SO we went the week after Halloween and visited my grandparents up in New York. It was just turning November, and when we left Palmyra at 9:00 am we were without our coats (they were in the trunk) and it was sunny and expected to be in the upper 50’s to mid 60’s. That night it seemed that he monent we crossed the state line into New York – right around 7 pm, it started snowing. Hard. It was slow going through that for awhile, but Emily, the only child awake at that point – loved it.
As we pulled into my grandparents’ driveway I did my best not to look at the Hotel. I didn’t want to see it until morning, and I wanted to see it with eyes that were fresh and not too road weary.
My grandparents looked well, despite the fact that they are really getting on in age now. My grandfather is suffering from both bone and prostate cancer, but at 80 refuses to undergo any kind of invasive treatment. Firstly because he is asymptomatic and happy to have gotten to 80, and second, because his eldest daughter, my aunt Patty, died last winter from a round of chemo that her lymphoma affected body could not handle. All agreed that without the chemo she only had a few months to live, but she hadn’t been in pain. That’s his stance, then- some time left without pain is better than being killed painfully by chemicals.
But all in all they are both well, is my point. We got all the family updates, all the small town news, and we got our daughters past their shyness and soon we were all laughing and talking again as though we’d never been apart.
Our first morning dawned cold and with flurries. THe girls were ecstatic. Emily was foaming at the mouth to go down to see the river and play in the snow. I was full of questions about the hotel. It had been sitting there, silent and sullen and sad for over a year, with nary a soul to look in on it. I was pondering how on earth I could get a better look at it. And the, while we were discussing this, something amazing happened. People showed up there! We pressed our faces against the window for a few moments, wondering who they could be, when suddenly it became apparent that they were headed our way!
It turned out to be the realtor and her husband. She had been enlisted by the bank to get the Hotel on the market, and they had let her know that the former owners lived next door. She was coming over with some questions. Even better, she was going to let me go in and have a look around with her. I helped answer some of her questions and then I got on my coat with great excitement and followed her next door.
It was cold and dark inside. The kitchen had changed dramatically from my days there. Mostly it was empty, with a few scattered dishes that I recognized as being the “breakfast and lunch” china. I wanted to cry. The beautiful dinner dishes with the holly pattern were all gone. It got worse. Much worse. The place had been stripped clean. With a few exceptions, all of the furniture and antiques were long gone. In the coffee house (the breakfast room) there were a few tables and chairs left, one with puddles on it where the roof had leaked. The bar in the taproom was indeed covered in mold. The old jukebox was gone. I bet he sold it for a pretty penny – it was a perfectly working antique, and it was BIG.
The antique phone booth was gone. The velvet couches in the main and upstairs lobbies were gone. The federal mirror from the dinner room that had once belonged to Ulysees S Grant was gone (sold on ebay for $1200 I’m told). The brass beds from the older rooms were gone. In short, everything that made the Hotel what it was, was gone. If he could have sold the velvet wallpaper off the walls, I’m sure he would have.
I was happy that halfway through my wandering around my grandmother showed up with Emily and Paul. Emily loved looking around with me and I loved telling her all about it. About how the third floor was a ballroom back in the early 1900’s, and about how an elegant chrystal chandelier once hung at the bottom of the stairs and when I was her age I though it was diamonds. At some point Emily and I found ourselves wandering the dark kitchen alone. I spied again the few remnants of china that I had once eaten fabulous food from. “Emily”, I said, “Not one single word”. And I grabbed a salad plate and shoved it into my wasteband and re-zipped my coat. Her eyes got wide. “Mommy” she breathed out in disbelief. “I’ll explain it when you’re older”, I said.
Awhile later I met back up with the realtor while my grandmother and Paul and Emily went back to the house to warm up. She told me the hotel was being listed for $299,000. Less than I paid for my house, but too much, I worried for this. It wasn’t in such bad shape that it couldn’t be brought back to beauty, but I told her I’d rather see the bank take a lot less than it wanted over it sitting and rotting because no one wanted to pay $299,000 for it. She seemed to be sympathetic. We talked for a few more minutes and then we shook hands and I walked back to my grandparents’. My grandfather asked how it went, and I produced the plate from my pants, to much laughter. It’s not much, but it’s something cherished from my past.
I hear that no one has been by to see it since that day. Maybe $299,000 really is way too much. For now, I feel a little better anyway. I have a ton of pictures, a Mary Poppins lamp from one of the tables that my grandfather gave me before they sold it, and I have that plate. That’ll have to do for now.