It’s cheaper Off Season
When Kathy and I were first married we could not afford to take expensive vacations (most of the time that was all vacations). Our time off usually meant trips to visit her family in Ohio (mine were close enough not to require time off to visit). Kathy said to me one day, “I bet it would be cheaper to go to Maine (one of our favorite places to go) when it is off-season.” Our favorite time of the year was and is the fall especially October around Columbus Day. We found out that if we arrived on Columbus Day Weekend the next week was off-season and the rates went down by nearly half. We both had jobs that provided a good amount of time off but not huge salaries. So inexpensive was the only way to go.
We found out that time in Maine was wonderful. No crowds, most things were still open, there were end of season sales and the weather was just fine by the ocean. It became our routine to take that time usually about ten days for ourselves and we went to the same place each year (Wells, Maine ) for a few years.
One year we decided we wanted to do something a little different. Instead of going to one place we would drive the length of Route 1. It ran along the coast and as we were in no hurry we would go until tired then stop and be where ever we were at the time.
As we were driving along we heard of Campobello Island (F.D.R.’s summer place) and thought that would be a place to see. It was on the Bay of Fundy where we were told the tide was so fast you could see it move in and out. It felt good to have a clear destination and by the end of one day we were there.
It turned out that Campobello Island was not part of the U.S. it was in fact part of Canada . As we crossed the boarder (on the far side of a bridge between the U.S. and the Island.), The person manning the boarder station on the Canadian side told us that Columbus Day was the last day the FDR museum would be open that year. Great we thought we would get to see it and we did.
It was great to see where so much history had taken place and in this museum I could almost feel the presence of huge figures in our history. We spent a few hours there and then decided we better find a place to stay for the duration of our visit. A bed and breakfast place called the Wendell House was suggested to us (and it was the only place still open on this date.)
We went straight there from the Museum and were greeted after repeated knockings on the door by the proprietor, Mrs. Bertha Wendell. Mrs. Wendell was an elderly lady of eighty-seven as she was quick to inform us. She went on to tell us that not only did she have a room available but all seven rooms were empty and we were likely to be the last visitors for the season.
The place was straight out of a Gothic novel – gables, turrets, slate roof and all. It sat on a lonely cliff overlooking the Bay – It was wonderful. There was no TV and everything was either an antique or just very old. The air held a slight mustiness that was not intrusive, in fact it was kind of cozy and comforting like the smell of old books in a library.
After settling in our room we came down to ask Mrs. Wendell where we could find supper. She said that everything on the Island closed today but there was a small food store nearby that would provide us with the basics. She said that she provided breakfast as the name implied but we could use the kitchen to make our supper if we liked. That sounded like a good idea to us as we would have to leave the country to go to a restaurant. We asked if we could get her anything but she said her daughter was bringing her supper.
We went to the store and put together a picnic supper consisting of a bottle of wine, some cheese, French bread and fruit. Once we returned to the house we were allowed to have our supper in the living room – it was like dinning in another kind of museum.
We sat on an old couch with our food set out on a coffee table in front of us and prepared to eat as the room began to darken with the approaching twilight. Mrs. Wendell had supplied beautifully decorated china and stemmed crystal wine glasses for our use. It all felt better and more comfortable than any restaurant we had been in.
Just as we started to eat, Mrs. Wendell came in the room’s doorway apologizing for interrupting our meal and said, “I was just wondering if you might like to hear a story while you eat? It is a story I wrote when I was a little girl about a trip my Mother and I made to the big city on the trolley.” We told her that we would really like her to tell us the story.
With that, Mrs. Wendell came into the room, turned on a floor lamp and sat in a high backed rocking chair in front of the lamp. With the smooth grace of a Tie Chi master, she took out her reading glasses and with a shimmering of her old hands produced and unfolded a sheath of papers brown with age. I found myself holding my breath waiting for her to begin.
All at once like a familiar song, long forgotten but now newly remembered her voice started the story. As she got further into the story, the room darkened and the only light was that floor lamp which cast a hallo of light around her head bowed in the reciting of that story.
Time stopped and reversed itself to that time of cities, adventures and wonders in the mind and heart of a young girl. We forgot to eat and sat mesmerized as Mrs. Wendell cast her web of ancient reality around us.
When the story ended, it was too soon. Transported back to the now, we could not help but wish there was more. We knew a good part of the girl that Bertha had been – had seen through her eyes. We also knew that we had shared something very special with Mrs. Wendell, a moment that could not be improved upon or even experienced again. She said she was tired and went to bed leaving us alone. We did not talk for a long time. When we did, we agreed that we should stay one more day – restaurants or not.
When we left we knew we wanted to come back and see more of Mrs. Wendell there on her cliff. But when we called the next year, Mrs. Wendell’s daughter answered the phone. The B&B was closed and Mrs. Wendell was in a Nursing Home and died shortly after. We wondered how two nights (one in particular) could make us feel so connected and feel such loss. But that connection always seems to happen when people truly share their lives, even a small part of that life – if it is the truth they believe.