Weeks ago, I had an appointment set for today at my alma mater, Colby-Sawyer College in New London, NH. I slept poorly last night, not surprising due to the emotion charged day I had yesterday. When I finally gave up trying to sleep and made tea this morning, I debated blowing the trip off and just going to sit at the barn with my sorrow. A better solution, I thought, was a solo road trip to a place and time in my life before my mare was a part of it.
I set off mid-morning. My truck was packed with snacks, camera equipment and copies of my book. The foliage in the swamps is glorious already, the sun was bright and there was no traffic. I had not been back to New London in years. Not only had I attended college there, but that is where Roger and I started out on our “Therapeutic Adventures.” He still has family there and I had been in touch via email to see if I might drop by with a copy of the novel. I didn’t want them to hear about it from someone other than myself. Additionally, there is a small bookstore in town that I thought might be interested in carrying the book.
As I drove up the highway, I thought back to a younger me, speeding back to school before curfew on a Friday night, or returning after a weekend at home. Home, New London became my home after college. The tiny apartment I shared over the real estate office was home. Steph and I had a Labradoodle, a hairy mutt and a Great Dane in a one bedroom apartment the size of my current living room. We sunned in bikinis on the roof, causing more than a few traffic altercations on Main Street.
Our band of furry kids terrorized the town and spent numerous nights in the drunk tank. We always passed the hat at the local bar but sometimes couldn’t come up with enough money to bail them out right away.
We worked at the Player’s Tavern, now the chic Millstone restaurant, and hung out after work with the boys in a band who were just getting their big break – Aerosmith. The college started a riding team and we competed in those early days. Life wasn’t always easy then, but seemed idyllic in retrospect.
As I pulled off the highway and climbed the hill to town, I was struck by how much the landscape had changed. The trees were so much larger, the houses grander, the traffic and cars parked along the sides of the roads was more congested. I was early so I continued through town, touring and looking at the new gas station, the up-scale shops and the amount of people. From a population perspective, it seems the tiny college town is now equally divided; retirees who don’t use turn signals and drive with one foot on the break, and students of every nationality. They have even added a Dunkin Donuts though the town did it’s best to make it innocuous.
Eventually, I found my way to the alumni building for my meeting with Mike Gregory. Mike is working on the magazine that is sent out to alumni and prospective students. It is a beautiful publication, on thick stock with professional photography. He had enthusiastically invited me to come up for lunch to discuss my book for a section of the publication.
First he and I took a tour of campus and admired the new buildings and facilities. I was taken with the library which had been carved out of an old building sporting a silo. As Mike joked, libraries are struggling in the digital age, but this was so welcoming I am sure it is heavily frequented.
I looked up at my dorm, it was just a beautiful brick building, it held no warmth for me.
After lunch at Peter Christian’s Tavern, another old haunt of mine, we parted ways and I went on in search of my memories. The school was so different and the student body so young that I just hadn’t felt the well of sweet affinity I thought would be there.
My next stop was the bookstore. As I was entering, the proprietress hailed two students on their way out. “Are you buying anything or just looking?” They were looking for a particular stuffed animal, the store didn’t carry. I noted the tension as she then turned to me. I introduced myself and cheerily went into my pitch about the memoir and my ties to town. She interrupted me saying, “Oh, self-published, no we only take those on consignment, how many do you have?” I attempted to explained the novel was available through the Ingram Trade Book Catalog and has a buy-back program for unsold copies. She swept her arm around the tiny story and said she had no room. She then proceeded to show me the space that local authors usually filled in the front window. It was being set up with Christmas cards (in September?) so the books were all piled in the rear of the store.
Needless to say, I was deflated. I tried to pump up my ego by thinking of things I should have said while leaving; such as “Well, when everyone in town is scrambling to read it, you will lose out to Amazon.” But I didn’t.
On to visit Twin Lake Villa. I had emailed Roger’s niece to try to arrange to drop off a signed copy in person. The season is over for the resort and most of the family is taking a well-earned vacation. I had agreed to leave it in a secure place for them when they returned. The drive out-of-town had changed little. My first sight of the lake lifted my spirits. But as I wound up the drive way, though the changes were small, I knew I would only get out of the truck long enough to leave the book. It didn’t feel like coming home after all these years, it felt like someone else’s home.
I drove back to Temple with a heavy heart. My expectations of distraction and solace had not been met. Then, I pulled up my driveway, saw my house and the mountain behind it. Home is where I am now, not somewhere else I think I can go to.