One of my brothers collects random pieces of old hotel china. He and I have not spoken of the exact nature of the lure these items have for him. His decorating instincts are impeccable, though, and mismatched plates and saucers appear in just the right places on walls or atop side tables in his New Orleans home.
My brother has not put into words for me the imaginative place to which these old dishes invite him. I can hear him say, "They're just fun."
I suspect there might be something lost for him in anyone's attempt to probe the secret behind a vanished hotel or its dinnerware. He may not even think there is a secret.
He might sigh with a hint of exasperation if he knew I was writing about the whole situation.
Hotels that are no more suggest long seasons that will never come back.
The Checkley House no longer stands on a promontory in Prout's Neck, Maine. A vivid evocation of the life that once swirled on the beaches below it came from the brush of Winslow Homer. The painter's studio was not far from the Checkley, and it was a member of his family who later linked the hotel to Homer's 1890 canvas Nuit d'été.
That summer night is over.
All the summer nights that guests at the Checkley had the good fortune to enjoy are over.
An old postcard is a way to summon a ghostly glimmer of those days and nights.
A piece of old Checkley House china might do the same.