We have arrived in Maine for the weekend, visiting my Personal Chef’s parents. They live in a tiny, rural town in what New Englanders call “Mid-Coast Maine.” When I say tiny and rural, I mean there are still main roads in town that aren’t paved. There are no cul-de-sacs. There are no chain stores. Actually, there is only one store in town. It’s a convenient store, hardware store, gas station, and lunch counter.
They are 15 minutes north of the Bath Iron Works shipyard and 20 minutes east of the state capitol, Augusta. Most of the folks around here work for the shipyard, for LL Bean, or farm.
The family’s little, red ranch house is on the banks of the Eastern River. It's a tributary of the Kennebec. In the late summer, we often see moose. In recent years, there has been an American Bald Eagle’s nest just across the way. In the winter, when the river freezes over, smelt shacks sprout up for a few months. Smelt shacks are tiny sheds used to protect ice fishermen from the cold weather while they work to catch the tiny, sardine-like fish.
Everything here moves in a quiet, determined, timeless way. For young people, it’s too quiet, too slow. They cannot wait to finish high school and leave. My Personal Chef certainly felt that way, migrating south to Providence for college and never looking back. Until recently. His people have been here since sometime in the late 1600s. Their roots run deep. His roots run deep. Like generations of men before him, he works hard on his job, works hard on his home, and works hard on his family. He is most at ease outdoors and among the wildlife. He has worked in cities—first Providence, then Boston—for decades, but he is never really at home there.
His parents have gotten old. We don’t come up to visit nearly often enough, so the changes in them are startling. Each trip now is spent engaged in a series of chores to help make life a little easier for his folks. Today, despite the 90 degree temperatures, my husband and sons are out mowing the lawn. Well, I call it a lawn, but really it’s a three-acre hayfield. On our next trip up, later this summer, there is talk of painting the house. It is hard for my husband to see his parents losing a step. Doing some manual labor for them helps soothe his unsettled bits.
The chores are about done for this trip. The Evil Genius and I have already been down to the strawberry farm on a reconnaissance mission. We plan on getting up early in the morning to pick some for him to bring to the beach (he's spending the week with friends on Popham Beach) and for us to bring home. It’s the same farm my Personal Chef worked on when he was 13, so the Evil Genius thinks it’s pretty cool. And it is.
Since we’re dropping him off for the week, we will DEFINITELY make it to the beach tomorrow, too. The only thing that is still in question is whether or not we’ll catch the Portland Seadogs game tonight or tomorrow afternoon. We’d all like to, but this trip is really about being with the FabFam. It’s a blessing that my children know their grandparents. Indeed.
Monday evening prologue: So, you already know that we didn't make it strawberry picking or to the Seadogs game. We did make it to Popham Beach, but only to drop our youngest son off with our friends in the wee hours of the morning before heading to the hospital with his brother. He hadn't yet slept and was weepy. It broke my heart. To get a call last night that he was having a marvelous time playing in the surf and running around the old Fort Popham went a long way to easing my mind. I just heard that today they hiked the rocks and spent more time on the beach. We're a resilient bunch with a terrific support system.