Love Paints the Way – Part II
The town of Snowbay is New Hampshire’s best kept secret. Growing up there was a dream and everytime Rebecca came home, she smiled in all her memories here. After establishing as its own town in 1962, with a population barely breaking 500 people – the town was named after the large grove of sugar maples in the town and quickly became a “fashionable Victorian resort” type of town. Attracting all kinds of die hard ski fans every winter to the state’s White Mountains and its many resorts that are nearby. Snowbay’s unique dining always did very well, including Rebecca’s parents who own the diner in town.
Walking to the front door, she realized that her parents may be at the diner. It was 11 pm on the night before Christmas Eve, when no one wanted to cook, so they were most likely still cleaning up from a busy night. That’s where Abby must be! That pup loved to go with them and during the summer months, you would see her sitting outside the front door, greeting customers with a friendly wagging tail. In her early years, her high energy always made the locals laugh and the tourists run!
Rebecca’s parents ran a great diner with delicious homemade and nutritious food that both her parents made. Everyone in town came for her mom’s buttermilk pancakes with warm maple syrup and baked goods from snickerdoodles to homemade donuts. Her dad’s dinner meals were mouthwatering and made everyone come back for more. She smiled as she rang the doorbell and after a few minutes with no answer, concluded that they were still closing up. Reaching down, she lifted one of the loose rocks that lined the walkway and sure enough – the spare key still sat there.
Letting herself in, Rebecca smelled the woody pine from the Christmas tree and what was probably remnants of cranberry. Most likely a holiday blend her mother was burning in her essential oil diffuser. Rebecca made a mental note to buy one for her apartment in Boston. It was so good to be home! For a moment, she wondered if she should text them and let them know she was home so they wouldn’t be startled when they came back, but she remembered her car would be a good enough warning anyway. Leaving her bags in the front hall by the stairs, she wandered into the living room and headed to the kitchen to get some water.
She picked up the framed photo of her high school graduation as she passed by the living room and looked at her parent’s smiling faces, so proud of her for a job well done. She focused in on her own eyes in the picture, which were filled with the excitement of going to college. Rebecca didn’t even recognize the girls smiling back at her. This young version of herself looked strong, confident and…happy. That was not all she was staring at in the photo, for she was holding a pencil sketch she made when she was about ten-years-old of her dad. That was the sketch that began her quest to become an artist. It had been years since she did a pencil sketch or any type of artwork for that matter. Rebecca put the picture back down, feeling defeated against her own self and who she was today. She halted that journey of growing as an artist and suddenly the weight of that hit her hard.
Just as Rebecca was making her way from the kitchen after retrieving a glass of water, the front door opened and her mother came bursting through the door with a huge smile on her face and Abby, their dog, on her heels.
“Becca! I knew that was your car! You’re home!” Her mom ran over to greet her daughter with a big hug. Rebecca bent down and Abby drowned her face with doggy kisses. Rebecca’s regret of all her life decisions suddenly seemed to vanish in the presence of her mom, whose smiles and excitement she couldn’t ignore.
The sounds of cabinets shutting woke Rebecca the next morning and after remembering where she was, she sat up. Abby shifted on the floor beside her and sat up with her. She may only be home occasionally now, but Abby always chose her to sleep with regardless. Stretching, she realized all her aches and pains were now fully gone – he had never felt better! There were no more signs of the flu and whenever she was home, she slept sound. Her sleep seemed to be more restorative and deeper while home, and she always woke up with as much energy as a teenager.
Glancing at the clock, it was 9:00 a.m. Her parents should both be knee-deep in pancake orders and endless refills of coffee. Who was downstairs? She got out of bed and a chill ran through her. Mountain air felt nice to breathe in but it was sure cold – colder than the wind tunnels of Boston! Slipping on a sweater she pulled out of her bag, she headed downstairs. The cranberry smell hit her once again on the stairs and it smelled so good!
Her mother was bent over in the refrigerator, filling up her bag with avocados and lemons. Rebecca stared at her for a moment…what was she doing?
“You aren’t going to make pancakes with lemons now are you, mom?” Her mom jumped, nearly banging her head on the drawer.
“Becca! You scared me!” Her mother stood all the way up and closed the drawer. She went on. “We are out of lemons and it seems the whole town is a bit sick and wants lemon tea. Our supply is dwindling by the second. But feeling ill apparently doesn’t stop them from coming in enjoying some pancakes while spreading germs! And the skiers are all asking for avocado on the side. Since when do diners serve things like that? I can’t keep up with these city folk! I needed more lemons, so I came here instead of the store. Do you want me to get you anything? If you want to help at the diner, there’s still plenty of time left.”
“Sorry I didn’t get up sooner! There’s something about being home, I sleep like a bear in the winter. I will head into the diner soon. I can already taste your cinnamon roll pancakes!”
“Oh, Dad saved a batch of those for you in the back. The kids are plowing through those and I ran out of cinnamon already and I just looked and we ran out here too!”
“Well I better get some more for you! I’ll stop at the store before I get there. What else do you need?”
“You are a lifesaver Becca! Grab like 10 more lemons just in case. Maybe a few more avocados. Oh and flour! I am running dangerously low and if we run out of the makings for pancakes on our annual Christmas Eve pancake breakfast, it’ll turn into an avocado with tea breakfast only! This year is more packed than usual! Lot’s of out of towners must be at the resorts for Christmas this year.”
Thirty minutes later, Rebecca was dressed and standing in line at the store. The storm was bringing everyone in early to shop for Christmas dinner and while she was getting dressed, her mother texted her with ten more things to get realizing that the storm would prevent her from getting things they might need later. Rebecca sent a quick reply and started mindlessly scrolling through her Facebook feed.
“It can’t be the famous Rebecca Campbell in front of me could it?”
Turning around, Rebecca found herself face to face, staring into familiar eyes. It was her high school art teacher, Mr. McGrady. All the feels seemed to hit her at once, but the biggest one was an uneasy sense of anxiety. She hadn’t seen him since she graduated and left for college, with high hopes on becoming an oil painter. He was her biggest fan. No, scratch that – she had in fact seen him around town, but was always able to avoid any encounters until this moment. Her heart began racing. Would she find the right words for what she knew he was about to ask her? Why can’t she just stand up and be confident? After all, she wasn’t lazy or sitting around doing nothing.
“How good to see you again! How are you? And I bet by now you have some amazing paintings. I can’t wait for you to tell me everything. Every now and then, a student will come into my class that will blow the other students out of the water with their artistic skill, but no-one has been able to impress me like the infamous Rebecca Campbell!” He smiled at his student he mentored long ago.
Rebecca felt heat in her ears and her mouth went dry.
“Mr. McGrady! Wow it has been some time since we have seen each other!” Rebecca looked down at her hands and swallowed, not sure what to say next. Luckily he jumped in.
“You don’t have to call me ‘Mr. McGrady’ anymore, Becca. Call me Paul and I’ll say! I think I saw you a few times around town over the years, but you must have been busy because before I could catch you, you always vanished!” Paul winked at her with a smile.
“I can’t wait to hear all about your latest work! I’ve tried to look you up a few times on social media, but I’m not very good at all that and could never find you,” he laughed.
“Well, I…,” Rebecca started to say something but he cut her off.
“So happy we are finally face to face! How long are you in town for? Are you free to grab some coffee and chat after we get our groceries?” He stared at her intently, looking hopeful.
Why is this line moving at a snail’s pace? Her mind was racing for words to get her out of the conversation. She was so shaky and nervous, that she started to sweat. She felt ridiculous being so nervous. Why won’t the words just come? After all, there is nothing wrong with just telling him the truth. So what that she hadn’t picked up a paintbrush since college and had worked her way up a very respected company in Boston.
As she stared at her old teacher, still fumbling for an answer, something suddenly hit her. It wasn’t Mr. O’Grady who needed an answer – it was her who needed one. Why wasn’t she pursuing her passion for painting?