Summer homes, especially when located in spectacular places, usually attract guests laden with gifts and improvements. This year, now that I am old, handicapped, car-less, and recently widowed, both were plentiful.
Walter was the first guest. His contributions were novel because he had never been to Mount Desert Island, much less my cottage. My simple nest dates from the 1940s. It stands on a hillock overlooking a spectacular lake that serves as its water supply. My husband and I upgraded it over the past half-century, doubling its size and adding a deck. Basically, however, it remains a rustic cabin in the woods, which enchants most visitors including Walter.
As for the gifts and improvements: Walter was troubled by my scanty locks and upgraded them. In spite of my decades-long housewifely experience, Walter felt that I was in dire need of a refrigerator thermometer. When the little gadget arrived, it confirmed that my fridge was at an even 40 degrees. For the past fifty years, I eyeballed our guests’ cocktails. Now, however, the liquor for these is measured in a jigger, which doles out either 1½ ounces or half the amount. My granddaughter—who sometimes moonlights as a bartender-endorsed Walter’s contribution as an essential acquisition. Time will tell whether our liquor bill increases or drops. Unbidden, Walter replaced most of my ancient lightbulbs with new LEDs, and the house is brighter and environmentally updated.
Walter’s most welcome contributions were electronic. He animated our TV in a fraction of an hour, a task that for years had defeated professionals and laypeople alike. For years, we suspected that some mountain, probably Beech, interfered with reception. After that problem was solved, the proposed fees for service became exorbitant. Now, as set up by Walter, service seems free. The phone, too, yielded to Walter’s efforts. I have good intermittent cell phone service and four creaky landline outlets that I can access from any one of my 1400 square feet.
Naomi, one of my twin granddaughters, visited next. She equipped the house with traditional and electronic bug zappers. The intense blue light that emanates from the contraptions reminds me of her visit. I, however, wonder what to do with the elaborate sticky old-fashioned gadgets, now covered with dead insects, that hang from lamps and occasionally get entangled in my hair. Naomi also tried to slip-proof my rugs.
Joseph, an annual visitor, arrived with foie gras mousse, delicious wine, smoked duck breast, and one hundred Lindt dark chocolate truffles. I am still working at reducing the latter to a reasonable number.
My daughter Judy and her partner John arrived with elbow grease. Less than 24 hours after their arrival, my kitchen was unrecognizably neat, though I can no longer can find anything. Along with Naomi, my daughter embarked on a vigorous throwing-out campaign of pleasantly aged groceries, oodles of storage containers, chipped china, torn linens, old clothes, and gifts from previous visitors. The campaign encounters strong resistance.
All these gifts were eclipsed by the last. Casey, my three-month-old great-grandson, came to visit. He arrived with Ana, his mother, who celebrated her first birthday here some 34 years ago, and his father Tyler, a recent Maine enthusiast. Casey is unaware of the historic significance of his visit. He smiles and cries as three-month-olds are wont to do. I am too old to teach Casey to hike, swim, borrow books from the local library or pick blueberries, but he’ll have many other willing teachers. Chances are that he too will become a devotee of the modest family seat.
The half-century since we bought this little piece of Maine have passed awfully quickly. I feel at home here, even though I spent my youth being a refugee. Let us hope that the millions of refugees who now roam the earth will find a little corner where they feel at home, too.