North America | United States of America (USA) | New England | Maine | Rockland – “I’d rather have a son than a gun!”

North America | United States of America (USA) | New England | Maine | Rockland – “I’d rather have a son than a gun!”

In order to get to Boston in time for our bus to Maine, we’d have to get up at 6 am and get a 7:30 train. There were no trains between then and 1 pm and the bus left at noon. So Mr Boston generously drove us half way to my mom’s, making the bus ride only 2 hours rather than 5, cutting out early morning stress, and meaning we would not have to deal with going into Boston.

The scenery outside grew steadily more Scandinavian, more sparse, and colder as we hugged the northbound coastal route into Maine. The transition from car to bus was surprisingly easy. Then again we had left an entire suitcase at our Massachusetts friends’ house.

On the bus Lucy squirmed in her seat, threw her toys on the dirty floor and finally settled on a bracelet and a thumb suck. From the bus window I saw frozen lakes and shivering trees, though only patches of snow remained. The grass was all brown, not like in Britain where it stays green all winter.

Rockland is a cute port town. No strip malls or chain stores. It reminded me of Bozeman, Montana – small town America, one little Main Street, with small, tidy storefronts. “Working class towns,” my mom explained. Fishermen and lobster catchers here, real life cowboys in Montana. (We went to Montana last year for a cousin’s wedding, when Lucy was comfortably in the womb, a much easier way to travel with a baby.) The Wild West and now the Wild East.

My mom met us in Rockland. The very first thing she did, before even saying hello, was to thrust a plastic sports-type bottle into Sexton’s hand, with a conspirational shout of: “libations!” She did not seem to understand that my husband’s alcoholism does not extend to hiding beer in plastic containers, unlike some people whose names I will not mention.

Mom, or Nana, had the large van she had used to travel across the US twice. I had tried to explain prior to our arrival that it is now US law that babies travel in specially made car seats. However, in London, in a black taxi or large van, it seems to be ok to leave the baby in the stroller. BUT my mom’s van had seats in the back – we had to tilt the stroller to a ridiculous angle, wedged between the seats, where the baby was crying and I felt like crying, too.

After a hair raising drive in which Nana was more interested in chatting and pointing out sites of interest than driving, we arrived at her bungalow, down a long dirt track and very far from anything (other than neighbouring bungalows which rent for a lot of money in July and August.)

When we were all in DC my mom had told us her cabin had no bathtub, and only limited use of water. She only flushes the toilet when absolutely necessary. I started to imagine a very rustic place. This was a woman who slept sitting up for 6 years when my dad was ill. This was a woman who camped wild in Alaska with her cat in all sorts of weather. Her favourite travel spots were Siberia and the Arctic Circle. Her need for creature comforts was pretty minimal.

So I was relieved to see that the propane heater worked, the cesspit has just been emptied, the loo was not an outhouse, and the place was clean and well lit. The only problem was lack of space and what I would call a difference in opinion about how to use space. The house had one large sitting/dining/cooking room, and 2 tiny bedrooms, only big enough for beds and dressers – no floor space. There was nowhere at all to pitch Lucy’s travel cot. We couldn’t put it in the main room, as we would have kept her awake with our chatting at night. So she ended up in bed with me, and Sexton ended up on an inflatable mattress, which covered a large part of the main room floor. He kept his clothes and coat on all night, as the matress itself was cold, and nana had left her good blankets in storage 3 years ago (of course she would not need good blankets in tropical places like Canada or Maine.)

For some bizarre reason Nana had all her crockery in plastic picnic containers laid out on the small counter or worktop space. And an entire large kitchen drawer was empty. Tiny boxes of earrings were laid out next to each other, covering the dresser top, instead of stacked or put away. Every available surface was covered in piles of papers, books, photos, magazines, trinkets or “Beanie Baby” toy animals. But like I said it was warm (ish) and clean.

Oh, and the thing that really got to me (while I’m criticising everyone I know in this journal and deciding whether or not I’ll let them read it), was that my mom kept going on about there not being enough room in the fridge. Not enough room for food for Lucy – my mom freaked out on the phone when I asked for some fruit and vegetables. Not enough room for more milk, and, I can’t remember what else. But why was there no room? Cos the fridge was full of BEER. We couldn’t, like, chill each day’s beers the night before – no, the fridge had to constantly be stocked with a whole week’s worth of bottles and cans.

But I will give my mom credit for making a few decent meals for once. She cooks everything in her much loved “crock pot”, a 1970s fad that for everyone else died long ago. It’s an electric slow cooker that takes about 8 hours to prepare a dish. So you have to be very well planned. She did a fish soup, a couple of good apple desserts and a fondue, which tasted fine though the consistency was all wrong. And one night made Wassail, which wasn’t due to be ready until after we’d all gone to bed.

The site seeing was very good. The first day at Nana’s, Lucy, Nana and I took the ferry from Rockland to Vinalhaven, a 90-minute boat ride each way to visit an island where basically nothing was happening. But the boat ride itself was what we went for. While Lucy napped and Nana watched her, I braced myself against icy winds and admired the views from the open deck. Tiny, dark islands, covered in fir trees reminded me of Scandinavia. On the way back Lucy played with some children the whole time, while I again stood outside, watching the light on the water and having one of those mystical moments that only come when travelling over water in very cold weather.

On Vinalhaven, the few people we meet in the street were friendly, but the only place open was the local shop, which had a coffee machine and a table at the back, near stacks of pet food and cat litter. The window advertised fish bait and goat-herder hats. There was also a hot chocolate machine, and an empty hot dog warming machine.

Rolls of different kinds of tape in neon colours, fishing supplies, children’s Wellies, and chewing tobacco were all on all sale alongside crisps, cookies, soft drinks and canned food. The men who came in all had big beards, red cheeks and Russian style hats. The thermal socks that were on sale only came in sizes 10-13.

That night over beers, the carbine came up again.

“I’d rather have a son than a gun!” my mom exclaimed, worried that the fiasco with her .22 in Washington DC was going to wreck my brother’s marriage or worse yet mean neither him nor his wife would speak to my mom again. I assured her their marriage was stronger than that.

Category : North America | United States of America (USA) | New England | Maine | Rockland , Uncategorized