Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Celebration of Young Love


The Treehouse has had guests who’ve brought us gifts—homemade granola, pickles, jellies, English teas. But Elliot and Phyllis are the first guests who brought us ourselves.

We thought they were kidding when they emailed from their house half a mile down Quaker Street and asked if they could book a night in the Treehouse. How silly, I thought. They have a beautiful barn that they could use for a campout. But it was their anniversary and almost Elliot’s birthday, and they didn’t want to make their own breakfast and their own bed. They wanted to be treated.

Sure, I said. But you’d better come check out the ladder to the sleeping loft first. They’re septuagenarians in pretty good shape, but Elliot has tricky knees, and the weather looked to be sloppy—and a bit icy. But Phyllis said, no, they’d brave it. I like that attitude.

Even though they’ve known each other for fifty years, it was their tenth anniversary. They met at a party, but it was crowded and no place to talk. “Meet me in the kitchen at 11:11,” Elliot said. It was November 11. At 11:10 Phyllis wandered into the kitchen, not expecting to find Elliot, but there he was. They chatted. They connected.

One problem: Elliot was engaged to someone else. And Elliot is a man of integrity. He keeps his word.

Elliot married his fiancé. Phyllis got engaged and called off the ceremony two weeks before the wedding date. It didn’t feel right. For a while Elliot kept track of her, calling from time to time but always remaining true to his marriage. Eventually Phyllis married, even though it still didn’t seem right. Then, after twenty years, she ran away from home.

One day she was playing on her computer. Her daughter had taught her to use the internet. Suddenly a box popped up with an instant message: “Is this Phyllis from West Hartford?”

She was living in Cambridge and that morning had taken a jog along the Charles. Oddly, her thoughts had drifted to decades earlier, to Elliot. When the message appeared on the screen, she knew immediately—he had found her.

They were married on November 11, 2000.

There are some people you just know are meant for each other. When you’re with Phyllis and Elliot, you have no doubt. They address each other as “thee.” “Did thee remember thy sweater?” “Would thee like a cup of tea?” They hold hands. They giggle. They are, without doubt, in love.

Elliot, a retired teacher, is a wizard on the computer and a genealogy nut. This year he and Phyllis traveled to Finland to look up some of his relatives and check out his ancestry. Phyllis’s people go all the way back to William Brewster and the Mayflower. H has genealogy charts of both his father’s and mother’s ancestry, his father from Paul Revere and his mother from Robert the Bruce. Like Elliot, my own ancestors are harder to find. But Elliot found a hoard of them.

On both sides of my family, ancestors have been in Virginia since the 1700s. One of my relatives put a book together about my maternal grandmother’s family going back to the 13th century in Germany. My father’s family is more enigmatic, but it’s their names that are noteworthy. Moody Pack Bryant, Bathsheba, Patience, Nimrod (not the guy who led the building of the Tower of Babel), and my namesake, Grandma Louella.

We spent the evening talking about relatives, looking at pictures, bringing the dead to life. Then we joined them for dinner at the Bobcat and afterward had a nightcap and a little more sleuthing for my rum running relatives and Elliot’s ancestors, who include, according to his source, Robert Frost and Jane Austin. Then they tiptoed out to the treehouse, ready for their midnight adventure.

In the morning H and I rose early, expecting they would come in sleepless and grumpy. H made coffee. I heated up croissants and fried bacon. H made cheese omelets and kept them wrapped in a warm oven. And we waited.

At 8:00 Phyllis bounced in cherry-cheeked with Elliot grinning right behind her. They’d had a wonderful night’s sleep and were delighted to have squirrel visitors skittering over the Treehouse’s tin roof. I had put roses in the Treehouse for them and a gift—a beeswax pinecone candle. “We felt like kids,” Elliot said. “It felt like a celebration,” Phyllis chimed in.

That’s what it’s all about. Staying in a treehouse should make you feel like a kid, a kid with something to celebrate. On the card I left them, I wrote that the gift was in honor of anniversaries and birthdays and friendship. For H and me, that’s plenty of reason for celebration.

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