I called my sister last week, on what is still unfortunately referred to as Columbus Day. I asked her what she was doing.
“Paying bills, doing laundry, cleaning house.”
“I’m taking the dogs to the vet,” I said. Then there was silence. Contented silence.
Every year for the past twenty-one years I’ve called my sister or she has called me on Memorial Day and Columbus Day. The routine is always the same. What are you doing? Not much. You? The usual.
This little ceremony is in memory of the twelve years we were innkeepers on Cuttyhunk Island, when the calendar from Memorial Day weekend to Columbus Day weekend meant our lives belonged 24/7 to the Allen House Inn.
Memorial Day weekend was the start of the season. We’d scan the harbor anxiously, waiting for the boats to come in. We’d praise sunny days and curse fog and rain.
wait both dreading and hoping we’d get slammed with too many people.We never had more than a skeleton staff that early in the season, but we needed the cash.
|photo nina brodeur|
We took out a startup loan at the beginning of every year, and breathed a sigh of relief when it was paid off and we began to make money. We busted our asses eighteen hours a day, seven days a week, from the end of June until Labor Day.
|photo courtesy A. Hinson|
Then the business dropped off as we headed toward the end of the season; but so did most of our staff, who had to get back to school or jobs or both. The length of the day stayed the same, but our duties were more varied as everybody who stayed on took on any chore that was needed.
Then, finally, Columbus Day weekend. That last grand slam of business, and the incredible relief with which we saw the harbor empty out on Monday.
A week of intense cleaning always followed, the scrubbing of every surface of the kitchen down to bare wood or metal, washing and bagging up linens, tablecloths, curtains, putting everything a mouse might want to chew into a container that hopefully a mouse could not chew through. But that last week, difficult as it was physically, was incredibly satisfying emotionally. We had made it through another season with our bodies and minds mostly intact.
Almost twice as many years have passed without the Inn as the number of years we ran it. I rarely have the dreams anymore, the ones where I wake up in a sweat because it’s Memorial Day weekend and things are not done. My sister rarely wakes up wondering who is on the schedule to close at night.
But we remember. We remember the good, the bad, the crazy. As the years pass the good gets better and the bad slowly fades.
And twice a year we call each other and talk about the lives we used to have, that we were so glad to have, and that we are so glad have moved beyond.