Holding your friends close can be tough to do in these busy times. Not enough time for visits, calls or catch-ups.
For the past 22 years, I’ve been so lucky to be able to spend this calendar week with a stellar and eclectic group of people in the state of Maine. And during the week I would hold them very very close because that week (which eventually became two) would last me the whole year.
We refer to each other as the Maine friends, not because the friendship exists only on our sandy beach, (and none us of actually comes from there), but because the Maine friends believe there is no better place to spend this week each year.
Yes, the water turns your lips blue, the traffic on transit day means the drive from Montreal could take you 5 or 10 hours and the weekly fee for the cottage keeps creeping up steadily. There were years of the 60 cent dollar that left you wondering if there was a point where it didn’t make sense (or cents) anymore. After all, PEI is beautiful.
When we moved to Toronto eight years ago, the driving time doubled, but who cares? This was OUR week, on OUR beach so OUR kids could grow up with blue lips, powerful waves and a beach that stretched for miles.
I always loved the fact the kids would pick up where they left off. The blue-lipped gang would explore the rocks, spend hours body surfing and run at the sound of the ice cream truck. Of course there were also the dramas. We even used to bet how long before the first kiddie meltdown. But the dramas never lasted long. It was Maine. And Maine never lasted long enough.
Two years ago, my girls, now in their twenties, carted down a load of books, a bottle of sunscreen and counted their blessings because they love it every bit as much as they did when they played in the tidal pools.
Other beach regulars would call us The Canadians. They watched our kids grow. That’s what the woman from Connecticut told me every year when we exchanged reading suggestions. She also loved watching the compound grow. There were always the drop-ins, those invited guests who easily slipped into the relaxed pace of the week. It took at least three summers before they could be called regulars proving they were more entranced by our beach Big Chill than scared off by the big chill of the water. Then they had to take the Pledge not to reveal more about the location other than it was near Old Orchard.
This is the first time in 22 years my husband and I can’t be there. No illness or depressing reason other than being kept home by a work thing that couldn’t be changed (try explaining to the IOC that you would really appreciate it if they held the Olympics a couple of weeks later). I am handling it like an adult. It’s been put in perspective, and my often Pollyanna-like optimism reminds me that “I’ve been so lucky to have been able to go for 22 years and we will definitely be back next year”.
Time flies and I’m sure by Monday, I’ll stop thinking about what I would be doing this very minute on my beach – whether I would be helping to take orders for Goldthwaites for “arrival night” dinner on the beach or arguing what Billy Jo Macallister really threw off the Talahatchee bridge. I would have mused at least a dozen times that it doesn’t get better than this.
I would have already unpacked my 24 interesting bottles of wines picked up in tax-free New Hampshire and my dozen books for beach reading plus the selections I’d have picked for others because after 22 years you get to know the reading preferences. I would have made the bed with my sheets ridiculously-ironed and spritzed so when I crawl into them and look out window at the ocean and hear the sound of the waves, I would sigh. Because this is my happy place. It’s the place where I am most true to myself. It’s the place where my children will take their children, and it’s the place where I can hold my dearest Maine friends oh so very close.