This must be the place
I rolled the windows down and stuck my head out. The air was crisp and salty, with a slight hint of curious adventure. I was officially in Maine. Rolling back up the window, I turned to my parents, who had just picked me up at the Portland airport. We made small talk about how their vacation was going, how life is back home in Upstate New York, how my sister and little niece were doing.
I decided to come up to this part of New England for a few days last week, and for a few reasons, too. You see, this spot in Maine is where my family has been going to for a week or so every summer since 1972 (the year my parents got married). It isn’t a tourist trap, far from. It isn’t near any cities or sardine-can-packed beaches. It’s a sleepy fishing community way up the coast, tucked away in several silent coves along the ancient and mysterious Atlantic Ocean, roaring with all its might.
Personally, I’ve been coming to this same town every year since I was 6 months old. And since I moved to Western North Carolina in 2012, had yet to return to the landscape of my youth. They say “home” is where the most cherished memories of your childhood reside. For me, Maine represented that, and part of me was apprehensive about returning, seeing as “you can never go back home again.”
Our car meandered under midnight moonlight, through small villages asleep, only to be awakened in the coming hours to take on another day on the high seas of seafood. This is lobster country, where the people who tackle the open waters and haul their findings are as gritty and tough as the shoreline rocks upon which the ocean relentlessly unleashes its wrath.
My sister and niece were already in bed by the time we arrived at our cabin. Come morning, my eyes opened to the sounds of a little girl I had yet to meet, in essence. She was a newborn when I last saw her, for an hour as I passed through New York quickly for a wedding last summer. And here she was, Lucy, a rumble tumble toddler whose smile is only matched by her continual laughter. It was surreal to hold her, the newest member of our immediate family in over 28 years.
Since it was early, I decided to lace up my running shoes and hit the loop I used to cover when I was in middle and high school. The three-mile route rolls along hilly roads, through the tiny downtown and out along the ocean. The first few steps shoot by an old field I used to play in with other kids on vacation over the years, from other towns who I only saw once a year. I ran by beaches and cemeteries, each with a few more bodies than I remembered. Abandoned colonial homes now renovated, with once-new abodes growing old and awaiting someone to take a chance on them. I stopped at Shaw’s Wharf (the local social hub) and gazed out at an ocean that sparkled as if God himself accidently dropped a bag of diamonds over the cove.
That evening, my sister and I decided to go for drinks at the neighborhood bar with an old friend, Katie, who was also in town on vacation. A beloved person (whose family in Connecticut have become staples in my family’s circle), she and her brother stayed here every summer, too. For years as kids, we used to hangout together, keeping in touch after the summers were over, after our eventual graduations and after everyone scattered across the world.
It’s a pretty incredible feeling to still be on the same page with someone you’ve known for the better part of 20 years. We saluted our evening together, drinks held high, in celebration of Matt recently getting married, in memory of a joyful past in Maine, and in remembrance of Katie’s late cousin Andrew, another one of our summer chums, who had in recent years succumbed to a serious illness.
I found myself sitting on the porch that night, alone, sipping on a Geary’s Pale Ale and soaking into my chair. I was in the same cabin I’d been in as a youngster, amid the same folks that are only found in the depths of slumber these days or when I’m on some trek across America, pondering just what events brought me to this juncture of my existence. I wrestle often with the thoughts pinging around in my mind, notions and sentiments I peel back and try to make sense of. And yet, sometimes you can’t tame the cosmos, because there is a method to the madness of the heavens above, and all will be clear, in due time.
I took a deep breath and exhaled. My shoulders relaxed, as all thoughts of heartache, femme fatales, career longing and life dreams seemed to take a backseat to what was laid out right in front of me — the moment.