Because we have so little time for non-work-related pleasure, we Americans try to make good use of our vacation time. Especially since 9/11, I’ve noticed a change in the kind of bookings we’ve had at the Hovey House. Bed and Breakfast visitors have always searched us out as one of the most beautiful establishments on Cape Ann. But this past summer we had more groups interested in whole house rentals. The occasions: family reunions, wedding accommodations for the bride and groom’s families, a memorial get-together for a beloved grandfather, a 92nd birthday party (the honoree was accompanied by her 85 year-old boy friend!), a friends’ reunion, a mothers’ weekend escape, a writers’ retreat, and more.
Not that this gathering of nearest and dearest is altogether a new thing. There was a group of women who came in August who had shared the 20th floor of a dorm at UMass. They’ve been leaving the kids with their husbands and going off for a Girls’ Weekend for 19 years!
But a tragedy like 9/11 makes us notice anew what is most important and valuable in our lives. My guests seem to be affirming that time spent with those we love is what it’s all about. Two years ago I had a group of wine connoisseurs’ who came for a weekend to “roast” their parish priest on his 5Oth birthday. I never heard so much laughter at the table as I heard that night. They enjoyed an elegant, black tie dinner, with fine wines from their own cellars, illuminated, as it would have been back in the day, only by candlelight.
This stunning villa was built by Charles Fox Hovey in 1845 as a summer “cottage” (as opulent summer mansions were called back then) overlooking Gloucester Harbor. The Hoveys were a distinguished family, with branches sprawling all over New England. I have a sepia-tinted photo of the house, circa Civil War era, with Hoveys at every door and window. They must have had some family get-togethers (the house sleeps fourteen— or more! —comfortably.)
Today, when the house is full to the rafters with happy people, I think Ol’ Charlie must be looking down from his cloud and smiling.