Did Edwin Teale write those travel stories you were telling us about — River Horse, I think it was? I’d like to read it.
Speaking of reading, Stockbridge had a wonderfully regal and airy library with tall, paned windows and a white fireplace. Dad told us to meet him at the van at 11:15, so I waited on the library’s window seat, next to a bookcase, with a Sherlock Holmes volume on my lap until the old grandfather clock clanged eleven.
I had walked the brickway to the library from The Red Lion Inn that you and Nanny treasured so much — and I know every reason why…
The morning was humid, so I moved from a green rocker on the long front porch to a sofa by the fireplace and journaled there. The ashes were cold, but I could imagine Nanny by a cracking fire and you, talking New England lore with the men moving about, who all seemed to know each other already.
Teapots perched on the mantle and iron keys hung from it. There was a hot, wood scent that got thicker at each stair landing, and I stepped up carefully, wincing at the sounds I sent up the stairwell. I looked over my shoulder once, feeling like Jimmy Stewart in “The Man Who Knew Too Much.”
Trent found his place at the old, beautiful Steinway, and his soft jazz floated up all the stories and faded down the halls.
We whispered in the inn; we felt we needed to. Do you know what I mean?
On the topmost floor, I followed the hall to a stuffy nook with a little window, kneeling at the top of a few stairs, painted pink. I climbed them to sit in the window box (also pink) that looked over Main Street.
There’s more to tell, Papa, so much more. I’ll let the sea wait until tomorrow. I’ve only just met it, and we’re still learning each other’s ways. But my ear is to the sand (and, clearly, your words are thundering in my mind).
From: L.C. Melton
Oh precious, I am having the most wonderful adventure with you there, seeing for me all the sights near and dear. Each thing you describe at the Inn brings back a memory, and I vividly know exactly what you are experiencing, especially whispering in the hall. I hear those ancient, old, creaky stairs. As you take each one, you climb into hallway art galleries that never seem to end, and I know your little window nook.
When your Dad sent the photographs of all of you playing the old grand piano, I remembered a poem I wrote in 1974.
We had driven all night, but I wanted to see a play at the Stockbridge Playhouse, so John and Nanny stayed at the Inn and went to bed. When I got back to the Inn, I was too excited to sleep, so I sat on the porch with a cup of coffee. The cast and crew from the play arrived shortly. Two famous actors, Shelly Winters and Nehemiah Persoff were in the group, and they all gathered around the grand piano while a young boy dressed in a tux and bowtie played “Maple Leaf Rag” (the first Ragtime Festival had been the week before!), and then he played Chopin and Gerschwin and all the popular tunes of the day.
This is what I wrote…
The Inn at Stockbridge
I sit in an old white wicker rocker
on the sloping porch,
viewing the present from the past.
The openness, supported by white columns
symmetrically punctuated by hanging flower baskets
is a set for the antique sign
with its small gold “o” and regal lion.
Joplin and Chopin drift outside
from the burled baby grand within,
muffled by clipped weekend conversations
and dimmed by hurried holiday traffic;
all providing the score.
The inn clock chimes mark the hour followed shortly,
and more authoritatively,
by the tolling of the kindred church bell.
Sitting on history in the midst of fame,
foul cigar smoke invades the crisp night dampness
and I realize others are here, too.
The Red Lion Inn
Labor Day Weekend, 1974
I love you,
The Cape Cod Letters are a series of emails between my grandpa Larry and I, written during my family’s trip East back in June. Papa Larry took 30 trips to Cape Cod in his life, but this was my first, so I wrote home about it. I’m sharing these letters each Thursday on my blog this summer.