The General and I are just back from Old Orchard Beach in Maine which is the sleepy, predictable kind of holiday that I often really enjoy. The lush, yet austere landscape of Maine and the cottage itself are hugely significant to The General since he has enjoyed many golden-hued summers there as a child and because it’s still a property that is “family owned” you can sense the tradition and memory as the key turns in the lock.
The very first time I was here and the door creaked opened to the warm – but not unpleasant – smell of humidity and age, I was nearly overcome with a sense of Those-Who-have-Gone-Before-Us.
It was just like being invited to a crazy, crowded party where everyone has convened in the kitchen, chatting loudly and you have to enter sideways with your bottle of wine, introducing yourself.
Except that the kitchen was empty.
I am often very sensitive to this type of thing so I wasn’t unduly freaked out and besides, the vibe was friendly enough but it did serve to re-ignite a really unsettling feeling that I often experience now which is being super conscious that I am still, and possibly always will be, The New Girl.
And what can I do? There’s simply not enough time for me to be fully accepted and it makes me acutely aware that I no longer have the extended family that I was comfortable with when I myself was married. Strangely, for example, I knew my ex-husbands’ parents more than twice as long as my own.
I am not a fan of this feeling but don’t know what to do about it.
I often feel as though as I am driving a motor boat and pulling behind me three decades of memories that just won’t drop the line.
Anyway, all this aside, the pure joys of a slowed down vacation include the absolute disregard for time (we will eat at three if we wish or not at all); the ability to go to the beach at any hour though preferably in the morning or evening when it’s quiet and still, so that I can lazily search for shells and stones and greet snuffling, enthusiastic American dogs; the exploration of US grocery stores which is ongoingly fascinating as we each excitedly find unthinkable items (spray-on cheese?!) to show each other: “Hey! Look at this! Three kinds of ‘toast’ bread and one is called “Cupcake Toast!” followed by a tentative “Should we get some …?” ; the staggering shock of portion sizes which we finally mastered this visit by ordering something called a ‘single’ plate at a seaside restaurant and then sharing.
(We still couldn’t finish, by the way).
There were also wonderful, extended conversations over crosswords, wine, and fresh, chubby lobster dragged through award-winning Maine butter as well as building meal plans together based on what is available as we happened upon it. (“Surf ‘n Turf” – as it was known several centuries ago – is absolutely affordable when you can make your own and the beef was succulent on the cottage BBQ!)
Finally, contrary to what I was always raised to believe (*blush*) I have found all of the American people I have personally encountered to be refreshingly friendly, outgoing and above all?
Makes me well up, to think of it in fact.
I had to resist the impulse many, many times to pull their sleeve and say “You. You’re not really voting for Trump, are you?”
Finally, we spent a splendid few hours uncovering Old Orchard Beach’s honkytonk side with the Ferris wheels and You-Wanna-Go-Faster? rides and the large, triangular, greasy pizza slices that were absolutely delicious and I just fell in love with the vintage Merry-Go-Round animals, especially the cat featured here.
There was also a curious Chinese dragon and a Rooster with too much lipstick on board, both of whom looked as though they had somehow made a seriously wrong turn …
More on Maine to follow.