Coming Home to Maine
Jun 8, 2008
In 1973, when I was eighteen years old, I hopped onto my new Raleigh Super Course bicycle and rode off quite literally into the sunset, leaving my home state of Maine behind. I was headed for the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and then onward to California. I had two hundred dollars in my pocket, and absolutely no idea how I was going to survive. What were my parents thinking? They must have been shuddering in their boots.
I spent two weeks on the road, going up and down the hills of the less-traveled byways, through Maine and New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I ate romantic bread and cheese, and met many kind people. A young lady in Massachusetts allowed me to stay a night in her apartment and treated me entirely platonically, for which I’m very grateful now.
I finally reached a summer house in western Connecticut, owned by my Aunt Mingy, who lived in Manhattan. I stayed there for two weeks, and read The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm and a book by J. Krishnamurti. I was looking for something, I knew not what. After visiting my aunt in Manhattan, I decided to stay in the Big Apple. I found it fascinating, so my bicycle was packed away in a shed in New York, where it eventually disappeared, I know not how.
I never went to New Orleans, but reached California many years later. I traveled here and there and in between, and along the way I got married to my lovely bride, Kimmy Sophia. We settled in Virginia, and gazed in astonishment at the statues of Confederate generals. We were Yankees, and the South was a new experience. Our four children were born in Richmond, and learned how to say, “Mama, kin I go out on the po-orch?” “Y’all” became as comfortable as an old shoe, as we moved from Richmond to Virginia Beach and finally to the tiny hamlet of Indian Neck, in King and Queen County. We spent five years in Indian Neck, where our children traipsed through woods, and sat around bonfires under the stars, and sometimes got poison ivy. There’s a lot of poison ivy in Virginia, probably imported by Union soldiers during the war as a secret weapon.
After twenty-one years in Virginia, we decided to head north to the Vacation Land State and spend time with relatives whom I had sorely missed. It wasn’t an easy decision to move to Maine, since we all had many friends in the Mid-Atlantic region. After many discussions, over many months, we finally made the decision and packed up a truck and hit the road. The journey was a two-day story in itself, with Kimmy and two boys, two dogs, and a howling cat in our van, and our daughter watching me fighting a nasty fever while I drove the truck. As a rabbi said, the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single “Oy!”
On September 10, 2007, we arrived at our winter rental in Windham, on Little Sebago Lake. It was raining and getting dark, but luckily some good friends arrived and emptied our twenty-six foot Penske truck in an hour and a half. It was quite astonishing, since it had taken two very tortuous days to fill it.
We settled in, sort of, and were grateful that it was a furnished house. The lake was beautiful, and we drove around Maine a bit, and went to Vinalhaven Island, where I had attended summer camp in my teens. We visited with our lovely relatives and ate Christmas cookies together and admired the deep, new-fallen snow, which was a great novelty for our Virginia Rebel babies.
Yes, we admired the snow. Then we shoveled it. Then we shoveled it some more. And more and more and more and more, until we had shoveled over one hundred inches of snow. If you had failed arithmetic in the third grade, at Butler Elementary School, like I did, you also might not realize immediately that one hundred inches is over eight feet!!!
Our Maine friends and relatives laughed and said, “Welcome to Maine!” Then they went home and shoveled snow, and remarked that it was the most snow in almost a hundred years. Yes, indeed, welcome to Maine!
In March, when spring thought about coming, we had one month to find a new house to live in, since our winter rental was going to jump from $1,000 per month to $2,500 per week. We drove here and there, and in the process I visited some of my boyhood homes. We parked for a few moments on the bluffs of the Western Promenade in Portland, where I had ridden my bike every day, and had gazed out at the sunset and vowed to go west young man. Visiting my boyhood homes was very emotional, and I mourned the sale of my grandmother’s large house on Vaughan Street, which had been central to my childhood. One day perhaps I’ll buy it back, after I become a billionaire.
Moving is a great cause of stress, right up there with death and taxes. Having moved far too often in our lives, my wife and I are looking forward to a final homestead to call our own. In the interim, we prayed for a house with a garden and a field, and woods and a river and a lake, and a lovely village surrounding it, where we could participate in festivals and other “villagy” things. The angels of real estate were most accommodating, and we deeply thank them, for on May 1st of 2008, we slept in our new antique house in the very charming village of Cornish. The house was built around 1850 and may be the cutest house in Cornish. Our gracious landlady tells us so, and we believe her.
We have arrived in Maine. Today, on Sunday, the eighth of June, Kimmy Sophia and Ranin and I went to Long Pond, where I went swimming for the first time in seven years. Talk about unused swimming muscles! Long Pond is lovely and known only to the locals. I am NOT going to tell you where it is. Oh, I forgot—you can look it up. Hmm.
As I stood there in the water, I looked around at the surrounding hills and said to myself, “I’m home in Maine! I’m swimming in a lake!” It was a very, very happy moment.
I love Maine, except for the snow shoveling. Maybe this year we’ll use a plow. Our Rebel babies would like that.