In tenth grade, my best friend’s father purchased a New Hampshire inn and that fall, she moved away, leaving us both inconsolable. The following year, her parents invited me to live with them for the summer while working as a waitress in the dining room. In June, I moved from suburban Boston into a back bedroom in their 1790’s inn, situated at the head of a common, in a town of twelve hundred. Talk about culture shock. But to this day, I define the experiences that summer, and the following one when I returned, as the period in which I first came to know myself—and to imagine the type of person I wanted to become.
Many years later, the inn, so centered at the core of me was sold, and I grieved. Even though I could visit, it wouldn’t be the same, but even worse, a series of new owners failed to run the place successfully. Foreclosures resulted, and it remained empty for extended periods. So, when an invitation arrived to celebrate the recent wedding of this same friend’s daughter at the inn, open again and under new management, I was all in. We booked a room for the night after the party, and last weekend, my husband and I took the trip north.
Here’s the thing. We can’t relive history, really. But if we’re lucky, we get to step through emotional ghosts. My husband and I opened the door to the inn to find my friend waiting to greet us, and discovering her there stripped me down to oh-so-young-me. Much of the place had changed—walls opened up, bedrooms removed to allow for cathedral ceilings below, a pizza oven installed on the back porch where I celebrated my sixteenth birthday. But, the bones remained, and while we were there, the place echoed a happiness I remember, reflected in the smiles of the bride and the groom and her parents—even on the faces of the energetic couple who now run the place.
Following the afternoon reception, my husband and I took a long walk, and by the time we returned, a line had formed for the dining room where we’d hoped to eat, so we claimed two stools in the expanded pub. Over delicious salmon and risotto there, we chatted with the couple next to us. Around us glasses clinked, the beat of conversations blended with music performed by local college students, and all this evidence of the inn’s revival fed a furnace in my heart.
Before we left the next day, I took a picture of outside of the building, unchanged from when I was a teen. As it disappeared behind us, I felt as if I’d been allowed to finger my history through a soft cloth, before handing it off. I went home comforted to have touched the patina of the past, but more importantly, grateful to see it polished into a gleaming, present-day shine.