Quiet Friends

It’s the high season in Maine and it seems like every advancing wave on the beach washes up another family toting cameras, sunblock and a cooler big enough to put a complete thanksgiving dinner for twelve in. I don’t begrudge them their visit. It’s beautiful here! If it wasn’t already my home, I’d probably be tromping up the sand, ready to lay claim to some quiet corner of costal summer with my own sofa sized cooler. As it is though, we, the locals, get used to being the only ones here for much of the year and it’s always a little jarring to suddenly have to share. We know each other, who’s doing what and most importantly, where we need to stand to be out of the way.

No so, the tourist. They are everywhere and move about the place like a bunch of deranged and possibly concussed, chickens. Trying to get through our little downtown area gets aggravating but trying to drive out by the shore practically becomes an Olympic sport. Out on the ocean road, away from the docks, piers and tightly placed houses, tourists travel in packs of four to fourteen and decorate the roads. Blind turns and crests of hills become extra exciting when driving along these stretches. At the last possible second, the tourists will look up and gasp in disbelief that someone would actually choose to drive a motorized vehicle on their chosen path. Only begrudgingly will they make room. This is usually accomplished by the flock splitting in two like an amoeba and lining both sides of the road, thus insuring that if another car is coming from the other direction, one of you must stop and let the other go first.

For this reason, I try to take my bike as much as possible. That, and the fact that gas is now… what? Sixty two bucks a thimble? The reason for all the driving or bike riding is my son, Short Stack. You show me a two year old who can be successfully “put down” in his own bed for an afternoon nap and I’ll show you a bottle spiked with vodka. It’s out of the question. At least as far as MY two year old goes. What does make for a successful nap? Two things: lunch and motion.

After feeding him one or two of the six food items that he will let pass his lips, I take him out for a ride. He’s wise to this as a nap inducer, so I usually have to mask our trip as an adventure.

“Hey, Buddy! Let’s go see if we can find the sea ducks!” or…
“Hey, Short Stack! Do you know where the blue boat is? Let’s go find it!”

You get the idea. He’s only mildly interested when I’ve pointed out ducks before and as far as the “blue boat” goes, I just plain made that up. We might spot one but it would be pure luck. The point is to get him ramped up to go out. Nap? Who said anything about a nap?

So, since it’s not blowing snow in my face at the moment and I’m starting to feel a bit fluffy around the middle, I decided to pull out the bike trailer and my trusty mountain bike. The trailer is a really nice, top of the line “Chariot” which I was able to afford only because it was last years floor model. The bike… Ah, the bike…

My ride is a Gary Fisher Tassajara that has done some serious thundering over the years. Its been dumped off rock faces, gone end over end due to the roots of old and malevolent trees, been wheel deep in questionable brown water and carried my butt while flying through the air and praying for a solid landing, wheels first, if at all possible. The mud that has covered its frame could have build your dog an adobe house of their own. Action Girl and I have had some fantastic times flying through the forest at break neck speed. Now, it sedately tows my sleepy son as he questions me about the location of these dubious ducks.
He’s asleep within five minutes.

The crowds are pretty think and just trying to navigate amongst the day-trippers is starting to frazzle me. That, and the alarming frequency of having one yell to another of their group just as I pass with my snoozing cargo. I have to find a place to hide.

The beaches are, naturally, packed so I have to go somewhere a bit off the beaten path. The problem is that even the unbeaten paths tend to be filled with berry pickers or teenagers testing out what they learned biology class last year. Where to go?

I pedaled along for a while longer and then thought of it. In just a few miles, I quietly pulled into my favorite, secluded cemetery. I parked the bike and Short Stack in the shade, got out my book and leaned against a stone. After some time reading in the July sun and listening to the ocean breeze blow through the trees, I put the book down and simply soaked up the moment, place and peace.

I love a well kept cemetery. I find them peaceful, welcoming and above all, full of wonderful stories and affection. The white marble stone I was resting against belonged to Margaret C. She was born is 1842 and died in 1922. Not a bad run at all. She had lived through the American Civil War, had seen the first automobiles, watched the boys come home at the end of The Great War of 1914-18 and lived in the era of the giant airships. Across the top of this monument, even above her name, was simply inscribed, “Mother”. This was someone’s mother, and here I was leaning against her monument and looking at my sleeping son as father, born long before Margaret was gone. I smiled and pointed my boy out to her as if she was sitting next to me and in a quiet voice, told her how special he was.

Short Stack woke up about an hour later and once he got his bearings, we spent some time poking around this grassy place of memories. He’s been there many times with me and so knows what to look for. The puddle that’s ideal for tossing pebbles into, the best walls for walking on and even the which stones he can hide behind. We spent some time soaking up the sun and running over the short, mown grass. Eventually, we packed up and headed back to the house, weaving our way between the wandering sunburns and returning home to play with Lulu Belle.

It was a wonderful way to spend some time with Short Stack and I fully expect to do it again. Our friends at the cemetery don’t talk much, but their epitaphs say volumes. That’s the kind of folk who always make me feel welcome.

When the visiting tourist and summer crowds get too deep, it’s always a safe bet to look for us at Margaret’s. She’s always there and I hope, happy to see us. Also, she has the best place in town to nap under the whispering, July trees.

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6 Responses

  1. I hate tourists! Since I travel, logically I am a tourist too, but curiously I never identify with one. I think I may be in a state of denial though.
    I just hate their coolers, and their nasty habit to bring so much stuff with them it looks as if they were moving in… with the whole damn family.
    Tourist radios. Don’t get me started on that! If I go to the beach, I want to hear the sound of the crashing waves. If I wanted to listen to asinine music, I’d crash any apartment complex swimming pool.
    Your cemetery however looks lovely. In time, don’t forget to explain to Short Stack that it would not be a proper place to bring a first date, no matter how quiet and familiar it feels!

    That would depend entirely on the girl! Wednesday Addams, where are you?
    I know what you mean about not identifying as a tourist though. Action Girl and I take pains to blend in where ever we are. At times we’ve taken it so far as to buy new clothes locally. That, and we make an effort not to ask the same question or remark that the last 10,000 visitors made.
    -TP

  2. It’s not just tourists. It’s people in general. Most people are so self concerned that they give scant heed to anyone else. I suspect that the people that live around you most of the year are probably thoughtlessly annoy some other “locals” when they go away on holidays.

    I’m with Nat with the radios. not just the tourist ones. I get homicidal urges when I’m on public transport and some brain-dead lemming is listening to their ipod full blast and I can hear a repetitively tinny, TISS, TISS, TISS, TISS.

    One good thing about seasonal tourists is that they go away. Here in Sydney down by the harbour they are here all year and I tend to stay away from there for that reason.

    At least you have the presence of mind to enjoy your children’s company and cherish the moments.

    I like to think of my self as a level headed and easy going person, but I’m right there with you about the head phones. I can recall on time in particular on a train in France when I just couldn’t take it any more. I leaned across the isle, tapped him on the shoulder and did my best pantomime of, “Turn that damn thing down before I use the wire as a garrote.” The teenager gave a huge eye roll but I let him have it because he also turned the stupid thing down.

    Sorry to hear that the tourists never leave. Come up her to Maine in mid-February. I will personally guarantee that you will be the only one on the beach with the possible exception of a seal or frozen hobo.

    -TP

  3. One of my favorite places to relax and collect my thoughts is at the Pawnee National Grasslands. There is nothing there. Not even tourists. You have to bring your own fun. Its like a grave yard with no headstones; just cactus, grass, and a barbed wire fence every mile or so.

    Oh, and a grave yard is great place to bring a date, especially a first date. Hand holding and a arm over the shoulder is absolutely guaranteed… VOE.
    -pf

    Heh, you sly, old dog! I’ll have to give Short Stack that pointer.
    Finding a tourist free spot is something to be treasured. Yours sounds idillic. That’s my idea of a place to take a break. Is there a bus there? Can I get a t–shirt? Where’s the restroom and the food court? 😉
    -TP

  4. Living in central Reykjavík, 3 minutes walk from that big church, which is Reykjavík’s main icon, we get tramped over with tourists. Abroad, we tend to try to blend in as much as we can – and if we can’t, to be courteous, can’t stand obnoxious tourists. Nor obnoxious locals, for that matter.

    I tend to want to walk to all the tourists I see, buying water bottles around here, and to point out to them that the tap water here’s excellent and probably better than the bottled version. But I never do…

    Too true about the water! The water that comes out of the taps here is from the EXACT same aquifer that Poland Spring Water puts in little plastic containers and charges you a couple of dollars for. Makes no sense to me what so ever to pay for it, never mind the environmental damage all those bottles causes plus the pollution generated shipping them around.
    _TP

  5. Funny you should mention tourist music. Yesterday at the zoo there was a young woman with her cell phone blasting its tinny music probably as loud as she could get it. Why? at the zoo? can’t you leave it a rest for an afternoon?

    Naps around these parts aren’t too difficult (unless you’re at the zoo, that is!). Lil’bug naps at daycare right after lunch. Every. Day. If she objects to a nap I remind her what she does at daycare after lunch. Of course, there’s the promise that after the nap we’ll get to have fun! We won’t have fun if she doesn’t nap.

    Scout needed a nap even into kindergarten. He would fall asleep in his dinner if he didn’t lie down when he got home from school. The rule was: you don’t have to nap, but you do have to lie quietly in bed for one hour. Quietly! Many times the nap would just happen. Many times they wouldn’t, but at least we knew he’d last through dinner.

    Scout would fall asleep in his bike seat on the back of my bike while I was pedaling around our vacation spot in Maine.

    Alas, Short Stack takes after me. I didn’t nap either. I can vividly remember being at daycare and being told to take a nap with the other kids. I recall laying on my back on the gym mats, a light blanket covering my legs and being bored to the point of madness. He, like I was, is totally happy doing something quietly like drawing, but just don’t make us try to sleep away perfectly good day! Now when I complain about his lack of napping to my folks, they just point at me and laugh.
    -TP

  6. Hey, is that Pond Cove Cemetery you and short stack are at?

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