Memories in the Mist

As we grow older, our minds often wander back in time—. It’s an addiction, in that we require a nostalgic fix, a memory journey into the past, perhaps to a simpler place in time. Like old vines, their roots deep in the soil, still producing top notch wine, certain memories invigorate our soul giving us sustenance—I call it nostalgic nourishment.

memories-mistSeasons seep away. Hair fades to gray. Gray matter fogs our Maine memories.

But not for my Jonesport grandmother. She grabbed on to Old Father Time with all the gusto of a fast moving tide. I called her nostalgic fixes spontaneous memory outbursts. She’d open her rich memory bank, pick a topic, the further back in years the better, and recite facts and events with intense clarity and enthusiasm. Her frenzied descriptions exploded from her mouth faster than a rapidly firing machine gun. Oscar Wilde said, “Memory is the diary that we all carry with us.”

I remember vacationing in Jonesport. Even as a kid, I knew I was somewhere different, an authentic piece of Down East Maine where hard-working people barely managed a living. My grandparents lived on a tranquil lane that dead-ended at Sawyer Cove. The house looked across Moosabec Reach to Beals Island. My grandfather had served in the Coast Guard for 26 years. After retiring, he lobstered, painted, worked as an assistant sheriff, and drove a taxi picking up foreigners at the train station in Columbia Falls. My grandmother worked in the sardine factory, a vibrant industry in those days. She’d arrive home with multiple cuts on her hands—Johnson & Johnson should have put her in a Band-Aid ad.

I remember the crushed seashell driveway, the squeak on the rear screen door, the mud room with twisted wire hooks for hanging slickers, and the shed with a practical sliding door to the outside. An imposing match-lit black propane-fed stove anchored the kitchen providing comforting warmth on chilly, foggy summer nights. In those days, the kitchen was the family room. Here, folks gathered for old-fashioned conversation.

I remember a faint red spot on the wooden banister leading to the second floor. Where did it come from? I slept in the “sewing room,” which contained just enough space to squeeze in a bed and dresser. The mattress had more curve in it than a boomerang; it may have been a chiropractor’s dream but I’ve never slept better. At night, I’d raise the faded green shade and listen to the forlorn foghorn.

I remember the silver doorbell on the seldom used front door—it had a shrill ring. On the porch, I’d lie in a worn gray navy hammock reading the adventures of the Hardy Boys. Best of all, I’d steal my grandfather’s BB gun, swipe empty milk bottles from a neighbor’s doorstep, and pop ‘em on the rocks below.

I remember the cheerleader’s megaphone abandoned in the rafters high above the workshop, the Aunt Jemima cookie jar chock full of treats, and the cistern that supplied backup water for the house. My grandparents practiced water conservation so the Chevys and Fords seldom got cleaned.

I remember the penny candy store in a timeworn shack up the road, Danny Hall’s general store where I purchased rubber balls to toss against the back of the barn, and the tiny post office where individual wooden boxes held the mail.

Willa Cather once said, “Some memories are realities and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.”

In melancholy moments, when I need nostalgic nourishment, I think back to the joy in Jonesport. I sure miss it. It’s a good place to make memories in, our Maine.

Hunter Howe lives in Cape Elizabeth with his wife, Colette, and their two beloved dogs, Spirit and Schooner. He writes for the Senior News, a publication of the Southern Maine Agency on Aging. Currently, he’s working on a suspense novel and an observational humor book appropriately set in a fictional town in mid-coast Maine.