Friday, September 23, 2011
*******Have you ever had an inconsequential experience that you just know you will remember for the rest of your life? There’s one that I can’t seem to get out of my mind lately.
Years ago, I set out for one of my first solo vacations; I was driving to Maine. I love the northeast, from the Adirondacks to the Atlantic, so I was just putzing through at my own pace. I enjoyed the winding drive along Route 9 through southern New Hampshire and suddenly saw a cabin painted a sunny yellow with a sign reading “Tea House.” It was breakfast-time, so I turned around. The parking lot was empty.
I was immediately enchanted by the place. There was a large, screened porch filled with tables that were already set for guests. The lights were on and I could hear a radio. I yelled, “Hello,” a couple times, but didn’t get a response. Inside, there were just a couple rooms, one of which was a huge kitchen, which smelled wonderful. Still no answer, though.
I went back out to the porch and saw a lady coming down the hill behind the cabin, yelling in a sing-song voice, “I’m coming!” In a moment, I met Martha Brown, a lady I’ll never forget. I remember her energy, her health and how likeable she was. Her hair was gray, so I knew that she was older, but, in that way of New Englanders, her vibrancy made it impossible to guess her age. She poured me coffee, gave me a menu, and went back up the hill to finish whatever she had been doing, completely unconcerned about a stranger having free roam of her entire establishment.
I wandered around, taking in the hand-embroidered linens, vintage mismatched china, and homemade preserves on the tables. Everything was spanking clean. Every door and window was open, so the cabin smelled fresh. Although nobody was there, the kitchen looked like a hive of domestic activity.
After Martha took my order and brought my food, she joined me at one of the tables. We chatted about her preserves, and she brought me a jar of crabapple jelly, which I had never seen. Oh, crabapples make the most beautiful, softly-hued pink jelly you can imagine! She shared her day’s baking agenda with me. She was quite a busy lady, yet she took the time to sit with me while I ate.
I inquired about the sign that read “Cabins” outside. Yes, she had cabins for rent, too. Years ago, her dad had built this travellers’ stop, called Pine Haven. She now took care of the cabins as well as the tea house.
******I stopped on the way back home, too, renting a tiny cabin for the night. Martha knocked on my door to inform me that she had started a campfire for us. It was just the two of us, chatting beside the flames. She introduced me to the crabby guy who was living in one of the cabins while going through a divorce; he didn’t stay by the fire. Martha and I talked the evening away; she was making sure that I didn't feel lonely, I think.
The next morning, we said goodbye after breakfast. I don’t know why, but I loved everything about Pine Haven and its owner. I’m such a sentimentalist, I know, but I think having tourist cabins or a B&B would be such a fun experience. Martha was the perfect personality to do it.
A couple years ago, I googled Pine Haven, with the intention of returning someday. I found that it was closed and for sale. I realized that Martha was probably gone and wished I could tell her survivors about the impression she had left on me. I found some information about her; she was active in her community, serving as an officer of the women’s club, and having a hand in the local historical society. She was as much a character as she seemed.
I still think about Martha and Pine Haven occasionally. Pine Haven is still for sale. Yesterday, a google search brought up the following poem, written by another Antrim resident for a local newspaper. Apparently, Martha left an impression on a lot of people.