SUMMER 2015: The bus driver for Big Head Todd and the Monsters arrives. He’s a gruff old hippie and smells of cigarettes and booze. His gray hair is long and his teeth are yellow and crooked but he’s friendly and grateful and amazed with this mansion where he will be taking a five hour nap. He’s never stayed in a B&B before and is fascinated with the place. I give him the full tour, pointing out the wine in the lounge in case he needs a glass to unwind after the drive from Pennsylvania to Connecticut on a Sunday afternoon in summer.
“I have a beer in my backpack. I just need a shower,” he says, so I show him to his room. A half hour later he comes back downstairs, still unshaven, wet hair slicked back in a pony tail. Buzzed from the long drive, he’s not quite ready to fall asleep and is looking for company so he talks about the years he’s worked rock ’n roll tours.
“It’s a good gig. Two or three weeks at a time then a few weeks off. The band does a Northeast tour, then flies out west, gets another bus driver. No one does the long haul cross-country drive anymore. I get offered another gig with another band. Most of these bands are old guys like me. They don’t party like they used to and they have families back at home.”
He asks me where he can smoke a cigarette and drink his beer. I show him the bistro tables on the front porch, the Adirondack chairs on the lawn under the trees. He choses a bench near the driveway. He appears to be uncomfortable out here in the country and I think maybe the driveway seems like a more familiar place.
A couple from Buffalo stay with us while their son attends lacrosse camp. The husband is a Harley Davidson dealer. They tell us stories about their kids. Their daughter asked if she could sell their old backyard swing set on Craigslist and keep the money.
“If I don’t have to disassemble it and deliver it anywhere you can keep the money. If I have to do something, I keep the money,” her Dad told her.
Sure enough he came home from work one day and the swing set was gone. She took the money and went down the road to a hardware store and bought a shed with plans to move into it because as she told her parents, “you guys suck.”
“She started dump picking, getting furniture along the side of the road and free stuff on Craigslist. It’s all decorated now and she’s living out there. I told her we’ll see what happens when winter in Buffalo arrives. She told me, you’re just jealous because I have a shed.”
I love this story. It’s definitely a keeper. So often we feel like we’re failing at parenting, at least I do. If your kids are rebellious, parenting is a never-ending challenge. And then there’s Facebook with the endless photos of happy, perfect families on vacations and holidays. Does anyone ever tell the truth on Facebook?
We told the couple from Buffalo about the summer our oldest daughter built a lean-to in the dense juniper bushes that formed a series of caves at the edge of our property. It was well camouflaged and for weeks we didn’t know she was living out there. We thought she was sleeping at her friend’s house.
We shared lacrosse stories for we too were once “lacrosse people” as my younger daughter refers to the years we drove up and down the Northeast Corridor through the mid-Atlantic states to summer lacrosse tournaments and D-1 college games. We traveled with a large cooler on wheels and a crockpot filled with pulled pork for tailgating after the games but my most popular dish was the Barefoot Contessa’s Shrimp and Orzo salad. I like to imagine the lacrosse parents of Hofstra University are still talking about the woman who made the amazing shrimp dish. Thank you, Ina Garten.
The conversation went on for quite some time for it appeared to be a relief for all of us to meet parents who didn’t judge you for your parenting skills or your children’s wild ways. I told the story of the first night we let our older daughter babysit her sister. She was almost eleven, an age many other parents apparently think is a bit young to be home alone and in charge of your younger sibling but I knew she was highly competent and we were only going four miles into downtown Exeter for dinner.
All was fine when we returned home but later that night we found a couple of Chinese take-out cartons in the fridge. When asked about this the next day the girls told us they called for delivery. We didn’t have any doorbells at our house and I imagined the tiny Chinese man, as the girls described him, searching for the back door through the dark garage with the funky old tool shop off the back and finding two little blonds with piggy bank money paying for an order of General Tso’s chicken like descendants of Pippi Longstockings at Villa Villekulla.
“Did you tip him?” I asked.
“No, were we supposed to?” my older daughter replied.
“Yes, of course.”
“Oh, okay. We’ll remember to do that next time. How much do you give him?”
A few years later there was a night in San Francisco after a long day of sightseeing and a boat trip to Alcatraz. I think the girls were fourteen and twelve.They didn’t want to join us at the Italian restaurant so we gave them money for dinner in the hotel lobby and told them they could order a movie in the room. While we enjoyed a romantic evening at outdoor tables with a view of the Catholic church where Joe DiMaggio married Marilyn Monroe they skipped the pizza shop, and instead got gussied up in their finest summer dresses and dined on chocolate desserts at the fancy, expensive restaurant. That night I imagined them as Eloise at the Park Plaza.
I don’t know what this has to do with innkeeping except that when strangers are staying in your home you find most of them are interesting and fun and relatable, and for this writer their stories are pure gold.
***Feel free to share some of your “outrageous” parenting stories in the comments below.***