Friday, February 6, 2015

Once Encounter

A pool table sat smack in the middle of the common room. The place was more rustic than I had hoped (read "shabby") but the grounds were green and fragrantly piney, a frat house for mosquitos and lightening bugs.

Lovett's Inn, nestled in the Franconia Notch looked less freshly whitewashed in person than in its brochure. The "natural swimming pool" was a swampy pond to one side and the "cozy cottage rooms" had walls so thin and crooked, you could see light coming through from the other side and hear every snore and mumble in the next room. The sheets on the squeaky iron beds were muslin, not percale -- like sleeping in a gunny sack. Everything smelled like musty basement.

I was in the pool room after supper. What we called "dinner" was "supper" here in New Hampshire. Ruth, our waitress for the week -- a chatty older woman with thick pin curls -- suggested my brothers and I might like to play in the common room after our meal.

My brother David was racking up the balls on the worn green felt as I practiced my expert cue-flicking. Closing one eye for better aim, I saw them enter the room. A girl about my own age and her younger brother walked down the steps. Unlike David and I, who were still in our grass-stained shorts, the two newcomers were in fresh party clothes. The boy seemed shy, and held back, but the girl smiled and came bouncing over to me.

"Hi!" she gushed. "I'm Kira and that's my brother Lenny. We got here this morning, how long have you been here? We're from Long Island, a town called Malverne, I'm in the fourth grade at Sacred Heart, are you Catholic? Where do you live? Do you like my dress, its new, my mom bought it right before our vacation, we went to Loehmann's. I like your hair, nice color. Is that your brother? What's his name? My brother's real name is Leonard, but only my mom calls him that. She's from Italy, my dad is Italian too, but he was born here. I speak Italian, are you Italian?"

I stook transfixed, not yet having said a word. As it turned out, Kira and I had a lot in common. We were also vacationing from Long Island. Yes, I was also a Catholic schoolgirl and, as we were later to find out our parents had already met in the dining room and were chatting away themselves. Our mothers, both Sicilian girls -- were becoming fast friends.

Kira and I spent the next four days together, on Lovett's grounds, riding the Cog Railway up Mount Washington, and meeting every night in the dining room for "supper." We got along well, even with her doing most of the talking.

On Kira's last day, we exchanged addresses and hugs. "I'll invite you to my birthday party, it's in October, you can meet all my friends," she called in one breath out the window of her family's Chrysler Imperial. I waved and wondered. Would I ever really see her again? Did I have the stamina to see her again? The buzzing of the mosquitos seemed extra loud in the void.

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