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Part 1: The drive up
I’ve got this dream about owning a place in Maine.
The dream always starts with the drive north. We get on the road on Thursdays after dinner.
We bump our way through light evening traffic on Route 1. We pass the Square One mall with its huge sign advertising DICKS! (sports store). I can remember eight years ago, there was a women’s gym called Pumps at the mall and someone had decided that the perfect spot for their sign was directly over the sporting good giant’s. Even if I was driving alone I’d have a giggle at “Pumps Dicks”.
The dream continues as I flick on the right directional just past the giant green recycling plant, the Golden Banana, Santarpio’s, and the last of about 73 gas stations and Pho shops. It always feels good to mash the accelerator and swoop under the overpass as you join the rest of the cars headed north to NH/ME.
It’s joyous to hit the four lane stretch of I-95 where the speed limit jumps up to 70 mph and you’re thinking that 85 is reasonable. I settle in for some highway cruising for the next couple hours. There are various landmarks that I’m mentally checking off on the drive. The bridge in Newburyport. The route 16 split in NH. My favorite is the big blue “Welcome to Maine” sign. The highway department rotates the sign’s subtitles between “The way life should be” and “Vacationland”. After a brief stop at the Kennebunk rest area for a team pee, some gas, and a “sharing size” bag of Peanut M&Ms, we’re back on the road.
In my dream we exit the highway and wind through quiet towns and through seaside villages on the way to our spot. We make one last stop at our town’s general store as they are preparing to close up for the night. It’s the kind of store that makes you long for the old days before walmart and target and whole foods. They sell hand selected stuff from local farmers, from the cheese guy, the baker, and the other artisans that make their own deliveries. They’ve waited for us because we often pop in on Thursday evenings in October for supplies around closing time. We usually spend 200 bucks on meat, cheese, cereal, snacks, a fresh blueberry pie and a nice bottle of wine or two. The list varies depending on whether we’ll have guests or not. The couple that owns the place know our names and what we buy. They always get a head start for us by setting aside our usual items in a repurposed beer box for easy carrying. They happily tolerate the kids wandering the aisles and putting their sticky paws on everything.
We leave the store and further up the road, we make our last turn between a gap in a stone wall made of human head sized rocks that's been there for centuries. The driveway is a mix of dirt and gravel that gets churned up by plows every winter. The drive winds in a gentle S pattern that makes it hard to see the house from the street and the street from the house. I always put my window down as I creep along the driveway so that I can smell the air and listen. I can hear the local crickets doing their final sound check before tonight’s concert.
We crunch to a stop in a little horseshoe turn-out in front of the door. I release my passengers and herd them towards the door. I unlock and shoulder the door and flick on a few lights. My passengers are setting down their things and walking around to explore and to burn off some of the energy that built up from the three and a half hour car trip. I make a couple more trips out to the truck to grab all of our stuff. As I turn to make the walk to the front door one last time, I stop to breathe this place in. The sun has set, but there are leftover purples staining the sky.
I’ve wanted a place like this for decades but I didn’t believe that I’d be able to make enough money to have it. This spot is an amalgamation of all of the places I’ve loved up north. Glidden Point, River’s Edge, the Gray Goose, Cattle Landing Road in Meredith, and Packer’s Falls in Newmarket.
It needed to be on the water. We sit on a tidal river that dumps into a downeast harbor with a couple seafood shacks and one nice restaurant. When its snowing, we are 45 minutes from the mountains. I wanted the place to have some patina. Original woodwork. Very little sheetrock. I want to see exposed beams and roof trusses. I need a deep tub to soak my worn out bones. I wanted outdoor space to plant a bunch of veggies and fruit. I need a detached barn for a workshop. It’s gotta have a woodstove and an outdoor shower.
I bumped into this place on Zillow and it grabbed me. In my dream, I’ve been able to buy this house after selling a manuscript and setting aside a pile of cash from successful little business experiments. In this dream, I am untethered to the demands of corporate life. I can dash off on a whim to chase waves or to hike into the mountains or to just curl up by the stove with a book and a loved one on a Tuesday.
After we get our things put away, I light a small fire in the stove to take the chill out of the air. We change into PJs and settle in around the stove. We’re in our usual spots burrito’d in soft blankets. I read to the kids for 40 minutes from whatever book I’m working on. I’ve learned that my kids don’t care what the book is, they're looking to be soothed by the sound of my voice and to feel loved enough to be read aloud to.
I get the kids tucked in bed and come back down for a few more quiet moments before hitting the rack myself.