My loyal readers may remember that I spent happy childhood summers at my grandmother’s small hotel in the Catskills. (MY HEART REMEMBERS MY GRANDMOTHER’S HOTEL, Dec. 21, 2013, and HOTEL KITTENS, Oct 6, 2016)
Here’s another hotel memory, though this one is bittersweet.
Every summer for many years a busload of guests would come up from the city for a two-week stay. The arrival of these “special guests” was a much anticipated event, and I remember waiting on the lawn with my grandmother as the big bus pulled into the hotel driveway. And I remember the sense of excitement as several dozen men and women, many still dressed in their city clothes, and some with small children in tow, stepped off the bus carrying packages and suitcases.
What was special about our special guests? Like everyone who came to our hotel, they enjoyed my grandmother’s wonderful cooking, took hikes through the woods, went swimming, and rowed on our small lake. And on rainy days many could be found on the big porch playing cards, or chess, or Mah Jongg, while the sounds of someone playing the piano drifted out from the lobby.
But I realized that all our special guests spoke with unfamiliar accents, and young as I was, I sensed a formality about them, and I sensed that the other guests treated them with a special deference and respect.
And every summer when their two-week stay came to an end, we gathered on the lawn once again to see them off, and I watched as each departing guest embraced my grandmother before boarding the bus for the trip back to the city.
“We had a wonderful time! ” ‘It’s a paradise here!” ” Thank you so much!”, they told her.
“Thank you for coming!” “Have a safe trip!” “We’ll see you next summer!”, we all called back. And we waved good-bye until the bus disappeared down the Neversink Road.
When I was older my parents told me about the Holocaust and the six million who perished. And they told me about those who endured unspeakable horrors and survived, like our very special guests.
Dana Susan Lehrman