Saturday, November 6, 2010


I make a detour to drive over to the Profile Club. It is closed for the season but there is no gate to bar me. The old clubhouse, nearly as old as the even smaller clubhouse at the Sunset, seems unchanged in any way except a new roof that uses asphalt, rather than wood, for its shingles. Nothing of any importance different since my young days except for the installation of a small swimming pool on the other side of the dirt driveway that passes the clubhouse.

I drive down to the old pond near the fairway where we used to swim. As in the summer, I am looking for memories. I want to play with the picture of myself at not quite 16 standing on a diving board the day Ellyse made her first appearance on a small rocky beach down to the left from where I was standing. I was wearing a brimmed canvas hat I had purchased at a hardware store in Littleton. Showing off, I dove into the water with the hat on, and I swam nearly to the beach underwater, shooting up out of the water to introduce myself to this new pretty girl.

I see now that the pond is still there, but many years must have passed since anyone has been swimming in it. You can hardly see the water for the tall reeds that have grown up. It must have been abandoned when the swimming pool went in. Yet this is still the very pond that is always somewhere in my mind, and it does bring a vivid memory, though not the memory I had planned to conjure up. The scene in my head now is a different one from that same time that will never go away. 

Poor Todd Baines. He is here at our swimming place at the Profile Club. Terri in her sexy green two-piece bathing suit has just been making a gesture with her index finger and little finger that must be something sexual, since she, at 14, is so well developed she must be very advanced. And Ellyse is here, so young and beautiful. And some of the others, the younger Conrad’s and Colby’s, big families with big summer houses, who had been my childhood summer friends in the White Mountains and were now, in their stages of adolescence, as tall as their elders.

Their elders out on the golf course. Men with liver spots on their balding heads, gray haired women in long skirts, with bags of golf clubs each of which is protected by a little knitted sock. Some of the men are very old and here all summer, others not quite so old work in the city and come up on the weekends in Pullman sleeper cars on the overnight train from Grand Central.

It feels to me these old people are being eclipsed by our summer gang – Kyle and Larry and Tom and Ted and Ron and Daniel, and these girls I have known for so long who suddenly look like women. Terri and Ellyse and all the others, Nancy and June, and Cassie and Marge, and on and on, here as we are all coming into lives that I think I know will not be like the small lives of the often pretentious people we come from. I make allowances, but I know they are pretentious, for I am a big reader.

And here is Todd Baines, with an ear-to-ear, buck-tooth grin, in a category by himself, not connected to the older people, and certainly not to us. We have all heard how he was wounded in childbirth by an incompetent doctor who wielded forceps clumsily. One of the many misfortunes to have overtaken the Baines family – right up there with Judge Baines dying before his pension was due, and so old Mrs. Baines, whom no one knew did not have family money, lives a small life in a cold little house, and confident, good-looking Karen Baines, her daughter, is doing something in the fashion business in New York that has tongues up here wagging. It does not take much to get the tongues wagging in this place which is grandiose but so tiny. It was a big subject when it turned out someone in one of the old summer houses had placed on each bed, of all things, an electric blanket. As if they were criminals.

Todd goes out on the shaky little diving board near a sluiceway where water runs off from the spring fed pond. He is wearing old-time swimming trunks that seem to come down to his knobby knees. With a big smile, he leaps off, grabs his knees, hits the water with a loud splash – and from the far shore he is being applauded. Not applauded by people making fun of him. But really applauded by someone who is enthusiastic. A big floppy woman with ribbons in her hair and bright flowers portrayed on her summer dress. Acting way younger than her age.

She is clapping with all her might. And people are telling each other the news that this woman is, of all things, Todd’s wife. 

I am amazed about the enthusiasm of this woman and amazed that the young people here are not making fun of her and Todd out loud. He seems as outside the accepted world here as I was when I started boarding school and found myself the most unpopular boy, and the slowest too, in my class. By now it has changed. Still, I am amazed to see Todd happy. At nearly 16 I have become a champion boarding school debater, and I have decided I am a socialist and a pacifist – and will never be like so many of these people I come from. And I will have beautiful women, like the women Ellyse and Terri are becoming, not like the ladies with socks on the heads of their golf clubs. I am not like these people. And yet I seem to hear myself saying to myself that Todd Baines can’t do that. Todd can’t get married. Todd can’t have happiness.

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