeling of cordiality and home. We will spread the word in our little corner of the world. Good health and good cheer to you both.” ~ Tony & Marie

Spring flowers 2

“Best B&B EVER-Rich & Sheila, the innkeepers are golden!” ~ E.R.

“Had a wonderful time. Rich & Sheila are our new found friends. We will see you again.” ~ Unknown

“The hospitality is second to none. Thank you so much.” ~ Peter & Irene Cosgrove, Jersey Channel Islands, UK

“What a magical place and what thoughtful and helpful hosts you were! Thank you so much for a lovely stay.” ~ Darcy, Cambridge, MA

Rich and I earned each and everyone of these comments over the course of one year of our precious, wild life. A year filled with hard work, kindness to strangers who returned it in kind, laughter, long days, new friends, and music.

Memories are the best things we own. What we will always remember is the year we spent in a twelve bedroom mansion in a beautiful corner of New England with the wonderful people who slept in the beds we made, ate the omelets and French toast we prepared, and shared their stories with us.

***Stay tuned. New stories are on the way. It’s time to turn the page. I am going to take a short break from blogging to find my way back into the fourth novel I am writing. For a time my profession will be writer and if you’ve enjoyed the stories I’ve shared and would like to help a struggling artist there’s always the three novels I’ve already published. And about those Amazon reviews – they help, they really do. Thank you one and all for joining me on this ride.***

CICI'S REVIEW

The Final Days: An Innkeeper’s Journal

Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life. ~ Jack Kerouac

We have been living between Vermont and Cape Cod for the past month.

My life got ahead of my innkeeping story. I first thought I might save these entries for a book, the somewhat sequel to The Reverse Commute. But I lost interest in that as the days got busier. The notes came in handy for blogging, which I also couldn’t keep up with.

Stained Glass Winter

Throughout the winter months, we took day trips up to Vermont to hunt for houses. In March, we found a house we could afford to buy for cash from the quickly diminishing nest egg we acquired after selling our home in New Hampshire three years ago. Since arriving at the Inn we weren’t just making omelets. We’ve had to dip in and crack a few eggs when we scrambled to pay bills like car repairs and health insurance.

We saw yurts, houses shaped like igloos, A-frames, ski chalets, and crazy trailers with add-on additions. We found a small Swiss chalet. It needs some work but nothing Rich can’t handle. We considered renting or trying AirBnB while we worked and lived at the Inn. We need the extra income.

Four weeks after the fireplace screen didn’t fall from the sky we met with the owner. He offered no apologies for his outbursts. I expressed the concern that we felt we were in a precarious situation now that the inn was up for sale. After all, not only would we lose our job but our home. I asked what the incentive was to not start looking for another job. He told us to start looking now and plan to leave by the end of the month. I don’t know how to describe this final meeting as there is nothing nice to say so what unfolded is best left unsaid. He ended the meeting by getting up and walking out of the inn, his usual modus operandi.

Later that afternoon, we started packing. The next week we took a day trip to Vermont with some of the boxes. It was a warm spring day. I took a walk on the sunny side of our street past a babbling brook. Birds back from a winter down south chirped happily, as if glad to be home.

Back at the Inn I laid on the couch in the early evening, the low sun in my eyes. I was mentally and physically exhausted. As the sun set behind the trees in the backyard, the room took on shadows and the walls we painted sage green and cool gray along with the old yellow in the kitchen beyond looked like a stack of Necco wafers.

I thought about the strength of people who persevere in the face of unimaginable adversity. However hard you think your life may be there is always someone suffering greater hardship.

I was reminded of the man with multiple sclerosis who visited in the summer. He had a difficult time walking and coordinating his hands but his smile was wide and even his eyes twinkled when he spoke of the days he played saxophone with Dizzy Gillepsie.

There was also the couple celebrating their wedding anniversary. Years ago they lost both their children to a drunk driver speeding through the cemetery adjacent to their backyard where their little girls were playing. It’s impossible to imagine how they managed to go on but they now have two grown sons and were celebrating thirty five years of marriage. In their room they had several talismans on the dresser including a plaque that read Mine the Divine. It was obvious they still carried a deep sorrow but they carried it well.

I felt I needed to finish the story I started, The Innkeeper’s Journal, but needed some distance before I wrote about the final days at the Inn. Distance from the bad feelings, the disrespect, and the insult.

The last chapters have been posted from The Valley View Saloon in Vermont because we haven’t connected to WiFi yet, and Cape Cod where Rich is doing some work for friends. It is uncertain if and when we will receive the small bonus we earned, the severance pay we are owed per our contract, and our final paychecks.

strawberry pancakes

Our last full house was a rowdy, friendly crowd of Walter Trout fans. In the kitchen my daughter’s boyfriend, Kyle, played bluegrass tunes on his iPhone. He was up and showered early to help with the final breakfast for twenty. The realtor was showing the Inn at three. Just another clueless move by the owners. The guests were late in leaving. It was already noon and we had nine rooms to clean. Wine glasses, empty beer bottles, and nacho chip crumbs were scattered throughout the living room and lounge. One group driving back to New York needed air in their tires. We searched for Rich and his compressor, calling for him throughout the inn. He had his head stuck in the shower in one of the rooms where the glass door came loose and almost fell on a guest. With the help of my daughter and her boyfriend we had fun getting it all done for the very last time.

A young writer and teacher named Darcy was our final guest. Here to meet with a friend who was also a writer, he told us he would be back often because the project they were working on was ongoing. We told him we were leaving.

“That’s terrible news,” he said. “You’re both so warm and welcoming and so very much a part of the experience.”

By Thursday the rooms were clean, the laundry was done, the bills were paid. I even planted pansies in the window box.

Spring window box

I slept terribly the last night at the inn. The innkeeper’s house made loud snapping noises as if it might crack and tumble down. I dreamt off and on of the owner. The next morning I had one last condescending email communication with them regarding debit cards and check signing. I had sent the financials detailing the small bonus we earned to the owner’s wife as she is who we were dealing with to avoid further outbursts. His wife forwarded it to him with a short note. “Here’s the plea.” That remark still gnaws at me. I wasn’t begging for anything. I was asking for what I had earned and what I am owed.

I had planned to go to the grocery store to re-stock the fridge for the couple taking over before the closing, for yes indeed, some mysterious buyer has dropped from the heavens and made an offer. Apparently we were in a precarious situation well before I brought it up, and they will have to figure out a way to buy their own eggs.

Since we sold the house in New Hampshire we have been traveling light and flight by night was in the realm of possibilities. We loaded up the last of our belongings and left the Inn at five o’clock on Thursday night.

Three years ago, as I pulled out of the driveway on River Road, I snapped a photograph through the rearview mirror of a house filled with twenty three years of memories. Two and a half years later I took another photo of my husband’s truck pulling a trailer onto the entrance ramp to Interstate 95 North out of Boynton Beach, Florida where we started our fifteen hundred mile journey to embark on a new adventure as innkeepers.

Thursday evening there was no photo op. I hesitated for a moment, thought about it, then pulled out of the driveway behind Rich’s truck, with the trailer attached once again. I was ambivalent about looking back, more focused on looking forward, not behind to a place I came to in good faith never imagining the other party wasn’t on the same page.

The lights on Rich’s trailer started blinking somewhere north of Springfield. I followed close behind, hoping a cop wouldn’t pull him over. The Florida license plate on the trailer expired the week before. Our hasty departure didn’t leave time to register the trailer for what we hope will be it’s final move.

Darkness fell by the time we crossed the border into Vermont where we traveled another twenty miles along a winding country road running along a rocky riverbed, breathing a sigh of relief when we pulled into our driveway.

We’re not sure what the next chapter will be. We have lots of skills and we live by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s assessment of his good friend Henry David Thoreau. “He chose to be rich by making his wants few.”

Our first night in Vermont we slept straight through to noon.