“Springtime at the Station,” a Memoir

By Ryan Matthews

   It was the last weekend in the month of April. Blissfully, on that Saturday, I awoke to filtered morning sunshine streaming into my room; strong rays of light were piercing around the corners of the drawn bedroom blinds.
    I rousted to a standing stretch, my feet automatically finding my slippers and then sliding into them as I hit the floor. I followed the aroma from the preset coffeepot already perking, enticing me with the scent of freshly roasted beans and leading me downstairs to the kitchen. As I pushed open the swinging door, the glow of the early day illuminated the entire room.     
    I walked to the counter and reached up, raising the window — to my surprise feeling the incoming air as a cool splash, rather than a balmy light wind. Having poured the brew into my favorite mug, I sipped on the hot java, officially starting my day. Opening the patio doors, the rays from the sunshine seemed warmer than the brisk breezes I had felt from the kitchen windows.
    There are sounds of spring and life jumping from branch to branch, ivory flowers on the dogwoods and pink blossoms in the cherry trees offering cover and camouflage to the flitting birds.
    Coffee in hand I gazed around my yard, spotting the green and yellow sprouts of the returning tulips and daffodils. Suddenly the ringing from the portable phone interrupts my daydreaming; I instinctively press the talk button, offering an exceptionally cheerful “Good morning.”
    Surprisingly I get an equally pleasant, “ Hello Matthew, I am so glad I was able to get you and not your voicemail. I hope that I didn’t call too early and wake you on this glorious morning!”        
    Immediately I recognized Gail’s voice, and appreciate the kind sentiment as having a familiar ring. As a child I was often woken with similar words. “Wake up children, it’s a glorious day to be alive,” Nana would proclaim as she opened the shutters in the bedroom.
     “Oh Gailie,” I offered playfully, “I was just thinking about you.” It had recently occurred to me that with the onset of spring weather, like other proprietors Gail would be opening her place for the season.
     “Yes, I was counting on you for tonight, it’s opening night at the Bistro and we are shorthanded again.” Gail owned the Station Bistro, located at the end of Station Road. I had become her friend and her standby; I was always willing to fill in when she found herself short-staffed at this charming inn.
    The brick building at the end of the gravel road in Water Mill was built about 1911. It was once a bustling railroad station, where the building doubled as a ticket office and waiting room. The property was left abandoned in the 1960s, a remnant of a lost era of rail travel. The place stood vacant and in disrepair until being resurrected as a restaurant.
    The Station was an intimate dining spot offering French fare in a charming country setting. The location, off the highway, with the patrons having to drive down a long gravel road, added some hidden speakeasy-style secrecy to the shabby-chic destination. 
      The allure of the reincarnated railroad station swept people away, turning back time as they entered the authentic bar car, embracing a bit of old-world glamour and even mystery. After all, how many of us have been intrigued by the possibilities of dining or riding on the Orient Express?
    Gail had mastered the art of making people feel like they all were celebrities. She was a skilled hostess, drawing on her 20 years as a stewardess for the once famed Pan Am airlines. All of the Bistro’s guests were welcomed as though they were first-class passengers.
    The charm of the place was inherent to the structure itself. In addition to the original bar car, the main building’s ticket window was used as a service area; the waiting room, with its domed ceiling, was a comfy main dining area.  In the dining room all the tables were covered by handmade green and white plaid tablecloths.  Single bud vases held a tulip stem, adding a splash of delicate pinks and yellows to contrast the green cloths. The cabinets in the corner of the room held large vases of seasonal fresh flowers — this time of year they were forsythia with their yellow blooms indiscriminatingly placed in the vases, long stems almost weeping as if they didn’t care.
    To many, the atmosphere in the room conjured up a Hollywood movie set, and that atmosphere was enhanced by the array of wealthy society types and movie star patrons who frequented the chic epicurean hideaway.
     “Yes, Gail, of course I’ll see you, tonight, 4:30,” I said. “Wonderful to see you then, Matthew,” Gail closed our conversation with her best Pan Am voice.
    I must admit that, pulling onto the Bistro property and passing through the alley of old maple trees, the scent of honeysuckle in the air lingers sweetly in memory. So, once again on that Saturday night I walked by the flowerbeds at the front door bursting with a plethora of colored pansies, richly fragrant, the plantings almost as inviting as the candlelit tables and sounds of “La Vie en Rose” playing.
    It felt like opening night, and it felt like spring again at the Station Bistro.

   Ryan Matthews, a Bridgehampton resident, retired from a mortgage banking career.