Thursday, October 13, 2011
So This is Maine
I write this sitting on the sofa in what we call the "main room" while listening to Seals & Crofts. To my left is a fireplace, where a fire is roaring. To my right, on the floor, lies Kya, our beloved pit bull-lab; she is keeping my feet warm with her massive body. The view from where I sit is noteworthy: Rain is coming down in sheets, sometimes sideways, other times, all whirly and swooshy. The leaves on the trees that line our side of the inlet are red and orange, gold and green. The leaves on the other side of the water are still green.Wind keeps the scenery ever-shifting as trees sway and the water current swiftly churns. The tide will come in later today, as it always does, and the water line will be higher than usual.
I love being here.
The kids and I have lived here now for six weeks. We are still transitioning, and probably will be for quite some time. We've already had sleepovers, and we are learning shortcuts to the places we like to go. Tuck has found fellow musicians with whom he plays, and he has his first gig this coming Saturday in Portsmouth, NH. The girls and I have already stormed the public library, which is housed in two old buildings across the street from each other. I laughed when I realized that, instead of moving into one new, bigger building, it just adapted to the space it already had and made do. And you know what? It's exactly as it ought to be. Bella thinks the older building should have a ghost who haunts the top floor, where the young adult books are shelved. I agree; it's just that kind of place.
School has arguably been the most difficult transition for the kids to handle. Tuck went from a high school of 1200 students to one of 280. Within the first week, he knew basically everyone, and boy, did everyone know him. And somehow, before the week was out, kids at the middle school knew Tavia was Tuck's sister, though they don't even share a last name and the schools are not geographically close to one another. Word travels quickly in a small town, and though I had warned the kids that they would be looked upon as minor celebrities (I've been down this road myself, in high school) for at least a while, I don't think they believed me. Now that girls are after Tavia so that they can get to Tuck, I think my kids are getting the picture.
Tavi and Bella go to the same school, grades 4-8, student population of around 350 or so. They're already taking NECAPS (pronounced kneecaps), the Maine equivalent of CSAPs. Why they're taken so early in the school year, I don't know. And I've been asked by Bella's writing teacher to come in and make a presentation to the class about the importance of editing, much like I did at Skyview in Windsor. Looks like I will be teaching a creative writing class, too, for 6-8th graders during what they call CREW time, which is the same as a study hall. Academically, the school is decent. Athletically, not so much. Tavi dropped out of cross country because she felt it wasn't coached very well or effectively. Tried to sign up for soccer then, but it was too late. She's considering trying out for basketball now.
As small as we are here in Kittery Point, the kids have found things to occupy their time. Tuck continues with his music and has begun giving me guitar lessons (woo hoo!). How fortuitous is this: Two houses away from ours lives the owner of the York Harbor Inn, a restaurant and lounge. In his basement is a 16-track recording studio, and he gave Tuck an open invitation to take advantage of it whenever he wants. And the lounge has open mic night every Thursday beginning in November. My boy is heading down to Boston this weekend for his first concert at the House of Blues. Has another one to attend on Tuesday. He'll take the bus there and back. I like that he's broadening his autonomy while learning his way around a new city, doing something he loves to do. Life could be worse than being 15 and having the freedom to explore, maybe get lost, find his way, and return home to the comfort of his own family.
Tavi is enrolled in two dance classes at the dance academy in Portsmouth. She says they're hard-core and that she's learning a lot. She's considering auditioning for the school's honor choir, which joins other regional honor choirs to form one big group, and then they perform all over the place. She has also joined the school's yearbook staff. Come spring, she wants to audition for the regional theater troupe. Tavia? Drama? Really?
We arrived too late for Bella to sign up for the traveling soccer league (there weren't enough participants to have a local rec team), but she plans to sign up in the spring. She will begin violin lessons soon, as next week we make a trip into New Hampshire to fit her with a violin rental. Her interest in writing continues to develop, and she has joined the school's newspaper staff as a reporter.
As for me, I spent the first three weeks meeting just about every repairman in the area. Seriously, there were so many things that needed to be fixed in this house, I felt like Shelly Long in that movie "The Money Pit." I opened the mailbox and the door fell off. Rick flushed the toilet and nothing happened. The steam shower didn't steam, and the fireplace didn't light. To fix one thing sometimes meant damaging something else, so then that something else had to be fixed. It was unceasing. When things finally settled, I had deadlines, so that was two weeks of little else but work, and the last files for a book I'm writing were turned in this week. So here I am.
There are many things to appreciate about my life here in rural Maine. Living on the ocean suits me well. I love to head down to our dock when the tide is coming in and the sun is shining and just...be. The water, the geese, the gentle sounds of the trees, the tugboats in the harbor, the scent...altogether, it offers a sense of solitude I find at once comforting and exhilarating. I appreciate the warm welcome my family has received--at Open House at the high school, several folks came up to me (admittedly, after staring at me for a while), shook my hand, and introduced themselves by telling me which house they lived in ("I live in the red house," "I'm in the yellow house next door," etc). I love how everyone here on our little hill has dogs, and no one cares if your dog visits them. So Kya and Scout have lots of friends, and it's kind of a canine free-for-all. I dig the weather. When it rains, it really rains. We've even already had flash floods and power outages (but seriously, what is this, compared to a tornado?). And when the sun shines, it reflects off the water with a brilliance that takes my breath away. Gratitude. It fills me with gratitude.
Other things, I'll have to get used to. I know many people well enough to say hello, but I don't have any real friends here (I know: it's been only 6 weeks). I miss my friends in Windsor more than words can express. I miss the connection, the being known and knowing them. It feels like so much work to start a new friendship at this stage of my life. Someone is going to really have to be something special for me to invest in. I'm not as generous with my time as I once was. On a more shallow note, I miss authentic Mexican food and melon margaritas from Guadalajara (the restaurant). I miss the convenience of being five minutes from the grocery store. Sidewalks. There are no continuous sidewalks here, and the roads are so narrow that you could high-five someone in a passing car without having to fully extend your arm. I'm not kidding.
So like all periods of transition and change, this one unravels one moment, one event at a time. The kids and I aren't always alone, as Rick comes in every other weekend, sometimes more often. His visits with us in Colorado were noteworthy because they were sporadic; the dynamic of the family would shift, even if only slightly. Now, though, he just seamlessly fits in...life continues as it does during the week, only now we have one more person to talk to, laugh with, consider. His presence is a great support for me on so many levels. His thoughtful input, his willingness to treat my kids as his own, his easy rapport with them...these are the things I've come to cherish.
And for myself, this feeling of being truly seen unleashes in me a veritable tidal wave of emotion I didn't know I possessed. It owns me, and I willingly give myself to it. Because in this life, I have developed a strength borne of necessity, of the desire to survive and thrive. It is an unyielding strength, and I have relied upon it for as long as I can remember. But the strength Rick encourages in me is flexible. It builds on a sense of communion, of togetherness, of trust. The glory of it brings me to my knees, and it's just one more thing I add to my ever-growing list of things for which I am grateful.
So. This is Maine.