The East Coast, A to Z.

Somewhere in between a road trip for a Montana wedding, two children starting school, a house addition, back to school’s first sickness and a newly written ten-minute play, I found time to come here. Here. Finally. It’s been a while.


I’ve been getting up at six a.m. and I’m not a morning person. Bacon, coffee and backpacks packed. I drive slow through the school zones but, still, I’m a night-writing night owl. Going to bed at two am is getting harder and harder. Lately, I’m in bed by nine p.m. Somehow I can’t catch up on sleep. I miss my nine thirty mornings. I know those who know me well are secretly glad. It really wasn’t alright that my three kids all slept in while their babes woke at dawn.

I’ve been working on this post for so long and it still is fragmented – bits and bigger bits of vacation memories.
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Over a month ago, we had one long distance vacation worthy of a gigantic post. I’m a Massachusetts girl at heart, so you better believe it felt great to be back in the arms of The Atlantic.
Lobster, lobstah. Life deserves a giant pat on the back when a dream of something is ten times better than its inception. In a quaint tourist-free lobster cove in mid-coast Maine I’m pretty sure I tasted heaven. With butter dripping down my chin while sharing a picturesque picnic table with four nonchalant family members, I ate:
(1) 2 lb. lobster
(1) 1 1/2 lb. lobster roll
(1) 2 lb. steamers
(1) 1 lb. peel and eat shrimp
And I’d do it all again right now. Please.

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We posed with plywood and watched pots pulled on deck and load, instantly, into tanks and awaiting trucks. Fresh. It was just the place I needed to find and I found it on a map with a copyright of 1963.

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Red’s.
I know from living on this island that Maine locals must grumble at its vast visitors responsible for traffic tie-ups while they choose what flavor to get, stumbling about with a oh, what a cute town in whispers.
I read about this place before snapping this photo – in seven months, Red’s goes through 8 1/2 tons of lobstah meat. Every day, it serves 3 gallons of clams, 6 pounds of crabmeat and 25 pounds of haddock. The late thrity-year-owner Al Ganon was named the origional lobster-roll king in his obituary in 2008. Chunks of meat ( two whole claws, an entire split tail) stuffed into a grilled hot dog bun might not sound like the bees knees but, trust me, it sure as @#$% is.
The line was too long for the days’s heat and humidity, not to mention the allure of Wiscasset’s side street antique shops.
My dirty secret? I whispered oh, what a cute town to Luke as we walked to Luke’s Antiques.

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I found a hundred things that wouldn’t fit inside my suitcase and a few origional and stellar-conditioned Nabakov and Salinger books.
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On the drive south, I found a hundred three-hundred-year-old homes I wanted to move in to.

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Travel. We took:
(2) car
(1) ferry
(2) bus
(1) plane
& (27) hour of travel to get to a bed and breakfast in Midcoast Maine that was built in 1775 and located on (100) acre of hemlock, birch, maple, elm, and (1 million) songful cicadas. We collected acorns, found a lovely chrysalis.
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I remembered the trees of my childhood and helped my girls collect their leaves.
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While traveling 3,300 miles we learned:

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(A) You can not sleep well on a plane. If your babes do, sadly, you won’t. Also, you can not sleep at the gate.
(B) You can only check baggage four hours ahead of your flight. Sleeping at the ticket counter is cold, loud and uncomfortable.
(C) Somehow, our children really will sleep anywhere. Strangers thought we must be nuts or, rather, that we had drugged our children to sleep peacefully through an announcement repeating every fourteen minutes about Seattle International Airport being non-smoking and a place where you can not leave baggage unattended.
(D) The amount of troops going to Afghanastan is astounding. Their camo-clad pacing was hyptotising. I spoke with many and told them of a friend who just returned and another lost in Iraq. A son who walked hand and hand with his deploying dad was almost too much for the silence and emptieness of an airport at two a.m.
(E) It is so, so, so much easier to fly with another adult when you have three kids. Why I haven’t been awarded the purple heart or gold star for flying to Florida without Luke is shocking. Seriously, my lapel awaits a medal.
(F) If lucky, stars will align and you’ll sit beside a mom of a similar aged baby who is on her first solo trip and needs a baby fix and wants to help in invaluable ways. Yea for you, Alexi-flying-to-Chicago, and thank you.
(G) An east coast accent will surface if previously supressed. I caught a few words here and there sneaking back into my speech. And, an accent can make things sound so much better, some how.
Oh, accents. Thee minutes into Boston, I waited in line at the Dunkin Donuts and laughed out loud when I heard a cop say, block cawfee, litter sugah [black coffee, little sugar].
Oh, rudeness without reason. I left my ipod case on the airplane and heard as I walked past the security point of no return to baggage that somone had to claim an ipod case at Continental Airlines Gate A3. I explained my story to a cop, who told me to go tell a Delta worker (Continental was closed) my scenario and he’d grant me access with a special pass to claim my ten dollar item I never really liked anyway. I told my entire story, holding Betty’s hand and just when I got to the part about Oh, and it’s Gat3 A3 he said Excuse me, let me ask you something, ma’am, do I look like I’m wearing a Continental Airlines uniform to you – get out of here. Betty wondered what was wrong with him. The cop overheard and began yelling at the Delta guy for not wanting to hear about it so Betty thought we should walk away and ride the escalator for fun because it would make me forget my missing accessory.

Oh, Boston, how I missed you. I forgot people go out of their way to not be bothered. I pondered snapping at people on the island the next time someone asked a logical question. I’d be voted off, for sure.
(H) It’s cool to be fifteenth generation in America. At least, Betty, Lucy and Olive think so. Here’s the short of it. In 1635 a ship named the Angel Gabriel sailed from England and wrecked in a hurricane off the coast of Maine.
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Most of the crew died, but a few swam to shore. One was William Furber – the first Furber in North America. A dedicated man wrote a book and spent close to thirty years tracking the wreck and the ship’s survivors.
Olive Kingman was said William Furber’s daughter and, obviously, Olive’s namesake. (Had she of been a boy she was to be named William Gabriel). She married Joseph Haskel, my college roomate’s distant relative. It’s cool to know your place in history and our girls, now, think it’s even cooler to stand where it all began.
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The Maine Maratime Historical Museum got involved and Angel Gabriel Day was proclaimed in Maine.
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We went to the plaque’s unveiling, signed the descendant log and viewed archives from the 1635 settlers. Neat. We stood on the shores they swam ashore to and built homes on. Even neater.
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A few years back, I missed a Pennsylvania reunion on my side of the family and I still regret it. With our families all over the country, it’s important to walk where roots are planted. This I now know. So in the midst of a house addition and the other activities that keep us busy with three children under age six, we dropped it all and made a blast out of the journey. Looking back, I’m so glad. We met Furbers we never knew about. Reunions are like that. Some in Seattle and one named the same as Luke’s brother. Turns out, that other Matt gets my brother-in-law’s email sometimes. Funny. Betty met a dog named Betty Furber and everyone enjoyed Olive, the youngest Furber there, over homemade Maine blueberry ice cream.
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It felt right to watch our girls walk where roots are so deep.
(I) We are so thankful for the beaches of our NW island. I never notice IV drug users, scores of people swearing for no reason and days when there literally isn’t room for another beach quilt. On our island, there doesn’t seem to be an invisible alarm that goes off at five p.m. where people run back to their cars to begin traffic travels home. But, our tiny island doesn’t have The Atlantic.
I miss the familiarity of The Atlantic – all her sea salt resting on a familiar longitude.
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I miss the action of a seaside town where an arcade and a boardwalk meet The Atlantic.
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We hadn’t planned on York, ME. But, we had planned on playing on the beach in Maine. I had made a promise to Betty. We were traveling down the tolled interstate at twenty mph in traffic for hour after hour en route to Boston. I realized I didn’t want our drive day to be consumed with the memory of traffic, so I veered off at the next exit with “beach” on the brown sign. I hadn’t been to York since college. I was nostalgic and awestruck, while the girls couldn’t be bothered with searching for suits in a crowded rental car. We got our clothes wet. We didn’t have a towel. It didn’t matter because we built sandcastles and threw rocks. That’s what matters to a kid. It’s good to keep promises. That, too, matters to a kid.
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In York, Maine, the rocks are angular not curved like our bare feet are used to.
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In York, Maine, the water is warm, not frigid and numbing like our bare feet are used to.
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(J) I miss the way an eastern thunderstorm rolls in, crackling with humidity you can slice.
(K) When traffic slows to a crawl across ten lanes of traffic and a three hour drive takes nine, Luke and I get twitchy. OK, so maybe we already knew that. I guess we remembered this about ourselves. The kids thought we were in some long ferry lane and didn’t freak out. ipods with episodes of Word Girl and Super Why are invaluable.
(L) REI doesn’t have anything on L.L. Bean. We stopped in Freeport and it was like an outdoorsy version of Disney with trout ponds, wool, fleece and discounted Maine blueberry embroidered ensambles. We were there for four hours, walking though log versions of the chaptered holiday catelogue. Yes, it was exactly like a cateogue theme park. Oddly, I loved it. I felt so New England-y somehow.
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(M) Traveling back to a homeland and playing tourist is fun and opens up a plethora of perspective.

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(N) When your children play with the children of old friends, nothing else in the world matters. When they get along and never skip a playful, sing-songy beat, it becomes all that much harder that home is hundreds of miles away. And when your husband gets along swimmingly with the dude of your college gal pal – shooting bow and arrows with Pabst Blue Ribbion on a humid midnight twilight street in Boston – well, it just sucks home isn’t a short drive away.

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(O) New England style soothes me. Colonial architecture with a pop of Altantic coastal color feels so familiar, so authentic. I wouldn’t imagine someone from Wyoming saying the same thing about an antler chandellier and pinecone wallpaper motifs, but maybe. Maybe.
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(P) Friends who watched you grow up feel so much like family that being apart for a decade or more often feel like a weekend away. O.K., a long, long weekend where marriages and careers and children happened but, in the end they’re the same folk you greeted on the school’s green so long ago.
(Q) I miss a real Jewish bagel with whipped cream cheese available on every corner. Don’t get me started on a hot sesame with veggie cream cheese. If any single thing could taste like home, like the east coast, well that’s it.
(R) The language of home greets you like a repressed memory. Words like wicked, toll booth, frappe, jimmies (sprinkles on ice cream) and even exit numbers and street signs are, once again, familiar in the time it takes to flip a coin.
(S) Being in a new place, asking for directions and stumbling within a scene you’ll remember when your eighty is what traveling is all about.

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Betty walked the Freedom Trail as one of five children aged five and under, careful to not stray from the red line and rode a carousel along The Charles River.
Lucy, walking with those same children and playing Red Light Green Light at road’s edge and Olive beside the helm of The U.S.S Constitution are all drawn in Betty’s journal.

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Her crayola memories to share, perhaps, in Kindergarten or to her granchild.
(T) True, I am part gypsy all the way up to my Hungarian forehead mole. I love to pick up an travel, even if it is only for a few days and the bank account whispers stay. Even more true – the community we live in is like no other. The place I call home really feels like home, even if I just traveled home. Funny to sketch out how the definitions for home change.
(U) I took some lovely photos of our trip, read Robert Frost past midnight in a seventeenth century home, watched our girls collect acorns for the first time and follow squirrels. You know, I really love Frost. Maybe it’s because I had writing workshops with a phenomenal bunch of minds in the New Hampshire classroom he once taught in, or maybe it is because he really is that good. He felt more than alright to read while I was back. Familiar.
I loved staying at The Blue Skye Farm, a colonial inn built in 1775 on 100 rolling acres of familiar tree, fallen acorn and wild, lush garden.

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Lucy’s question from the trip: why aren’t there any squirrls on our island? May I can bring one home? She named this one Harvard Belle Nut E. Squirrel. She wants a squirrel for Christmas.
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My wish from the trip: why aren’t their any giant oaks, chestnuts and birch trees on our island? If I could only transplant old growth maples into our yard life just might be perfect.
Olive will miss the cicadas and the sounds of a 100 acre garden. But, not the hot and humid sun.

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(V) East coast pizza is incredible, damn incredible and you can pick up the phone and have it delivered when you’re back there. Man, I miss the possiblity of delivery whenever you’re hungry.
(W) The world’s best playground is in Cambridge. Harvard sure knows how to build a knock out water-based artsy oasis. I would have bet an Italian Ice it was over 100 degrees with 100 percent humidity that day we played and played and played.
(X) Hearing Betty say Oh, we’ve finally landed in Boston. Oh, we’ve got to keep an eye out for the Red Coats made me love her and the DVD series Liberty Kids so much more.
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(Y) It is really, really hot in Massachusetts in the summer. And when it is that hot, I have a hard time not repeating how hot it is to everyone around me like, maybe, they haven’t noticed the sweat beading on every square inch of their body. The northwestern sea breeze makes the sheets not stick past midnight. It’s also really, really hot on the T (subway), especially if they take the Green Line out for service and you have to stand on the deck with hundreds of beautiful people, people of all shades. Massachusetts is really, really diverse (and really, really hot in the summer). Traveling can make you so aware of your usual surroundings and our usual are pretty pale. It is really, really cool in Massachusetts in the summer.
It is really amazing when you watch old friends love on your babes and you get to do the same. This picture below cracks me up! First, my college pal’s daughter is just hamming it up in the back while Olive wonders why I’m not feeding her. It wasn’t much after this shot was taken that she loved on Beth and snuggled into her.

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Ahh, Violet, we miss you!

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(Z) The coffee sucks, but Dunkin’ Donuts [hazelnut iced, splash of cream – same since 1993] is so nostalgic that drinking it feels like I’ve come home.

3 Comments

  • livefree says:

    Fun post! To have a gypsy spirit is a hard thing. Defining home is even harder. Roots, family, friends, add an unexplainable richness.

    Should I stay or should I go? We ask ourselves. And in the end we go…Cuz it's the only thing we can do!

    We went to Maine this summer. We had lobster at Shaw's too! And we, too, thought it incredibly awesome to see the boats some in with the fresh catch. And we took goofy pics with the clam and lobster. And we thought Wiscasset was pretty too. All of the towns are so pretty! We loved Damariscotta. And we loved our B & B which was a farmhouse dating back to the 17th century too! Ours was on a blueberry farm! Go figure!

    We love New England for all the reasons you mentioned. There's just something about colonialism, and the history, and the sea. We dream of finding a way to move back further up the east coast. We spent 5 years in MD and lived on the Chesapeake Bay.

    But one thing we know for sure. Life has been good to us. No matter where our heads were resting.

    Thanks for the post! Sorry about this long comment! 🙂

  • The words..the pictures..those girls..the life you and Luke live with said girls..inspiring..amazing..growing..rooting..sandy.
    Looks like it was a wonderful time.
    xoxo

  • Elissa says:

    a. i have only been to maine once, but i LOVED it. absolutely dream of going back and going to boston. must ask you for tips if we ever manage it with the kiddos.

    b. i have thought of the horrors of leaving NE pizza, but bagels never occurred to me. OY VEY!

    c. how lovely, lovely, lovely that you did all that travel and all that documenting. that's time and money well spent.

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