When the hunters and others that paid the higher, seasonal rate were gone, my family was able to move in to an apartment in McCafferty’s Hotel for the rest of the winter. The hotel was a square building with two stories and wood siding stained golden brown. At the intersection of the King’s Highway and Donegal Bay Road, it was a block from the school, a block from the road that ran along the harbor, walking distance to church, post office and the Shamrock Bar & Restaurant, where I worked. The main door faced Donegal Bay Road. Inside, doors to the left or right led to downstairs apartments. The hall continued straight ahead to two other apartments at the rear. A stairway led upstairs to four more units. An outside stairway in the back led down to a laundry area.
Our apartment sat on the front corner of the upstairs. The door entered in to the living space, with the eat-in kitchen on the right, living room on the left, with large windows looking out over the treetops and the downtown area. At the back of that room, a short hallway led to two bedrooms and a bathroom. The walls were dark paneling. Floors were tile in the kitchen and bath, carpet in the other rooms. Furniture was already there. We added our own TV and stereo, a few books, photographs and pieces of art to make it feel like home. We were becoming pretty good at this gypsy lifestyle!
An elderly lady, the mother, perhaps, of “Bing” McCafferty, who had built the hotel, lived in one of the downstairs apartments. She’d had two husbands, and I can’t remember which one was last. She went by either “Grandma Mooney” or “Grandma McCafferty.” She popped in to see us on our first day there. She didn’t knock before she came in.
“At my age, I go where I want, no matter what,” she explained.
She told my girls to call her “Grandma.”
“I’m old enough to be everyone’s Grandma!” she said, gleefully.
She presented us with a housewarming gift: a fat crocheted tube that was designed to hide a spare roll of toilet paper. It was made of a couple colors of variegated yarn with a fluffy pompom on top, and large shell stitches around the bottom. “This is so pretty,” we gushed as we thanked her for her thoughtfulness.
“Too pretty for the bathroom,” she agreed, “Keep it right there on that coffee table, where everyone can appreciate it.”
So it was that for the duration of the time that we lived in McCafferty’s Hotel, we listened closely for the sound of footsteps in the hall. We perfected a little relay. Whoever was closest to the bathroom grabbed the little crocheted toilet paper holder from the back of the stool, tossed it to the next person who tossed it to the next one who placed it back in its place of honor on the coffee table…before “Grandma” turned the knob and walked in without knocking.
Now that I’m older, I think of all the energy we spent being on constant alert and racing to get that little object in place. I don’t think I have changed enough to not care about her feelings. My timidity would probably still not allow me to refuse to display it. I think, today, I would simply leave it on the coffee table!