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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Granite State of Mind, #80: Kingston 1686 House, Kingston

It would be 25 years before I'd go back

Talking about senior prom the other day got me thinking about...well, about junior prom. 25 years ago next month, we decked out the Talbot Gym in black plastic trash bags and white Christmas lights, and somehow a bridge and carriage for the grand promenade and photos. To this day, I don't know how Amy Kuegel MacDougall and her dad pulled it off. It was a legendary feat of event planning that she probably regrets to this day, with her lifetime appointment as logistics queen for the Class of 1993.

So we had our Night of Enchantment, or Tranquility, or Tranquil Enchantment. Afterwards I can recall heading to the afterparty at Sarah Boddy-Snee's house (driving through Brentwood in the middle of the night, I maintain that I saw a bear cub trotting along the road), and the next morning backing into Matthew DeBlois's car in his driveway. But among all the vivid memories, pride of place goes to the dinner beforehand. In May of 1992 I was about to turn 17, and this was the first real "fancy" dinner I can remember, scarlet cumberbund carefully arranged folds-up to catch the crumbs, color-coordinated with my date Brandy Gosselin's Jessica Rabbit dress. (Hey, I'd have taken you, Sarah, but you were what, eleven? Even in New Hampshire, there are limits.)

We drove out to Kingston, which might as well have been in Vermont for this novice driver in the family Pontiac 6000LE, the old white stallion. We met up with three other couples at the restaurant, and what a strange gathering it was: Nate Oxnard and his pinch-hitting , good-soldier date Kate Wade; Emily Forgy and Jamie Cullinane; and Jeff DiBartolomeo and his date, a Raymond High girl, if memory serves, with a name that hasn't endured over the decades. And what restaurant did we choose? The ancient Kingston 1686 House, well over 300 years old, the oldest surviving house in Kingston and one of the oldest in the country. There are linden trees outside that were planted alongside American Independence, by first NH Governor and delegate to the Continental Congress Josiah Bartlett (no, not that one, the real one).

So we ate in that historic building, a restaurant since 1972. We were running late and had to hurry, but even so, I can clearly remember that Nate and I had determined to order something ridiculously expensive. There was a Chateaubriand steak for thirty-nine bucks , and I ordered it. It was the most I'd ever spent on a piece of meat, and this thing was massive, a thick log-shaped chunk of beef that I devoured, and it tasted all the better because it would take a day of tree work with my dad to pay for it.

We ran late getting from Kingston to Exeter - I think I got lost, having not yet mastered the vagaries of Route 111. I've never been back to the Kingston House. I prefer to remember what a full day's wage tasted like, and to savor the sense of reckless freedom that comes with the cusp of seventeen with a car and a girl and few bucks in your rented pockets.

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