This past week, we were on vacation…the last vacation before our Princess Daughter starts college. It was a wonderful, nearly perfect time; we brought our niece with us for a few days, and my sister came up for a couple nights, and we ate lobster and rode bikes and hiked and swatted mosquitoes and tried to talk with the Malone-like lobstermen (which went about how’d you expect).
We deemed our little rented cottage utterly darling and did things there we don’t do so much at home; McIrish surprised the kids by playing guitar, and I played the piano. We (well…I) got up before six, drank coffee and watched the lobster boats come and go. We visited the folks who brought me to Maine as their nanny, and their grown son, who once held my hand and asked me to read the subtitles on Return of the Jedi so he wouldn’t miss anything, was there with his two beautiful kids. That family was awfully good to me…treated me like one of them, and still do. They took us out on their beautiful boat, served us lobsters and we brought wine, and we tore into those poor crustraceans like starving animals. Ben’s little daughter took a shine to Princess and me, and his son adored Dearest Son. Nothing like old friends.
We hiked up Cadillac Mountain one day, ate chocolate croissants and blueberry scones from the tiny bakery and went to the bird-carving museum. A lady cutting her lawn got her tractor stuck in a sinkhole, and McIrish helped her get it out, and she rewarded us with cold drinks in the living room of the house her grandfather built. When the town fireworks were canceled, we were nonetheless invited to come down the marina and watch the unofficial fireworks, which were just as good. Maybe even better.
Yesterday, we drove home through Tropical Storm Arthur, which gave way to sunshine and fresh air in Portland, boys in the truck, girls in the car. Princess and I talked and laughed, sang along with the radio and got milkshakes at a rest stop. It was good to get home to Willow and Huck and our beautiful garden.
More than anything, though, this week was that age-old glimpse of what if. McIrish is not a lobsterman, and I don’t run a diner. Our kids don’t know their way around a boat. We don’t live on Great Cranberry Island, where you have to stock up for the winter in both wood for the stove and groceries, because you might be there alone with the other 43 residents for a couple of weeks before the ferry and mail boat can get there. We’re not summer people, and we’re not locals.
We’re just passing through, supporting the local economy, snapping a thousand pictures and overtipping. We probably ask too many questions, and we’re not from far enough away to be all that interesting. But our kids don’t carry their cell phones on vacation, and neither do their parents, and we never litter, and we try to leave places as we find them. Hopefully, as summer nuisance goes, we’re not too bad.
But, being a writer, I imagine that road not taken. The bittersweet imagination, blessing and cursing me again with the life I didn’t lead and the places I haven’t been.