Saturday, November 24, 2012
Camden Corners Epilogue - Part Two
Nettie Dawson Crowley
May 10, 1911. These old fingers aren't as nimble as they use to be. I haven't written my thoughts since before Christmas. It has been a very exciting time in the Crowley household. Our precious twins, Jessica and Hattie were married in a double wedding ceremony on Christmas Eve. Their lives will be taking such different turns now. Hattie, is joining her new husband, Tony Marino in his post as photo journalist with the New York Courier. We expect great things from our Tony. His interest in photography began so many years ago when he was just a boy. He has won many awards for his photography. Jessica, who was always a homebody has become the wife of Billy Duesenberry. Bill is following in his father's footsteps. He has already begun classes at the Divinity school in Rochester. Bill is living at the school and only comes home occasionally. Jessica stayed behind and will be living in her old room while Bill is away. She is keeping busy helping restore the old church pews Lily and Emma found on one of their excursions. Jamison Bentley told me it was a first for him. Designing a building around church pews. This may be his last job. He and Caroline are thinking of retiring. How nice that would be for them to be able to relax and enjoy their children and grandchildren.
As for Oscar, I don't think he will ever fully retire and I suspect Jamison will be the same way. Oscar and Jamison both established their own businesses and their sons followed in their footsteps. Jamison's son, Kenny has shown a great deal of interest in architecture and has been helped along by the best in the business. As Kenny has grown older, he looks so much like Jamison you would think he was his natural born son.
The grandchildren are all growing so fast. It's hard to believe little Matthew and Catherine will be seven years old this summer. Little Jenna will be six and the baby, Ellen is two years old already. After the scare we had when Emma gave birth to Catherine, we were very concerned when she announced she was expecting another child. We needn't have worried, little Robert Oscar Crowley was born without incident.
We are planning a family gathering at the cabin on Cedar Lake. We finally have all the renovations completed. We have invited the Clarkes to join us. They are such a delightful couple and, of course, Leah and Alfie will always have a special place in our hearts.
Now with the girls gone, Oscar and I are feeling a bit lonely again. Trudy suggested we take a trip to Greensboro. She thinks she might like to come along this time even though she refers to Greensboro as Sin City. I think she is looking for a child to teach all of her cooking and baking skills to. Leah still drops by after school to visit with Trudy. Leah has become quite a good cook and prepares fine suppers for the family. Minerva says it's fine with her because she never liked cooking and in England depended on servants to do it for her.
Even without the servants, I am sure she and Philip are happy they made the decision to move here. Philip's book store is famous all over the east coast. He has donated many of his heirloom copies to museums around the country. I know he has sold many to collectors and still has many more in his shop. One of his best customers is Clovis Finnegan. She lived over 60 years without knowing how to read and now there is no stopping her. Philip Clarke makes sure she has a copy of every new novel that comes into the store.
Jonas and Ethel Fulbright don't seem to be slowing down any. They are still taking junkets to the outlying areas for treasures to be sold in the antique shops. Merryweather's continues to be as busy as Emma and Lily's shop. It's a good thing because it does cost a fortune for Millie to keep the place up and running.
Jonas and Ethel became great grandparents in January. It's hard to believe Susanna is now a grandmother. I still remember the day she was born. I have never seen a more nervous father than Jonas. For the first few months he was afraid his daughter would break. He learned babies were sturdier than they looked and was just fine when his four grandchildren came into the world.
Christopher and Priscilla Pringle are still celebrating Christmas year round. They lost Rudy just after the new year. The whole town was in mourning for that loveable old dog. Back in '03 he saved the day by catching a thief by the seat of his pants. Oscar was visiting an old acquaintance in Brenton recently. The family's hound had puppies in November and there was one pooch left of the litter. Oscar brought that puppy back to Camden Corners with him and presented him to the Pringles. I'll never forget the smiles on their faces. They named that old mutt Rudy Two. He looks so much like old Rudy you forget sometimes that he is a different dog.
I think I've caught up enough for today. I'll make a point of getting back to my writing very soon.
Rosa Rossi Marino
July 24, 1917. I know I wrote just last night but somehow it gives me comfort to put my thoughts down in this journal. Sometimes I forget what is going on in other parts of the world. As I write, Mamma and Eduardo are competing with their spinach linguini dishes as though that is the only thing on their minds.
I wonder why they call this The Great War. What war could possibly be great. I know we have to fight for our freedom but how I wish it didn't have to be in such a way.
All three of my boys are across the sea. We are proud of Eddie and Giorgio who are fighting for their country along with several other young men from Camden Corners. Antonio is with his camera taking pictures and reporting on the war and the heroes. I never dreamed when Tony took such an interest in photography many years ago that he would one day be in the middle of the battlefields for the sole purpose of reporting the events to those of us left behind.
Mamma is telling Ernesto he needs more oregano in his dish and Ernesto is telling her she doesn't know anything about spices. They argue like this whenever they cook together. They don't mean anything by it and it does take their minds off the boys. I have watched as Ernesto goes out into the herb garden and prays for his sons' safety. Ernesto is a proud man and will not let even his wife see him cry.
Dahlia Bloom Hightower
September 9, 1908. Two days ago we were celebrating the twins' fifth birthday and today we sent them off to school for the very first time. It is astonishing that our four little Hightowers are already five years old. I can still remember the Labor Day they were born. We were celebrating the holiday with a picnic on the grounds of our new home. Sometime during the party, our little ones decided to make their appearance.
What fun we have had with them. Violet is such a little lady who loves to walk through the vineyards with her papa and Uncle Howard. I do believe she will grow up to be a vintner herself one day. Daisy, prefers to run through the vines chasing her brother and cousin. Hyacinth and I are glad the girls are so decidedly different. In our early years we were preoccupied with being identical twins. It has only been since the Hightower brothers came into our lives that we have been able to become individuals.
Hyacinth is in the attic now searching for fabric to make baby quilts. We are individuals, but it seems the stork will be making a visit to both of us once again. Doc Julie thinks it's a good chance we will be having two more sets of twins. We couldn't be happier.
Helene Robinson Merryweather
January 8, 1921. Today is the day our Marvella begins practicing medicine at Shane Howard Memorial Hospital right here in Camden Corners. Thinking back to the first time we met Marvella I never imagined this day would come.
Marvella and her sister, Marissa had been abandoned and discarded like trash so many times in her young life, she found it almost impossible to trust any adult. She wasn't the easiest young lady to love but once we were able to get through that hard cover, she endeared herself to everyone.
Marvella developed a love for children that would eventually lead to her choosing to be a pediatrician. We are so proud of the work she is doing with her long time beau, Dr. Grayson Mallory. The two plan a quiet wedding next month. Marvella says she and Grayson have waited too long to be husband and wife and she doesn't want to wait while a big wedding is being planned. Her sisters and I will try to make the event a special one even though it will be small.
After Marvella is married, Marissa will be the only one left at home and I don't think that will be for too long. Tim Hawthorne came back from the war two years ago with an injured arm. Marissa was a big help in nursing him back to health. As far as I can tell, Tim's arm is doing very well but Marissa is still caring for him. They make a wonderful couple and Neville and I couldn't be happier.
Melinda and Michael finally have the last of their brood in school.. The two of them are such loving parents. What a blessing it is that Melinda is just like her father. I don't see Prudence in either one of the girls.
Melissa is trying to keep up with her sister. She and Luke Hawthorne are expecting their fourth child any day now. She is still a delightful young lady.
James and Ella just adopted a three year old who was abandoned at the orphanage in Pittsburgh. The same place they took Ella's brother Billy when he was a baby. James is in the process of putting an addition on the house. They need it with five children.
Neville and I have never been happier. We celebrated seventeen years of marriage in September. I will be forever grateful to Chester Robinson for telling James about his birth father. Thank you Chester. You brought me happiness when I was your wife and I have you to thank for the happiness I found with Neville.
Margaret Slater Wilson
December 27, 1919. Another Christmas come and gone. The last of the children just left after a delightful holiday. Harvey and I love to have all eight and their families with us but it is nice to have peace and quiet back again. I know by this time next week, the quiet will be too much and I will be planning our next family get together.
Ronnie and Elaine became first time grandparents. I can't believe my little boy is a grandfather. I'll never forget his reaction when I told him his mother was remarrying and adopting seven children. I wish I hadn't sprung it on him as I did. It seemed the natural thing to me and I couldn't understand why my only child would have any objections. After the shock wore off, he came around and loves his brothers and sisters as though they had been born into the family.
The children are all doing well. I love the fact that we still have five living here in Camden Corners. Bobby seems to enjoy his busy life in Washington, DC. Harvey thinks he may even be president of the United States some day. I'd prefer he stay behind the scenes. Why, look at poor president Wilson. I'm sure the pressures of his job led to that terrible stroke he suffered.
Lulu has moved to New York City and is staying with Ronnie and Elaine. They assure me she is behaving herself. She has dreamed of being an actress since she was just a young girl. I believe she is very talented but it's not easy getting that big break in the theater. If anyone can do it, I believe Lulu can.
We now have twelve grandchildren with two more on the way. Harvey can't believe his good fortune. He reminds me often that he was the most despised man in all of Greensboro. I find that so difficult to believe. I have never known a kinder more loving man in all my life. He has brought joy and hope to so many children with his work at the villa.
I'll close now. Harvey is calling me out on the porch to see what is probably a goose slipping and sliding on the ice. He enjoys such simple things now. It doesn't matter what the weather is like, he will put on his heavy down coat and stand on the porch looking out onto the lake. He told me just last night that ours is a wonderful life and I agree.
February 16, 1914. Tomorrow our son, William Willard Duesenberry will be ordained as a minister of the church. It is difficult to remember that belligerent young boy we adopted over ten years ago. I don't believe he even knew what the word faith was. Who could blame him? He had been left at an orphanage doorstep when he was an infant simply because his uncle didn't want a baby disrupting his life. I think Billy may have been challenging God when he asked Him to let Butch and him stay with Will for just one more day. God did him one better, the boys have been a part of our family ever since.
Billy's sister, Ella, found Billy the year after he came to live with us. She is another important member of our family along with our young ones, Hillary and Jason.
Grandma Alma has slowed down a bit, but is still preparing meals for our growing family. The professor makes her happy and the children keep both of them young. Mother and Father will be attending the ordination tomorrow. Now that Father is retired, they visit quite often.
Bishop Fuller retired last year and asked if Will would be interested in being considered for the position of bishop. Will respectfully declined. His heart is in St. Peter's Church and all of the people of Camden Corners.
Will and I are both very happy with the life we lead. I haven't mentioned this to anyone yet, but I suspect we will be counting another blessing in the fall of this year. Yes, life has been good to us.
Lucinda McCoy Rossi
April 25, 1913. Is it possible our precious Cassandra is sweet sixteen today? Cassandra won the hearts of everyone she met when she was just a little girl and has continued to do so through the years.
I don't know what I did right to have our lives take such a drastic turn. One day Cassandra and I were close to being destitute and the next we were wealthy beyond reason.
I'm glad I made the decision not to take any more money than we absolutely needed for survival. Our lives have turned out rich beyond wealth. Leaving New York City and coming to Camden Corners was the best thing that ever happened to us. We have good, dear friends here and, of course, the man we both fell in love with, Mr. Nicola Rossi.
Nick has been a wonderful father to Cassandra and never lets her forget her papa, Paul. Nick and I have added Daniel, Sally and Anna to our family. Mamma Anna and Papa Lou are doing remarkably well for their ages. Lou works side by side in the vineyards with Nick. Mamma says that's what keeps him young. We never thought the vineyard would grow as it has. If it hadn't been for Lou's influence, I don't think Nick would have taken the chance to expand as he did.
The hospital has had two additions since its inception. We now have a nursing school and hope eventually to have a University and a Medical college affiliated with the hospital.
The idea for the hospital began when Kenny Bentley needed emergency surgery for an infected appendix. The two hour ride could have cost him his life. He arrived in time and has been healthy ever since. Kenny is home from college and will be escorting Cassandra to her party this evening. They are just friends but Caroline and I are hoping someday that friendship will develop into something much more.
November 11, 1918. Armistice Day. The war has ended. Our boys are coming home. My Rosa has not stopped weeping since she heard the news. All three of her boys have been serving our country. We will be celebrating on the streets of Camden Corners and await the return of our heroes. God Bless the United States of America.
Millicent Merryweather Stout Harvey
September 26, 1915. I suppose I should drop the Stout in my name. Mr. Stout was such a kind man, this is my way of honoring his memory. Leland tells me he doesn't mind and says the name suits me. I have been a lucky old girl. Two marriages to two very special fellows.
Just this morning we lost another tenant to her young man. I'm happy to see our nurses find true happiness in Camden Corners but we miss them when they move into their own homes.
Leland, Addie, Leo and I are slowing down a bit. I notice it's not as easy as it used to be getting down to the first floor to help with the customers. Samantha Springer works in the shop on the days she is not in her dance studio. She tells me she likes to keep her hand in the antique business in case she breaks a leg. Lord forbid that should happen. Her mother, Margie tells me she and Marty have finally declared their love for each other. I could have told them that ten years ago. What a dance team they are. We old folks like to sit in our chairs and watch them glide across the floor at the Saturday night dances. Leland and I always share at least one dance together. He is still so light on his feet. The dear man has trouble with his lumbago but still twirls me around like a teenager.
I've been a little concerned that Merryweather's is costing more money than it is bringing in. Emma and Lily are good about finding merchandise to resell but I think the old place must be a burden to them. Whenever I inquire about it, they tell me it should not be a worry. Maybe I will take their advice and just think about the happy times we have had inside this old place.
Emma Patterson Crowley
July 16, 1915. This summer has been such a warm one. Maybe it isn't so much the temperature outside as it is the baby I'm expecting in a matter of weeks. I know Robert worries about another pregnancy but little Robbie was born without difficulty and Doc Julie thinks I shouldn't have any problem this time either.
I ran into Millie Harvey at Nichol's this morning. She is concerned with the expenses of Merryweather's. I try to assure her that it is still a money making operation and it is, thanks to Leland paying taxes on the building. The upkeep on that old place is very expensive. Leland knows how happy Millie is there and doesn't want her to have to move. Lily and I would like to expand our shop. I'm not sure if we do that there will be enough products to sell in both locations. Sometimes, doing the right thing is not always the most profitable. Jonas and Ethel have had to curtail their trips in the last few years. They do very well for their ages but it is still a chore to travel around the countryside as often as they did.
Lily is off on a hunt as I write this. Matthew and Catherine have gone with her. It's so nice our children have an interest in old junk. It must be a trait they inherited from their mothers and Grandpa Amos.
I think I'd better call Ethel to take over in the shop. If I'm not mistaken, I think I may be in labor.
Update, July 17, 1915. Lila Millicent Crowley was born yesterday at 12:15 in the afternoon. One hour after I put down my pen and called Ethel. She is a beautiful, healthy baby and her mother is doing well.
Caroline Watson Bentley
December 9, 1909. Becky is practicing for the upcoming Christmas show. I never tire of hearing her sweet voice. Singing comes naturally to her. I sometimes wonder if we shouldn't encourage her to pursue a professional career. Maybe I'm just being selfish. I don't want to think about the day our children will be leaving us to begin their own lives. I know in my head that is what should and will happen, but my heart wants to keep them close forever.
I love sitting at the dining room table looking out on the gazebo where Jamison first held me in his arms so many years ago. My shame at having feelings for a man so soon after George's death kept us apart for over twenty years. He came back into my life thanks to my dear friend, Lucinda and kissed me in that same gazebo. Here we are now with our sweet little Lucy who was born just a couple of months after I became a grandmother for the first time. Becky and Kenny who came into our lives unexpectedly and now I can't imagine life without them. My daughter, Grace and Jamison's sons, Todd and Alex and their growing families.
Jamison is thinking of retiring or, at least, cutting back on his workload. His work has been so much a part of his life, I'm not sure he would be happy if he gave it up completely. Todd and Alex are partners in his architecture firm. Kenny just turned 17 and is well on his way to becoming the next Bentley to join the firm. Jamison says he is a natural. At the moment, it's hard to imagine Kenny being a serious business man as he throws a snowball at Lucy who has just thrown one back at him. Grace was such a little lady at that age. Lucy is so different. It must have something to do with being the youngest. She has had to fend for herself. Kenny and Becky have always been good with her. Her nephew, Freddie, is the one who loves to tease his Aunt Lucy.
Now Jamison has joined them out there. He is whispering something. I know the next snowballs will be headed right toward the window. I'd better get out there and defend myself. The only fight I ever want to have with that wonderful man out there is a snowball fight. I know I won't win it, but I will have fun trying. Maybe I'll even get another kiss in the gazebo.
June 21, 1973. “Tracy, did you think this day would ever come?”
“I knew the day would come, but I never dreamed we would be ready for our opening. We have the journals to thank for keeping us on schedule.”
“You are so right there. The whole town has been reading every word of the journals. I think everyone has felt a real connection to the past and to the generations who lived in Camden Corners before us. It was a whole different way of life back then. I envy the way everyone cared for their neighbors.”
“Do you remember how everyone told us we were foolish to try to renovate this place? Now that people have read the journals, they are supporting us wholeheartedly. I can't believe Steve is on our side now. He is the one who persuaded the Town Council to give us a tax break on the old mansion.”
Walking through The Merryweather was like walking back in time. Every square inch of the place was sparkling. Tracy and Holly had worked day and night to clean, repair, paint and polish the whole house. Each second floor suite was decorated in an authentic 1900s theme and bore the family name of a resident of Camden Corners. The Crowley, The Mackenzie, The Burke, to name just a few. Thanks to donations from the townsfolk, the third floor spa and exercise area was completed in time for the opening. Walking through the front doors, the focal point was a grand staircase to the second floor with a massive crystal chandelier in the center. Beautiful reconditioned early 19th century tables and chairs were placed in the lobby. The display cases holding the open journals and donated mementos from days gone by had been carefully placed along the walls. Copies of Tony Marino's photographs were displayed in ornate frames. The carpeting felt like velvet underfoot. There was one large dining room and three smaller ones for more casual meetings or parties. Outside, the theme was more modern with two pools, a playground area for the children and tennis courts. Seating and small tables adorned the porch that surrounded the house where views of the lake on one side, grapevines on the another and the ski resort on a third could be enjoyed.
“Tracy, I think we have done everything we can to get ready for the reception tonight. I think I'll take a walk around town to clear my head, would you care to join me?”
“I think that is a wonderful idea, Holly. If I stay in here one minute longer I'm going to rearrange the candle decoration on the piano for the tenth time.”
The girls walked down the long sidewalk to Main Street. They were silent as they took note of the town as though it was the first time they'd seen it. People seemed to be walking more after reading the journals. It had always been a friendly town but now the folks went out of their way to greet each other. They walked by the old firehouse where Iris Taylor fell asleep on the dogs pallet and woke up to a new family. Diana's bakery was still functioning as a bakery after changing hands dozens of times. The Burkes Candy shop no longer made fresh candy but had it delivered from a factory. The Antique Shop filled three other old shops. Jennifer Crowley and Andrea Fulbright were the new owners and history buffs. Along with antiques, customers could get information on any and all of the residents of Camden Corners through the years. The Hardware store had closed its doors in the fall of 1970. There was a new large hardware store that offered prices the smaller one just couldn't compete with. Pringles Christmas shop was still open although the aroma of peppermint and gingerbread was no longer a constant reminder of Christmas. O'Sullivan's was still owned by the Burkes and Mackenzies. Marinos was still an Italian restaurant but the spinach lasagne was never as tasty as when Eduardo and Mamma Rossi were in competition to make the best. Philip Clarke's book store still had some precious rare books in the back room. The Camden Corners Chronicle moved from the Quilt Shop many years ago and was located just west of town. It was now a daily newspaper with national as well as local news. The Quilt Shop returned to its quilt days along with sewing machines, dress patterns and fabric. It was operated by Cindy Hightower who had developed a talent for quilting and taught classes two days a week.
“Look Holly, there is the gazebo where Jamison Bentley first kissed Caroline Watson. What a wonderful romance that was.”
“People certainly suffered in silence in those days. I would have kissed him back that very first time. Instead Caroline was alone for 20 years.”
“The romance of Neville and Helene was a pretty sad one too. I'm awfully glad they finally ended up together.”
“What about Nettie and Oscar? I can't imagine why Nettie didn't marry someone while she lived in Greensboro.”
“She must have been waiting for her soul mate.”
“Did they have soul mates back then?”
“Speaking of soul mates, here comes yours.”
“Hello girls. I thought you would be pacing the floors of The Merryweather and here you are strolling down Main Street. It's really a nice little town, isn't it?”
“That it is.”
“Did I ever tell you girls that I'm proud of you and you were right about The Merryweather. It is just what Camden Corners needed. Now that the project is complete, maybe I can convince you to marry me.”
“What do you think, Tracy? Should I marry this guy?”
“The next generation of Camden Corners residents has to begin somewhere. It might as well be with the two of you.”
“I just happen to know of a lovely place to hold the wedding reception.”