Autumn Leaves: An Innkeeper’s Journal

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories.
If people wanted you to write warmly about them,
they should have behaved better.”
~ Anne Lamott

Labor Day comes and goes the way of Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Summer passes quickly in New England. I can’t remember what a three day holiday weekend is all about but another one is fast approaching. Columbus Day weekend in New England. The height of the foliage season.

My innkeeping story is moving fast and the wheels are falling off. The details have slipped away. It’s all foggy memories from hastily written notes on scraps of paper like autumn leaves scattered on my bedside table, shoved in my purse, or tucked in the pages of a book I started to read but haven’t had the time to finish.

Fallen Leaves

October arrives, the busiest month of the year here in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains, and the shit has hit the fan. On Saturday of Columbus Day weekend I find myself trapped at the reservation desk dealing with a Balance Sheet that was part of the 2014 Quickbooks records I forwarded to the accountant as requested. I’ve been here before. This is working for the man in America.

In 2014 I was a bookkeeper for a construction company in Pompano Beach, Florida but I listen to the owner’s fury spit forth like the burst pipe gushing water at the back staircase outside the kitchen after a guest flushed the clogged toilet upstairs earlier this morning during the breakfast rush.

I could go on about this and another incident the following weekend regarding URLs, websites,and reservations, all another error on the owner’s part with no apologies offered. But what does that get me? Nothing but anxiety from revisiting bad memories. The stuff restless dreams are made of.

Anne Dillard is right about sharing our stories but it isn’t always easy to do. There are often complications. The possibility of unintended consequences, hurt feelings, lawsuits, retaliation. Does anyone ever really tell the truth on Facebook or in a blog? It’s not as if the writer is lying, it’s just a matter of selective omissions. That’s why I prefer writing fiction. I love that disclaimer. This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Let’s just leave it at this. On the busiest weekend of the year when I should be greeting guests, I find myself spending an hour and a half on the phone with the accountant who also happens to be working this weekend. When it’s over and this kind, patient man fixes the problem that occurred long before I arrived, I pour myself a very large glass of wine.

I do not have the energy to walk through the swinging door from the pantry to the living room and turn it on, so to speak. To make small talk, smile and charm the guests, play the part of Lady of the Manor.

The following week we host a small wedding in the living room. The groom is a Vietnam Vet, a sweet man with twitches and sniffles. His bride has trouble walking in her heels. He tells us his mom lived to one hundred and two and he wishes she could have met this woman he is marrying today.

“It was on a four hour ride with the grandkids when I knew she was the one,” he says, with a big wide smile. They met on the Internet and plan to to visit Gatlinburg next year for a belated honeymoon.

“I’ll call to ask when it’s autumn there,” she says, then blushes, apparently realizing it’s Fall at the same time everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. “Oh, never mind.” She’s nervous. Her groom smiles like she is the cutest, sweetest woman he’s ever met. They want nothing much. No flowers, no music, but I provide both. His son and daughter and her sister are their only guests. They bring a coconut cake from Fresh Market. I set up coffee, pine cones, fine china, and gold and silver ornaments on the table. Rich lights the fire.

Fireside breakfast

We’ve heard rumors of ghosts. Several guests who grew up in the area and moved away stay with us when they return to visit. Pat and her husband Greg are back in Norfolk for the first time in decades. She shares a funny story from her childhood when the Inn was empty and she and her friends would sneak in and play in the haunted mansion. One of her friends dared her to ride the elevator up to the second floor and when she got stuck halfway there her friend shouted up through the elevator shaft that it must be the ghost playing tricks on her. Like several guests, Pat and I are now Facebook friends.

Morale is low. Despite the wonderful people we meet, we’re worn out, beaten down. But then along comes a review on the Bed and Breakfast website from a guest who visited on Saturday of Columbus Day weekend. The day I couldn’t muster the strength to entertain our guests.

Rich, the innkeeper, greeted us and told us good bye, helping us with our bags and telling us about other places to see and things to do on our journey. He was consistently kind, never intrusive or too busy. He built a wonderful fire and served breakfast of omelettes, pancakes and other delights, helped by his wife who also does the accounting. We are coming back – definitely.…

“His wife who also does the accounting…..” I honestly do laugh out loud.

We eventually booked six out of our nine rooms on Halloween, which was the leading cause for the second October Incident. There is something to be said for cool heads and patient dispositions, kindness and empathy, all things that are sorely lacking in the world today. The people who work for you are not a bottom line number on a Profit & Loss statement. They are the most valuable asset on your Balance Sheet.

Back of Infinity


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