I’m not sure where I grew up. I lived all over the place as a child, my family moved quite a bit. I don’t know where to call “home” or to say where I’m from. If the conversation comes up, I tell people where I went to high school as if that’s an explanation. It gives insight to a significant piece of time, but it never feels like home when I tell the story.
There’s certain instances and events turned to memories that resonates for the rest of your life. Moments within moments that resurrect themselves years down the line that define your being. They capture the essence of something remarkable and often go unnoticed. Sometimes looking at these moments from a new perspective helps you fully appreciate them, or realize their significance.
When I was young my family returned to Maine, the place where my Mother and Father grew up and where all of my extended family lives. This place would be considered “home” to them but I never felt like I spent enough time there to call it my own. However, there’s a piece of Maine that will forever be mine. A certain spot that I continue to visit each time I’m at the old homestead, rain or shine.
My Father owns a decent chunk of land in Falmouth. From Grey Road you can see our old farm house up a lengthily stretch of blacktop and in it’s hay day would have seemed like a flourishing estate filled with pasture, gardens, tall trees, and children picking berries or playing cops and robbers. From the passer by it was perfect, but years of neglecte, jealousy, and feud turned this pristine home into a dilapidated wasp nest.
I could care less about the house, the people, or storms that have weathered it. My spot was a half of a mile walk through thick woods that sat at the river’s bend. My Father’s property stretches from Grey Road to the river and when young it seemed as vast as the Louisiana Purchase. Old enough to walk and follow directions, my Dad took me on hikes throughout our property. He would zigzag back and forth scouting the landscape and proclaim each parcel a one-day dream home for a fortunate family. It wasn’t until we reached the end and I discovered a giant pine tree next to the river that would take three large men to wrap their arms around that I found content.
As I got a little bit older and I begged my Dad for a walk to the river, did he finally cut a trail directly to my favorite spot. We went down back with machetes and blue surveying tape to mark the trail, I remember it like the back of my hand. Once the trail was finished, I pleaded to walk down to the river each day after school. My Mother was beside herself, no way would she let me go alone into the thick woods to a place next to a dangerous river- but my Dad did.
I remember my first solo journey vividly. What started out as and old snowmobile trail with many forks in the road turned into our footpath with blue tape. I’d stop at each intersection checking the surroundings to make sure I was on the correct route. Armed with a velcro trapper-keeper with a horrible 80’s graphic, I sat underneath the pine tree watching butterflies, listening to the river, and occasionally blocking out the blinding sun that pierced through the leaves. This spot was mine and I drew childish pictures and wrote stories of my epic adventure.
As I’d return to the river, the path became more worn. My Father helped me build a fire pit out of stone and cut a spot for an old two post green tent we hardly ever slept in. The tent, due to its old construction with aluminum center posts, took the shape of a tiny green house rather than a modern dome tent. I’d lie inside and let it’s smell of must and mildew pour over me as the trees swayed in the breeze.
The tent, fire pit, and blue tape trail markers have all disappeared but the river, pine tree, and overgrown foot trail remains. When talking about children playing outdoors and causing a ruckus throughout the neighborhood, I asked my parents if they remembered letting me go down to the river by myself at such a young age. My Dad just smiled and looked at my Mom.
“You didn’t go alone,” he said after a pause. “Those first few times you went down, I followed from a distance so you wouldn’t hear or see me… I just wanted to make sure you knew where you were going.”
That man has done that for me more times than I will ever know.