12 January

Honeymoon Artifact Recovered: Love In Paul Newman’s Favorite Room

by Jon Katz

Maria and I got married in 2010, nine rich and meaningful years ago.

We left our big barn wedding and ran off to a two- night honeymoon. It was about all we could afford, it was at the Grafton Inn in Grafton, Vt., a historic, lovingly restored and determinedly beautiful and expensive.

The three story wood and brick building was historic, it was built in 1805, and expanded in the 1860’s.  It has been faithfully renovated and upgraded.

Ulysses Grand stayed there, Daniel Webster, Nathaniel Hawthorne and a long list of great writers and politicians. They served excellent food in a stuffy dining room,, a lot of rich and older WASP’s in attendance. I remember being one of the youngest people in the dining room, and one of the most disheveled. The staff treated me like a royal prince, when they learned it was our honey moon, dinner was on them.

The desk clert was friendly and attentive, the rooms were perfect. It was a good place for a honeymoon,  off the beaten track and beautiful. We were excited, enthralled. And smitten.

Maria and I were both beginning our new lives together. We were so happy, and I’m so grateful that this is still true. It is nothing short of a miracle to me.

We loved our room.

It was a bit upscale for us, but we loved it all the more for that.

We were given Room 12, which, the desk clerk proudly told us, was the actor Paul Newman’s favorite room when he stayed at the Grafton Inn, which was often.

It was a beautiful room, actually a  suite of rooms – a bedroom, a sitting room, a huge bathroom with a giant tub. Maria insisted we take a bubble bath together, the tub was more than big enough for both of us, and I remember her reading Shirley Jackson stories to me, as we both lay shrouded in bubbles up to our necks.

We spent two days there, loving one another,  just luxuriating in each another and in our new marriage, a rebirth, the beginning of our new lives, a resurrection for us both. We were saved.

I could not believe my good fortune, I still can’t.  When we got home, Maria gave me this small sketch, about 2 1/2 inches by 4 1/2 inches, which I saw her drawing while we sat reading on Paul Newman’s favorite hotel sofa.

The sketch is of the Room 12 Sitting Room, with desk, sofas and chairs, by a window.

I loved the sketch, Maria wrote a note to me on the back of it and I put it in my wallet.

I meant to carry it around everywhere, as a reminder of our live and our time in Paul Newman’s room.

Over these years, I forgot about it, until I had reason to clean out my wallet searching for something a few weeks ago, and it dropped out, faded but still distinct. My heart filled with love and memories of those indescribably sweet and hopeful days. It felt then that  we had both been given a new lease on life, and that was true. After a lifetime of searching, we had run across one another, right across the street from each other in remote West Hebron, N.Y.

Today, we took the sketch to a framer in East Arlington, Vt. I picked out a special frame and matte. I was pretty fussy about the frame and the glass, the frame will cost $169. Maria brought a Rachel Barlow oil painting to frame, it cost $60. I got an easel backing so I can stand it up right next to my computer while I work. I don’t really have a good place on the wall to put it.

I am so grateful to have re-discovered this most beautiful and evocative thing. I can’t wait to get it home and look at it.

I’m nine years older than I was on that honeymoon, but just as smitten, just as happy, just as much in love. My heart still lifts when I look at Maria and think about us, and what we have done together and plan to do. Miracles do happen, love is the point, she is a true soulmate and lover, something I never expected to find in my life again.

I  can still connect with the remarkable feeling we had in Paul Newman’s room. We put some dreadfully painful years behind us and joined hands and souls to set out to build a life built meaning and connection and trust and love, these feelings are just as strong today as they were in 2010 – an awful lot has happened between then and now.

We do not seek or have a perfect life, no marriage is free of conflict or accommodation. The joy comes more for me from working things out than having nothing to work out.  When we have trouble, we set right to work working things out. We alway have.

In 2010, we began our lives anew, we re-dedicated ourselves to a life of meaning and creation every single day. We vowed not to waste a single day of our life together, we had lost so many years.

Paul Newman’s  favorite room marked the official beginning of that journey for me, it was a great gift to rediscover the joy and thrill of that experience. My sketch, with special non-glare, museum glass, will keep the memory of that beginning right in front of me, where I cannot lose sight of it again.

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