The joke goes that following our first visit to the Inn and meeting with the owner, Robert Short, Marcia turned to me in the car as we pulled onto Main Street and said, “Well, if it’s like this a couple of months every year I can do it.”
It was March, and “this” meant quiet, almost empty. It meant off-season.
In the Monadnock Region, and certainly elsewhere in New England, off-season runs, basically, from the end of foliage until the end of mud season in about mid-April. November and December can get up a head of steam around the holidays, but not so much January through March.
Off-season is the time of year for padding around the Inn with pajamas on and for sitting in each chair, in turn, with our coffees. It is the time of year for feet on the furniture, for a glass of wine in the mid-afternoon while puttering away behind the front desk, and for the chance to have a few friends over with whom we can gallivant around.
There is quite a lot of room to gallivant when you have the Inn to yourself. We play our fantasy games: What would you do with this room if it were only ours to enjoy? Oh, I’d keep the bar, yes, yes, with a desk at the far end a few couches in between. And a long table down the dining room for wonderful parties. (There are so few parties these days; the children seem to have ditched the idea of dining rooms.)
In the kitchen are the walled-off remains of the stairway that led up to the back wing of the Inn, now the King Room hallway, which was once the Innkeeper’s apartment and, eons before that, a proper ballroom with a vaulted ceiling the length of the building. It is still there, hidden above the ceiling of our king rooms. We would bring the vaulted ceiling back as a Great Room for grandchildren with indoor tricycles and Lego castles and, later, maybe air hockey and of course a wide screen TV. And we imagine a couch at one end where we could sit quietly in order to witness the chaos until it was necessary to fetch more ice for our glasses.
This year, of course, there is COVID. More time to pad around, more time to fantasize, but, alas, no chance to gallivant; which ought to mean, in principle, directing more energy to the off-season “To Do” list.
You may not have an off-season To Do list. Probably, you have a weekend To Do list. We had such lists once upon a time, but then we bought an inn and weekends in the classic sense of late breakfasts and jobs-around-the-house were done away with.
Innkeepers have off-season lists. They are repositories for plant and equipment issues, big and small, that throughout the year are shoved to the back of the line with the understanding that when time is available – off-season – they will be dealt with.
Off-season lists are serious lists. They attach, in our case, to 14 bedrooms, plus one apartment, 19 bathrooms, six common areas, two basements, four ovens, six refrigerators, three freezers, four furnaces, four hot water heaters, five entryways, myriad pieces of furniture, lamps and rugs, 1,213 panes of glass and 43.17 gigabytes of stored data up in the clouds somewhere.
Nearly 10 years into it and we imagine our off-season list as Jacob Marley’s ponderous chain, long and wound about us like a tail. The basements call to us from below; they groan beneath the burden of storage. Things are down there that we know despair of ever seeing the sun again. Everything around us longs for attention, and we shall give it to them, though, at the moment, perhaps not until tomorrow.
First, there is this postcard. Then lunch. Then we must find out where we can get some Matcha, the green tea powder necessary to pull-off the Green Tea Ice Cream we are making for Sunday Supper this weekend. That might necessitate a trip Nashua, which has a fine Asian market. It will be dark by the time we return. Potter will have to be fed after which it will be practically pajama time and hardly the time for starting new projects.
Oh well. We might be guilty of too much padding around off-season. But it is a thing that needs to be done as much as the rest, you know. Padding around can take you places, and it can bring you back, as it does us, to that moment – that “I can do this” moment.
A little of which might be especially good right now.
Happy off-season, from our pad to yours.
Marcia & Jarvis.