Maine was a kaleidoscope of positive experiences. Every turn we took may have yielded a new place or activity, but each new scenario was dazzling. We met numerous people in restaurants, shops and through the inn, but we never encountered a rude soul or felt unwelcome. Case in point, on the next to the last day, temporary disaster struck, and it was a Maine storekeeper who saved the day.
I pulled into a parking space in front of the antique store. Mom had asked for an hour to browse around, and I had gone shopping in the interim. You know how most travelers like to buy nonperishables to document their adventure? They return with a big, floppy hat that seemed like a good idea at the time or some article of clothing that has a geographical location embroidered across their chest. My personal favorite is the cutesy collection of signs made out of seashells and sold for prices that would have made the fiddler crabs who vacated their homes wealthy nomads by anyone’s standards. But I don’t fall into any of those tourist traps personally. Sure, I buy some of those items for my friends or family, but when it comes to my own remembrance, give me food. Oil, vinegar, honey, jelly, if you can spread it on a cracker or pour it on a salad, it’s going home with me. So as I walked into the antique store to collect Mom, I was mentally calculating how many jars of fig preserves and blackberry jam I could cram into the toes of my boots to conserve space in my tightly packed suitcase.
“Hey, hon.” The greeting was traditional, but the look on her face made me stop. She was half a facial tic away from full blown panic.
“I can’t find my purse. I know I brought it in here, but I must have laid it down somewhere . . .” As she spoke, her eyes probed the area and looked for clues.
“Well, it shouldn’t be too hard to find.” The handbag that had gone AWOL was mustard yellow with red roses and spacious enough to accommodate a family of squirrels. I took a couple of steps away to begin the search, but Mom pointed me across the hall.
“I was mostly in there.”
I followed and immediately understood the dilemma. The first room had a layout that afforded patrons an unhindered view of furniture pieces for sale. The second room focused on small items stacked on every available shelf, and all surfaces boasted of knickknacks, vintage clothing, or fabrics. Customers needed to walk with their purses directly in front of them to prevent inadvertently purchasing an item, and amongst such an array of color, even Mom’s purse would be camouflaged. The room could have easily been a finalist for that hoarding show on TLC, but as the daughter of an antique enthusiast, I knew this was Nirvana for my mom.
“Ok, Mom. Try to retrace your steps, and I’ll just wade around over here with a sharp eye.”
We divided in order to conquer, and the shopkeeper joined the search. After ten minutes of digging with no harvest, my mom voiced her fear. “Wasn’t there another woman in here while I was looking?”
The store owner waved her hand to dismiss Mom’s concern. “Sure, but you don’t need to worry about that. This is Maine. That kind of thing doesn’t happen in Maine.”
This statement hit the pause button on my search. Doesn’t happen in Maine? Could this be true? Was this a place that still trusted strangers, left doors unlocked at night, and didn’t have a shotgun ready in case a crack head tried to break in at 3am? Maybe this was Nirvana.
A moment later the owner emerged from the bathroom with the purse proudly held in front of her like the Wimbledon Cup. “It was hanging behind the door. I thought I remembered you going in there.”
Mom took the bag with shaking hands and released enough captive breath to lower her blood pressure thirty points. “Thank God.” Clutching her wayward charge against her chest, she walked me over to the register. “Look at this bedspread! It’s going to fit my double bed in the blue room perfectly.”
With a sinking heart I regarded her find. The bedspread was bulky and would never fit into the luggage we had brought. I was going to have a devil of a time just getting a few jelly jars into my shoes.
“Mom, we don’t have room to pack this. We could check it as a separate item, but the airline will charge us for another bag. Do you want to do that?”
She slowly shook her head. “I don’t think so.” Her fingers patted the material farewell, and the owner graciously carried it back.
“You know,” Mom said as she climbed into the car, “that lady was really nice considering I didn’t buy that. She even came down off the price for me.”
Nice indeed. When I scroll through my memories and think of all the friendly people I met “up North,” I must admit that we Southerners do not have the corner market on affability. In fact, I’m beginning to think we made up the term Southern hospitality just to make ourselves feel better about losing the war. Regardless, my experiences in Maine have brought me to a startling conclusion: happiness can exist north of the Mason-Dixon Line. At least in the summer months.
© 2012 – Traci Carver