I was born in Portland, Maine into a family that had been there for generations. My grandfather and his brothers grew up swimming in the icy waters of Casco Bay. My father played catcher on his Little League team off of Pine Point Road in Scarborough. I still have aunts, uncles, cousins, goodness knows how many distant relations there. I moved repeatedly as a child but if anyplace is my home, it is this corner of New England perched on the Atlantic Ocean.
But before the summer of 2013 I hadn’t been back in over 25 years. It felt like time to bring the boys to my place of origin, to show them where there grandfather (who died at the end of 2010) came from.
The friends we were in Portland to visit suggested a day trip with our bikes to Peaks Island. It doesn’t take long to get there – the ferry ride is only about 20 minutes from Portland. And it isn’t very big. You can easily circumnavigate the entire thing on a bicycle in about an hour. But it feels vast and distant, one of those places at a remove from normal time.
Maybe that’s why I felt my father’s presence so strongly the day we visited Peaks Island. There’s no way to really explain that sensation of connection to someone you’ve lost to death; it’s as though they exist in the very cells of your body, part of your viscera, and yet utterly separate and knowing. My father wasn’t an emotive person, I wouldn’t say we were close when he was alive, but I knew somehow that he was so very glad I had brought the boys to this place. I watched them all day feeling as though I had two sets of eyes.
On an island what beckons of course is the persistent sea, as though it were full of mermaids or sirens singing. The children want nothing more than to first explore each tide pool, then walk to the farthest stretch of rock where it is most slippery. They want to feel the spray, let their toes grow numb.
The younger follows the older, confident that he will choose only the right and safe pace to go. Seeing how small they are against the horizon and waves, every mother fiber cries out to pull them back in closer to shore to the more safe and certain. But they laugh at water and worry, brave and unconcerned. My father laughs with them; I know it.
Discovering that others have marked their territory along the shore, we do the same with our own sculptures. The youngest somehow knows in his bones how to make a perfect lobster, an animal he will feast on for the first time the next day.
We ride our bikes further along the shore and around into the small town where wooden houses are surrounded with rose bushes and every yard has a hammock or a swing. We buy ice cream near the ferry dock. There’s no charge for the return to Portland and I wonder idly if they in fact need to pay people to leave.
Peaks Island is so special that I decided we should stay there when we return to Maine this summer. I’ve rented half of a blue and white Victorian house with an antique footed tub, phlox in the garden, and a white picket fence. We will bring our bikes and for three days once again succumb to the rhythm of water and wind. I’m hoping that my father joins us.
I share this as part of Friday Postcards at Walking On Travels – stop by to see travel postcards from around the globe.