On this afternoon we were eating bowls of clam chowder at the old Harborview Hotel, listening to a table of elderly ladies (“Islanders” as they called themselves several times during the conversation) lament the hotel being recently purchased by new owners (why do things have to change? It makes me miserable.).
Really I was half-listening, my mind on the weather (Hurricane? Tropical Storm? Nor’easter), on the ferries having stopped running (my sister was to be on one), on the color of the hydrangeas that were drying on the bush (it is a soft, muted red that the blue and pink flowers of this summer town are turning now and it changes everything).
My mind was also on a house a few streets away, Cottage Street, where we had stayed one summer when my mother was here and my grandfather was here and we were trying to get my daughter to stop drinking a bottle. Earlier we had walked up Cottage Street but where the house had been was something new, or renovated to the point that we did not recognize it. Our house had been a classic white clapboard colonial, well-worn, well-loved, with a center stairwell, a large sunroom, and an out-dated kitchen. There was old, peeling floral wallpaper and a claw foot tub and the first day we were there we clipped flowers from the garden and put them in mason jars on the windowsill.
Then the women in the restaurant were talking about the hotel’s desserts, its wonderful banana split. One of the women wearing a gray and red plaid raincoat with upswept hair said that she supposed they could learn to make one themselves (and I tried to imagine this). She said she came for the hotel’s ice cream because it reminded her of her childhood when her father would promise her some as soon as she finished her homework (He’d call up the stairs: “Are you finished?” And then he’d bring me a bowl).
The rain and the wind were picking up as she spoke. We all looked out the windows to the rocking boats and the white-capped waves in the water and the changing colors of our days.