Missing Markers




At least it's better than you can't get there from here.Person from Away: "How do I get to John and Mary Smith's house?"New Hampshire Native: "Keep on down this road and take a left where the apple tree used to be."In our family, our favorite example of such landmarks is a barn in West Rumney on Route 25 that we drove past when my parents (Dan and Ernestine/Ernie) and sister Penny and I went from our home in Laconia to visit Nana, Dan's mother, in Orford. My first memories of these trips are set in the 1940s, the car a pre-War gray Mercury.Such visits were rather formal affairs, with "luncheon," not lunch, so there was some unwilling dolling up before we left. Dan was apt to put on a sport jacket and a tie, Ernie wore a good dress, and Penny and I were as sugar-and-spice as possible. During the drive apprehension was in the air (along with Dan's and Ernie's cigarette smoke).It wasn't like the drives down to Lexington, Mass., to visit Ernie's parents, which engendered an excited yet comfortable feeling. But I tried to find comfort in familiar landmarks. A major one was a big barn with advertising on it, traditional with some barns on main roads. What was the ad for? Tobacco, I seem to recall, or am I just remembering trying not to be carsick when the cigarette smoke got too much?After the visit at the handsome house on what's known as the Ridge, we climbed back in the Mercury and drove away, heaving sighs of relief. Dan would whip off his tie; Penny and I would rejoice that we hadn't spilled our finger bowls; Ernie would have a few choice observations about her mother-in-law. In summertime we stopped at Lower Baker Pond, changed into the bathing suits Ernie had brought and went for a swim. You had to walk far out in the pond to get deep enough, unlike at the beach we frequented on Lake Winnipesaukee.Then back into the car. We continued along Route 25A to 25, where we went past that barn again.As the years passed we watched the barn decay. I grew up and married Don MacDougall, who was interested in the barn because his mother's family was from Rumney, though he had no relatives he knew of still living there and had never seen the barn until I introduced him to it.After Nana died we took that route less often, so the disintegration of the barn was more obvious whenever we saw it. Finally we saw that the barn had completely collapsed.But it's still a landmark. Nowadays we drive over that way for Don's various visits to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon. The junction with Route 118, which leads to Route 4 to Lebanon, is just beyond the barn. As he drives along Route 25, Don sometimes says, "Haven't we gone past that junction?""Nope," I say. "We haven't yet reached where that barn used to be."He knows precisely what I mean. NH
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