This is the time of year that Bob and I reflect on our years of innkeeping at the Canterbury House. You see, May 4, 1998 was the day the Canterbury House became ours and our lives changed in ways, we would have never imagined.
We have been blessed with the privilege of meeting the most amazing people, from all over the United States and the world. So many times, there is a “spark” or a connection, that makes us feel that our guests are people we have known our whole lives.
This year, our reflections have our hearts heavy. I would like to share with you the blessing of “our little Alice”. Alice, was a lovely little lady who stayed with us for 10 days at the end of August, for 8 years. Prior to staying with us, Alice stayed with our friends Kevin and Anita for well over 20 years, when they owned the Village Inn next door to us. Alice never learned to drive, so every year she would take the bus up to Woodstock, from Palmer MA, and Anita, the wonderful person that she is…..would pick Alice up in White River Junction. Truth be told, Alice became a member of their family. Alice always stayed in the same room. Kevin flirted with her, their two sons, Michael and Brian, grew up before her eyes, Anita spent a great deal of time chatting with her….as dear friends do with each other.
Alice loved Woodstock. A simple statement, but she should have been the poster child for Woodstock. She loved shopping in the village……she loved clothes and especially jewelry, so she spent many hours in the shops. Everyone knew Alice. Alice also loved her afternoon coffee and cookies at the Woodstock Inn. This adorable little lady would walk into the lobby, and would chat with everyone. All the staff there knew her. She also loved having dinner in the Tavern……We actually think it wasn’t so much the food, as it was the flirting she did with the bartenders!! She would also at least once or twice during her visit, have lunch at Simon Pearce with a friend (if memory serves me …..she met this friend while having coffee at the inn). Her friend, would drive down from Middlebury and off they would go to lunch. And of course, many nights, she would have dinner in Kevin and Anita’s restaurant in the Village Inn.
So, as I said earlier, Kevin and Anita, sold their inn……Alice comes to stay with us. Now, Anita suggested to Alice, that she would be happy with us, but Alice is a bit nervous. For 20 plus years, she looked forward to her tradition of staying with them and wasn’t keen on change. The other concern she had was, if you have stayed with us, you know, breakfast is served at one seating, and all of our guests are together, chatting. One of the reasons that Alice felt comfortable at Kevin and Anita’s, was she could dine alone at her own table. Her reason for this was…….she felt a bit shy, not thinking she would have anything to contribute to the conversation AND Alice was an extremely slow eater. She always said, she didn’t want to hold others up, with her slowness. The first year she shows up (yes, Anita was still picking her up at the station), at the Canterbury House, she promptly explains this to us. Bob and I try to reassure her, she will be fine, but we realize that until she joins everyone, there is nothing we can say to ease her fears.
Alice’s first morning of breakfast…..Success! She tells us she loved the different conversations….didn’t contribute a lot, but I would tell her, you don’t have to, you can just enjoy listening. Although, all of our other guests, always were easily able to draw Alice into the conversations. We watched over her visits with us, how she was coming downstairs, earlier and earlier, to get “her seat” at the head of the table, and Bob and I watched as Alice came to life……….her cheeks would get all rosy and her eyes would sparkle. This “shy” little lady was coming out of her shell. Many a morning, Alice was drawing the quieter guests into the conversations. Our own Canterbury House Ambassador!
Okay, remember I said her other concern was she ate too slowly…Yes, she did eat slowly, but this tiny, sweet lady, could hold her own in any eating contest in the world! She ate like a horse!!!!! And………had a stomach of steel. She could eat anything
We watched each year, Alice’s energy fade. Her legs caused her pain and she had limited mobility. She was using a cane to walk and she really could not venture into town, like she used to. Her friend stopped coming for their Simon Pearce lunches and she only went to the Tavern for dinner a couple of nights. Even her coffee and cookies in the afternoon, were less. Many nights, we would get her favorite cold cuts and salads and she would have dinner “at home”. Some nights Bob and I would convince her to have dinner with us. After dinner, she would wander into the living room, we would pull the wing chair up close to the television, and she would watch Jeopardy (munching on her chocolate stash). After Jeopardy, she retired for the evening.
Three years ago, Alice stopped coming to Woodstock. We didn’t hear from her. Anita would call to chat with her and it was evident that Alice was failing. Summers weren’t the same without Alice. The end of August, felt empty. This week, Anita called me to say she had tried to call Alice and her telephone had been disconnected. She didn’t have a good feeling and did what we all dread doing…….she searched the obituaries. Sadly, she found Alice’s obituary. On March 4, 2013, Alice passed away at the age of 89 years old. For Kevin, Anita, Bob and I, we grieve for the loss of this dear sweet lady. With our grief, we smile too,…..we were so blessed to have had Alice in our lives.
We miss you, Alice.