On Monday it rained
Monday rain was forecast, in ever-diminishing percentages, but rain nonetheless which was falling in the morning, not in a deluge but enough to make me think of lowering windows. I was careful to take the little rain jacket that can fold into its own pocket and keeps out as much rain as a heavy slicker.
I penned one of my little Rebecca Roundabout Reports, my semi-daily musings of traffic, quotes overheard, trying to break the stream of negativity people seem to think is an obligation of summer with more positive moments, the family “fight” between a dad and his giggling little girls, the glorious flowers adorning Rebecca, the delightful young man from Pennsylvania on a first-time ever “road trip” through New England.
On Monday: “It’s raining! Not downpour rivers in the road rain but good soft summer rain that gives the earth a little drink. The rotary isn’t empty - as the photo taken just before noon makes it appear - it took a moment for a break in traffic, a between-the-bumpers shot.”
There is a postcard, there are several from different years, from old black and whites to 1950’s colors of this roundabout, rotary, intersection we officially call, despite its lack of geometric uniformity, Fountain Square, more specifically, cards bearing images with cars parked perpendicular to the sidewalk in from the Inn at Old Harbor. The Inn has not moved, Rebecca has not moved, the theater has not moved, and of greatest bafflement, the little parking lot below the church not only did not exist, it was part of the church lawn, fronted where the lot now meets the road, with a privet hedge. The vehicles were smaller, I tell myself, but I know the little cars buzzing
around today were not longer than the boats of the fifties. But they are photographs, not drawings, and while I do not remember them I do recall, and only in summer, cars parked along the northeast side of the road, perhaps along a slightly more narrow sidewalk but still... And where did my mother park when she went to the Post Office when it was in the space next to Ernie’s?
Monday’s rain did not last long, just a little rinse, more than a serious wash. Tuesday, again, was forecast to be worse than it was and after a morning meeting I took a break and had a rare summer lunch out. It seems like such a lovely concept in June, then the days pass, the weeks slip away, and sometime in August a visitor arrives and it happens. This time we went to the National, what I have after all these decades taken to calling what it is, Uncle Ray’s hotel. It could be my great-great grandfather Lewis’s hotel (the only truly accurate description), or Cousin Willie’s. I don’t know how people do genealogy, I need a paper and pen to align this little corner
of my father’s father’s mother’s family which is far more simple than I am capable of making it sound. But how I am related to someone who has resided on the Hill since before I was born is an irrelevancy, it was simple, a
summer day, a little warm and sticky, but the elevation of the porch overlooking the harbor afforded a bit of a breeze with the view, the big white ferry, the bluesplashed high-speed peeking around her big sister’s bow, and off in the elbow of the west breakwater a smattering of pleasure craft.
The sun was shining and I tried to take a few pictures of the expansive view, with little success, thinking of one photo somewhere in this house, taken from the National roof after the 1938 Hurricane, with some battered buildings off by the Inner Basin and a few fishing vessels on the shore in varying states of despair.
It was, I remembered, not one photo, rather three or four taped together, a crude fore-runner of a panoramic shot. It was clearly taken from the roof, with fourth-floor dormers at its edge. I wondered in passing how someone got up on the roof but some of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century photos were taken from the roofs of the Hygeia and the Ocean View, providing us wide vistas of the New and Old Harbors, respectively, so I didn’t much think about it.
Only a few years ago I noticed a post1938 Hurricane photo of the National taken from the beach, showing only upon close inspection, a jagged hole in the roof where by all older photos and narratives the original cupola sat, an easy way to get up there.
I think still of the present cupola atop the hotel as new although I know it was raised in the earlier part of the 1980s, a crowning touch to a restoration that pulled the aging gray lady back from the brink.
The sun was shining when we left the porch to walk through the hotel, to allow me an opportunity to very briefly talk of the ballroom that once was the north end of the first floor, carved up for more spaces it seemed but now I realize it likely had as much to do with bearing the load of the upper floors.
We stepped out the back of the building, to a space that has evolved over time, to what seemed an approaching rainstorm, something, perhaps, to cut the humidity. The stone pavers were spattered with darkness, the start of a rain.
I got in my car thinking I had beaten the rain and wondered what had happened to it by the time I reached the BIG a block away. There was really one “block” when I was little, starting at any point, but for ease starting at the National, running to Chapel Street, to Old Town Road, to Dodge Street back to the National.
That night I was watching the news and saw there had been real rain on the mainland, true flooding up toward Providence. It had already been a long week, we didn’t need a washed-out-roads downpour.