Category Archives: Maine Attraction

The Maine Attraction – Part VII of VII

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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.

“What’s wrong?”

“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

The Maine Attraction – Part VI of VII

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After the Breakwater Lighthouse expedition, I sank into the warmth of my rental car. I enjoyed the coziness of my Corolla cocoon and sent pictures over my phone until a call of nature sent me in search of facilities. I followed signs for restrooms until I stumbled upon a series of Porta-Potties. Forget the 1950’s; these were outhouses. A couple of states over and I might bump into Laura Ingalls.

The short visit made me thankful for my overseas training and brought back unpleasant flashbacks of my summer in Viet Nam. I made a mental note to write the Maine Tourism Board in regards to the only area of their industry that needed some attention. And tax dollars. Lots of tax dollars.

Mom and I doubled back to the inn to freshen up before supper. Cheryl had a list of suggestions and even called several places to inquire about gluten free options for Mom. Cheryl was such an amiable and helpful person. She gave the impression that if you were to have a massive heart attack and the paramedics rushed in and deemed it necessary to open your chest cavity at the foot of the majestic Victorian staircase, she would have donned an apron and started scrubbing up to assist.

The meal at Café Miranda was fantastic, but I must admit they had already converted me with the words homemade pasta before I scooped a single morsel onto a spoon. We waddled back to the inn and decided to have a slice of pie because, hey, hunger is actually beside the point on vacation.

Cheryl makes three pies daily from scratch: wild blueberry, cherry and raspberry. Because of Mom’s gluten intolerance, she disemboweled a piece and then carried the crust across the kitchen. Mike entered just as she was about to scrape it in the garbage.

“Oh, hang on a second; we have a compost pile for that.” He swept around the counter and arrested the crumbs before she could dump them. “We recycle whatever food we don’t use to a local farm. We never waste anything.” The look on his face suggested he had caught Mom trying to stuff a cadaver into a Hefty sack.

Now it must be stated that we Southerners are guilty of many sins. We forget to conjugate verbs, we consider the Confederate flag a mandatory decoration for the back window of a pick-up truck, and we erect restaurant signs with giant, neon pig fannies all over the Southeast, but there’s one crime of which we can never be convicted: we don’t waste victuals.

“Isn’t that nice!” Mom said, placing her spoon in the sink. “At my house I just step out the back door and rake the scraps out to the possum.”

No one can accuse my mom of not going green.

© 2012 – Traci Carver

The Maine Attraction – Part V of VII

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The Breakwater Lighthouse was not for the faint of heart. A stone causeway stretched almost a mile to the lighthouse, and the path was as smooth as glass . . . that has just been shattered and glued back together by a toddler. Multiple pieces of granite were patched together in a pattern that left gaps wide enough to swallow a baby hippo, and sojourners were required to navigate in a hopscotch fashion. I stood on the shore peering at the tiny structure in the distance, debating the pros and cons of such an undertaking. Another lone traveler began the quest with only a camera slung over her shoulder, and I found the motivation to take my first step toward this majestic beacon of light. Besides, there was bound to be a gift shop at the other end of this gauntlet that offered a plethora of postcards and tiny lighthouses encased in snow globes. And who could resist snow globes? I committed my feet to the task.

About a quarter of a mile in, I came upon two outgoing tourists. They were pointing at an object to our right, so I did what anyone in my Keds would do: I stopped to rubberneck. It was a seal. The big guy was perched atop a rock, sunning himself and providing a National Geographic moment for the land lovers. He was too far away for a decent picture on my iPhone, and, truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of seals. Sure, baby seals with their dark chocolate eyes and grandpa whiskers are adorable, but they grow up to be noisy, lolling creatures in need of Yankee Candle car fresheners fastened around their necks. A few years ago, I visited Pier 39 in San Fran, and I kept wondering why they would build so many shops within sniffing distance of a garbage dump. But then I rounded a corner and bumped into the ocean. There was no refuse plant nearby, only floating pallets with hundreds of seals stacked like recycled newspapers. And let me tell you, that aroma does a great deal to diminish their cute factor. Aquatic life noted, I soldiered on.

More than half a mile in, a horrible suspicion cracked a door in my mind. Perhaps it was blown into my brain by the same chilling wind that was making my ears ache and flinging my hair into my eyes. Gift shops needed someone to man the cash register, and I seemed to be on the only path to said tourist shop. What person with the sense God gave an armadillo would choose to work in a place that required such a hearty walk to and fro? Was it possible the gift store clerk took a speed boat taxi to work every morning, or maybe, and this was the ill wind creating darkness in the recesses of my psyche, just maybe there were no tiny snow globes at the end of my journey. After forty-five minutes of leap-frogging over God’s jigsaw puzzle, I might not have even one tacky souvenir to show for it. Or a crappy seal photo. These were dark moments, to be sure.

The revelation of truth arrived shortly, and much like the relentless waves crashing against the rocks, reality struck icy cold. No pot of gold existed at the end of the rainbow. No key chains in the shape of Maine, no lobster cookbooks or oven mitts in the shape of claws, and no lighthouse coasters sold at exorbitant prices. I simply had to content myself with a couple of clicks of the lighthouse itself and then burrow on the lee side to give my eardrums a chance to defrost. Once the ringing subsided, I gathered my battered spirits and hoofed it back to shore.

No amount of brisk hopping could keep me warm. In addition to the tirade I was delivering in my head about trying to will gift shops into existence in direct defiance of logic, another sermon was vying for the pulpit on the intelligence behind bringing a jacket along only to leave it in the car. The two lecture series blared away with commercial breaks made by incoming tourists stopping to exclaim, “Oh, look! What’s that out on that rock? Is that a seal? Honey, quick, the camera.”

As soon as I hit the shoreline, the wind died, and I slowed to gaze out over the bay and to marvel over the distance I’d covered. An elderly couple sat nearby on a bench, the wife readjusting her shoes.

“Did you walk the whole thing?” The husband spoke while his wife worked on her Dr. Scholl’s inserts.

“I did. It’s chillier out there than it looks.”

“It looks like a long haul, but I think it’ll be worth it.”

“You know there’s no gift shop out there.” Better to break their hearts now considering they were risking a hip for this endeavor. They should be chewing on calcium supplements right now.

“Gift shop? Of course not. Who told you that?”

I shrugged as if I couldn’t reveal my sources and started to walk away. “Good luck,” I called over my shoulder.

“Oh, hey!” He stood pointing into the distance, camera gently bumping his chest. “Did you see the seal?”

I had indeed.

© 2012 – Traci Carver