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Notes Left Behind in a Hanover Desk

  • “I think it was kind of a thrill for people to discover,” Stella Baer said of the notes. She is a 2003 Dartmouth graduate who once worked at Rosey’s Cafe. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • It began with one note left in a desk at Rosey’s Cafe for Craig Parker, and that led to another, and another ... (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • The Original Note (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Good-Bye and Good luck (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Chocolate is Good (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • The World Is Changing So Much (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • One of the last notes left for Craig. (Valley News — James M. Patterson)
  • Warmest Greetings (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Valuable Info (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Who Are You!!! (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • What Are Your Views (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Mon Cher Craig (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Yes - No - Maybe (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • I Don't Know You (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Merry Christmas (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Hi Dad (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • I'm New To This (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Where Are You Today (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Important Stuff (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Spring Friends (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • We're Sitting at Your Table (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

By 2003, Craig Parker had been living in Hanover for a decade and had become a fixture in Rosey’s Cafe. Every morning, he sat at the same table at the window to read and reflect.

So when Libby Bloom and Heather Spooner sat down in the window seat on Feb. 4, 2003, they thought of it as Craig’s table. Both were recent college graduates who had come to Hanover to work for Parker, who headed up a Dartmouth College chapter of The Navigators, a Christian organization that ministers to students, from 1990 to 2007.

For reasons that now are unclear, Bloom, now Libby Hunt, noticed that the table — an art deco kitchen table with an enamel top and two pullout leaves — had a drawer. It was empty, and she and Spooner, now Heather Sheldon, decided to leave a note and see how long it took Parker to find it.

Hi Craig,

We’re sitting at your table. Just wanted to send you the warmest greetings & to see if you’d find this. So, good morning.

Libby & Heather

He didn’t find it. By the time they told him it was there, and he looked in the drawer, two more notes had been left, by people who had no idea who the mysterious “Craig” might be.

So Craig wrote them a haiku in return:

“Surprised”

by Craig

Spring friends: Lexi, Claire

Sarah, Sarah, Heather, Lib.

Some known less. Some more.

For the next decade, until Rosey’s Cafe and Rosey Jekes, its parent clothing store upstairs, were closed on Dec. 31, visitors who opened the drawer, or who were told about its contents, read the notes and often left their own. Some were friends of Craig, but most were people who never knew the man to whom they were writing. They wrote on napkins, ticket stubs, loose leaf paper, fancy stationery and in a little yellow notebook left in the drawer. Their notes are by turns heartfelt and personal, querulous, funny, witless and merely friendly. Most were written in English, but there’s at least one in French, one in German and another in what looks like Russian.

“I still haven’t read them all,” Parker said in a recent interview. By the time Rosey’s closed, there was a thick stack of notes in the drawer, dozens of them.

The idea that the original note would multiply “never even crossed my mind,” said Heather Sheldon, a graduate of Carleton College who now lives in Massachusetts.

“I think there’s something mysterious about a drawer in a table in a public place,” she said.

“I guess it says a lot about people and their desire to investigate and their willingness to participate,” even in something they don’t know anything about, said Libby Hunt, who now lives in Columbus, Ohio.

Craig himself was very much a presence in the notes, often answering the more inquisitive authors.

I don’t understand. Who are you? Do you like my graph paper? -K

I went to engineering school, I love it! Craig

He once left a stand-alone note, dated March 27, 2004:

Yes this is the real Craig. I sit at this table nearly every morning. The correspondence over the past 13 months astounds me. I know only two of you.

This is a great little drawer — full of love and laughter. I look forward to hearing from more of you.

Affectionately, Craig.

The notes also illustrate a truism about what once was called “cafe society.” A place like Rosey’s Cafe, a private business that’s open to the public, takes on a life of its own, and belongs as much to its patrons as to its owner.

Kenny Fabrikant opened the cafe after doing clothing design work in Europe. “Selfishly, I wanted that kind of European ambiance,” he said in an interview in his former clothing store.

The cafe was quiet, well-lighted and populated by regular customers. “Every day I could count on the same 40-odd people,” Fabrikant said.

Many of them were from The Navigators, who adopted the cafe as a sort of clubhouse. Many members worked at Rosey’s and the evangelical group organized the occasional after-hours coffeehouse with live music and readings. Parker’s role was to read notes from the drawer.

Fabrikant said he’s not particularly religious. He called Parker “a goodness guy,” and Parker said Fabrikant would tell him to “send me your people” to work behind the counter.

Stella Baer, a 2003 Dartmouth graduate and a Navigator, worked at Rosey’s and left a note in the drawer for Craig, a rhyming riddle about who was leaving the note.

“I think it was kind of a thrill for people to discover,” Baer said of the notes. For several years after graduation she visited Hanover, and Craig’s table, every six months or so. “It just grew and grew and grew,” she said.

Not many of the notes were dated, so it’s hard to know when the greatest volume of notes were deposited. They seem to have tapered off some in 2011 and 2012, but a couple of notes remark on the cafe’s closing.

“hi Craig,” begins one from Nov. 17, 2012.

I have sat at this desk before, and only just today had the curious urge to open the drawer and see if any magic was in there. I am thrilled to see this drawer flooded with magic, with beautiful notes from many years passed.

Rosey’s is closing soo. I have been a fond customer since I first visited Dartmouth w/ my dida in 2008(!). I will graduate this June (‘13). Here, a parting gift.

Let all your magic live on.

— Christine

Fabrikant said he closed Rosey’s after long consideration. He and his wife, Jeanne, were ready to do something else. The cafe space is being renovated to house a tapas restaurant, and Fabrikant is searching for an upstairs tenant.

When word got out that the store and cafe would close, a pair of former Navigators, Dan and Sarah Stulac, retrieved the notes and sent them to Parker. Since 2007, Parker and his wife, Nancy, have been leading the Navigators chapter at Boston University and working for the national organization, which is based in Colorado. Parker said he thinks the notes would make a good coffee table book. When the Valley News contacted him, he put them in an envelope and mailed them to West Lebanon.

The table, its drawer now empty, is still in the former store. Craig Parker still cherishes the time he spent sitting in the cafe, the sun streaming in the windows, cherry blossoms on the trees that line the terrace.

“It was a time of solitude for me,” he said. “It was like heaven for me when I was there.”

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3219.

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