Friday, September 6, 2013

The sound of goodbye

And then, in what feels like the blink of an eye, they're gone.

Before the last trucks have pulled out of the Blue Hill Fairgrounds, the summer visitors have pulled up their dinghies, taken in their mailboxes, emptied out their refrigerators, and headed south. The children were loaded into their cars and whisked away, gazing out the windows from their comfy car seats, oblivious to what they're leaving behind. The older they get, the longer they pause to inhale that last sweet breath of Maine air.

So painful were those late-August goodbyes that I finally decided to stop making them. Now we live just a mile up the road, otherwise at most three hours away, and can always traipse down to say hello to the place, even in the dead of winter (and usually with a thermos of coffee and thick slabs of cake to fortify us for the long trek uphill toward home).

Initially, there's a sigh of relief. Trying to work among the retired and vacationing is always a challenge. But then comes sadness. Without their noise and fuss and bustle, the manufactured flurry of the temporarily idle, the place feels utterly empty. Almost haunted.

Before they go, somewhere after settling up at the market and putting in their forwarding notice with the post office, they pull up in front of my house. Their own houses, devoid of electricity and inaccessible by car six months of the year, must be emptied of anything that might rot, burst, or attract vermin.

These may be second homes, but their owners are nothing if not true New England frugal. It bothers them deeply to throw anything away, even that half-used bottle of diet salad dressing, those two potatoes. Instead, they pack them up and bring them to us.

In the days leading up to closing time, we receive a steady trail of visitors with boxes and bags of "perfectly good" things that they couldn't bear to throw away. In accepting this food, we're helping them leave with a clean conscience. So we say "oh sure!" when presented with that squeeze-bottle of key lime juice, the box of generic Rice-a-Roni. When they leave, we promptly walk the bag into the barn and drop the most offensive of the give-aways, the crumb-coated sticks of butter that smell of refrigerator, straight into the garbage.

These cast-aways offer a clear economic indicator, and if this year's harvest is any indication, economic recovery has finally reached us. After years of generic, years of feeling the need to rescue that last egg, that last drop of lukewarm 2% milk, people were reaching for the name-brands and throwing away all but the pristine. Campbell's soup, Premium saltine crackers, Heinz tomato ketchup. Even the diet salad dressing was Wishbone.

There was one generic item, though, I'm guessing an impulse buy to please young visitors who chose not to partake: Marshmallows. Generic or not, those are my Kryptonite. I will have them, four at a time atop a steaming mug of hot chocolate, until either they or I am gone. Let's hope they go first. 


phaedra96 said...

This made me smile. Instead, we leave the stuff that would not make the trip home in the fridge for the cleaning ladies or the family moving into the lodge to shut down the resort over Labor Day weekend. If some person could only invent a way to haul a half a gallon of vanilla ice cream home over a two-day trip.....they could make a fortune!

Anmiryam said...

Having just bundled all my extra food and such into a the car and driven south yesterday I found this post very timely -- though as a summer person I wish I could have stayed. Enjoy the gorgeous September weather on Penobscot Bay. I'm hoping that I can stay longer in coming years.

Adrienne Martini said...

Now I have a sudden urge to visit my friend who lives in Maine. Great time of year to go, really.

Also - if you stick a marshmallow in the microwave and turn it on (the microwave not the marshmallow), fun things happen.

besshaile said...

Nice to be reading the blog again. happy September to you sweetie

Marfa's Mewsings said...

Who knew - marshmallows, eh? A good cup of hot cocoa can be dressed in many ways.