The Little Girl at the Lighthouse

A Love Story

In the second grade we had a habit of being hyper welcoming to new kids in our school. Whereas some places the kids shun or make fun of strangers, we counted it a privilege to get to show the new kid around and be their friend. When my second grade year started there were a few new kids in our school. One of them was a little girl with blonde hair and dimples.

The girls were quick to accept her and show her the ropes. They were quick to befriend her and take her into their play times. The boys were welcoming, too. And she was a friendly person and was quick to laugh.

I think it was the freckles on her nose, splashed between light blue eyes that made me stare sometimes. She wore skirts and knee socks, but she could swing on the monkey bars, too.

We became friends and spent time together in class and on the playground. They teased me a little, but I was tough enough to take it. I was friends with several of the girls. Being an only child, I played with whoever I fell in with. My mother did not let me play favorites.

After a while I told my mother about my friend. My new step-father heard the last name, Gunn, which was unique in our town, and said that he had met her father. My parents thought it was cute that we were friends and soon they announced that we would visit them one Saturday afternoon.

They didn’t tell me any more about it and I didn’t think to ask much; I was just happy to be seeing her. As we drove to her house, we went out past Knollwood beach and over to the entrance to Fenwick. I wasn’t familiar with that area, so I was very curious about everything as we slowly meandered through the neighborhood.

Finally, we were out at the water’s edge and we pulled up at the Lynde Point Light. Mr. Gunn was a keeper and he lived in the old duplex next to the light, which was Coast Guard housing. It astonished me, just the effect my parents were hoping for.

Lynde Point Light

When you hear about a keeper at a lighthouse, you don’t get a picture in your head of a man, his wife, and three children living in a duplex. You think of an old guy wearing a sou’wester and smoking a pipe while he battles the elements to keep the light lit.

Recently, I’ve considered writing a children’s book about this girl’s life at the lighthouse. It was somewhat romantic, a little adventurous, but mostly normal. The kids went to school in town. The family shopped at our grocery store. They had a yard. And their house, on the inside, was more like an apartment in the village than a little shack on a crag.

But it still made me feel special. Knowing someone who lived at a lighthouse was very cool in 1971. Better than swimming with dolphins and almost as good as having a bear for a pet. And for all intents and purposes, considering our age and the fickleness of seven-year-olds, she was my girlfriend. We were friends for several years, even though we both moved away from Old Saybrook by the end of third grade.

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