Growing up In Maine. Earliest memories living in small town rural Maine.
The youngest you were where you can remember vividly. How old were you when events happening around you can be recalled from memory? And not thanks to a relative making it seem real. But recalled on your own without help from the family story telling of a personal event. I can remember living on Franklin Avenue in Houlton Maine. We were only there a couple year before moving to a farm property outside of town.
I was two to three years of age according to my quick ciphering calculations.
The family still living downtown. There must have been a party the night before. It is just me shuffling around at about 5 AM. Slowly climbing out of bed, sliding down the carpeted stairs on my stomach to hang a right at the bottom. To visit the brightly lit living room.
The sun on the eastern exposure windows pouring, shining in very brightly. Just waking up and being in the dark for quite a few hours sleeping probably added to how daylight intense it was to a little shaver. With sleepy seeds from the Sandman’s handiwork the night before still crusted in the big brown peepers.
Wearing a one piece zip ’em up sleeper with the built in vinyl coated slipper feet.
Moving like a low to the ground cat burglar that knew his way around the quiet as a mouse single family homestead. The warm insulated sleeper probably from JC Penney’s or Chain Apparel. There were potato chips in the bowl on the living room coffee table. The familiar big glass snack container had a wire bracket hooked to the top side of the super sized bowl. To allow the dip to hang out near the chips. It was onion dip’s turn to entertain hungry guests at the house party.
Thinking back it was out of character for my mom not to have cleaned up the dishes after the night of the party or when a meal was done. With the help of the family recruited to remind all that many hands made light work.
So somewhere around two plus years of age and was MIA in the crib upstairs this particular Saturday or Sunday morning when the Maine house was dead quiet.
Like home alone after everyone gets shuttled hurriedly to the airport. No noise because it was a tad early. All the rest of the family members had not done the rise and shine, get your head out of bed.
Another vivid earliest of memories was the actual move to the farm from Franklin Avenue. Passengers in an International pick up, the back end loaded up with household belongings from in town destined for the country relocation. I am in my Mom’s lap, Dad is driving slowly. As we round the corner beyond the cemetery on both sides of the road and the farm comes into view. The memory moment in time is crystal clear. Nothing faded or hazy about it in the memory banks mental scan.
Our family pitch black cat Satan, a Tom with plumbing kept intact for life is none to happy about being in the truck cab. Pacing, crying, anxious and not the best of passengers. At fourteen years of age after keeping the farmstead free of other cats and any rodents, Dr Perkins on Court Street was summoned to put the family pet to sleep. No easy task. But that event to come later. Way way beyond moving day from town to country for “Satie”.
Satan was not the most social feline but a better mouser there was not to be seen for miles around.
He would disappear one week a year. Head to town or somewhere he did not share with us. And to come back in one major mess. Cuts, scrapes, bruises. Torn ears, chipped teeth, looking like one of the Rolling Stones after being out on tour way too long. He would be nursed back to health. To land back on his four feet. Returned to the barnyard daily routine and sobering up from doing what Tom cats do. Flirting, competing for an intown female cat’s affections. When off duty, on R & R from protecting the grainary, performing the other agricultural barn yard list of chores. Everyone works on a Maine family farm remember? Satan knew his special role.
Back back to the move, the window in the back of the pick up is sideways oval. Looking back through the truck cab’s window I can see a tall floor lamp loose and swaying. Wondering to myself just how much that beige colored shade could take in the breeze of the transport. Ease up on the pedal to the metal Dad suggests Mary Lou aka Mom.
The recall of the move was not because my parents supplied the detail. It was my own you are there observation. The parents are both gone now and not available to ask for more details. Like where were my three older brothers? Back packing or tractor beamed behind us with more cargo?
The sense of smell is supposed to be the strongest to kick start memory recall of an earlier time in your life.
Walking into a farm barn and the smell of hay or manure or grain, the livestock can take you instantly to that familiar setting in rural Maine. Being in the Maine woods “uptah camp” or hiking a trail can surround you the same way with rich forest smells of recall. Fresh rain early in the day. Everything is alive and vibrant. Welcome to Maine, the way life should be.
Little ice shards stuck like jewel crystals to wool mittens knit by your mom or grandmother. Those have smells from your winter outdoor playing in the snow that trigger the olfactory sense too. The hand made pearl one knit two home made patterned mittens that matched your winter coat. Removed, heavy, wet and smelling like damp sheep. Carefully placed on a wooden rack by the kitchen wood stove to dry out completely for another day of play. Every day, any season, Mainers are outdoors any chance they get. We all suffer from cabin fever if we don’t fill our lungs with fresh clean Maine air.
Landing on the moon for someone younger than myself was the earliest of memories for a friend of mine.
He figured he was around two at the time and remembers asking his mom why is everything white on the moon from afar? Her answer to her son was because the trees are white, mountains and craters are too.
Total white on white washing to sterilize the lunar moon scenery. The take away logic was that everything on the moon must be a million shades of white only white. And boy could this new destination in the all important race to the moon location ever use a Sherwin Williams paint outlet his thought. For the blues, greens of Maine, fall orange, red, yellows and all the other color wheel shades needed to shake it up a bit.
Everyone asks who are these people in the old black and white snap shot photos.
The ones safely touch away in a hidden protected box.
Even when family members all try their best to write on the back who their relatives are or to indicate the year they were captured. When the people who were there suddenly are not, everything goes fuzzy.
But for most of us, the earliest memories of living in Maine are collected on our own very early.
Combined with the ones we overheard shared at family reunions. Or from the regular Sunday after church rotations to someone’s house that was the pick of venues for this week. To spend the afternoon with aunts, uncles, cousins.
The grown ups sat and talked. The kids played outdoor games and used their imaginations in fresh air exercise. We grew up in Maine taking turns visiting our relative’s homes. Each week it was fun because it was new and different than our own regular surroundings.. You did get a glimpse of how the other family members lived because of they weekly gatherings.
Other early memories on the Maine farm?
Complaining my bike with the training wheels was not fast enough. So my older brother Jonathan hooks up a rope, connected to his English racer bike and I went lots faster. For awhile. Until hitting one of the very tall and thick maple shade trees out front of the country home on the County Road.
Still wear the large scar under the chin from that adventure. My grandmother was a nurse and probably should have had the gash stitched up but did not get sewed up because she must have triaged the wound as just a scrape. Nothing serious Mary Lou. Have him hold this peeled potato on it for a spell and he will be fine.
What’s your earliest memory that is crystal clear as a bell?
Did you have grandparents in Maine that you visited summers as a kid? Have fond memories of life on the rural farm? Or trips to the coast, were those in the mental slide show?
Wells Beach perhaps or hiking trips to Mt Katahdin? Or renting a lake camp for a week in Maine growing up? Visiting LL Bean or Old Orchard Beach?
Maybe your family rented a cottage on the Maine coast. Or liked camping in the Great North Woods. Ever paddled the Allagash Wilderness Waterway?
Been to Vanceboro or Escourt Station or The Forks, Jackman, St Agatha Maine? Feeling pretty lucky to have be raised here, not just sample the state a long weekend here, a vacation stretch of days there. Live and local and a full blown native is a special inner feeling and very grateful for my roots and heritage.
Maine, she’s a big part of a lot of fond memories whether you live here full time or not.
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