For almost sixty days, this grand cottage on the coast of Maine has been my family's home. My great-grandfather, William Henry Wilder, built this cottage at the turn of the century for his family and six succeeding generations have been grateful for his gift.
It is a family home. One that my family shares with my niece and her husband--by splitting the summer in half. Our stay begins in late May (as soon as weather allows the water to be turned on without freezing the pipes) and ends July 31--two days from now.
Each year, 67 and counting, as the time to pack the cars and stow our personal items in the attic draws near, I am struck with a bit of melancholy. I believe I started to sense a kind of sadness about leaving even when I was a small child. I especially remember being told by my parents that I could NOT bring anything alive home with me. Usually, I disobeyed, the evidence discovered when live periwinkles, starfish, and who knows what else began to smell--I just had to bring part of the sea with me.
Now, I bring memories with me to mull over as I review the two months of experiences. I pack up images in my head to take home, rather than sea treasures. I've shared over the last several weeks some of the images , such as "jumping for joy" and different generations clasping hands together at the water's edge.
There are so many more.
I associate sounds as well as images when I think about the many splendid moments--like the echo of laughter during a badminton game, or the squeal of delight in trying to maneuver a homemade raft in choppy water, or watching a small laser sailboat capsize on its mooring during a torrential rainstorm and hearing the confident voices saying--"no problem, we can right it easily."
These are the images, but there is more to their richness . There have been pure halcyon moments--like seeing my two children together under this old roof playing a game they've played for years around the dining room table, and this year being joined by some of their children. Or watching older cousins helping to teach the younger cousin, how to navigate slippery, seaweed-covered rocks and look for barnacles ("those white things") to help secure footing. And watching my son-in-law and daughter-in-law show their love for this adopted summer home.
Above all, my packed-up memories are ladened with gratitude to those who came before with the vision of creating this family place, and now to those who will secure its future. My wistfulness of thinking about closing the door for the last time this summer turns very quickly to savoring the memories and looking forward to opening the door next year to begin it all again.