When I thought about having a relaxing getaway to Maine I envisioned sitting on my friend’s porch over looking Clam Cove in the cool north air, eating lobster, playing cards, stitching many ornaments, telling stories and laughing, laughing, laughing. Somehow only a few of those things happened, but I am certainly not disappointed.
When Warren and I discussed what we might do during my visit I had one request, to try and see a very good Ethel Walker friend, Julie Williams now Julie Wagoner, whom I had not been in contact with for 35 years. I knew from Warren that she worked in Bath and he had seen her just a few years before. The fact that I had not kept in touch is no indication of how much I had loved her when we went to school together, but like so many people we know when we are young, we just lost contact.
Warren and I hatched up a hair brained scheme that we would surprise her at her bank where she was a commercial loan officer under the auspices that we needed a loan. I was a little worried that she might not be at work if we just showed up so Warren called the bank and asked a co-worker of Julie’s if she was going to be in, but to please keep the secret of our arrival. It was a good thing we did that because she was out the day we planned to visit and had to change our plans.
Today we drove to Bath and waited in the lobby of her Bank while the receptionist asked her to come down to see some customers. Despite the years she recognized us and I would have known her anywhere, she had not aged one day, let alone 35 years.
After she got over the original shock she showed us around and introduced us to her co-workers before we took her to lunch. Julie was still the kind and thoughtful person I knew as a teenager. She told us all about her family and her work. Julie, like me loved to do crafts, even at a young age and she told us she was still making quilts, like her mother.
She told us how she collects old featherweight sewing machines that are particularly coveted by quilters because they are light and easy to transport when going to quilting classes. One day her mother called her and told her about a 90 year old woman who she knew who had a feather weight that had belonged to her mother she might want to sell. Julie called her to say she heard about her machine. The woman talked lovingly about how much her mother adored this machine.
Julie, who already had a couple of sewing machines and really did not need another asked how much she wanted. The price the woman gave her was too good to pass up so Julie said she would take it on one condition, that the woman would give Julie a copy of a picture of her mother so she could attach it to the case of the machine and think of her whenever she used it.
Julie asked the woman if she wanted her to bring her the money that day or the next week and the woman said, “Come today, it is so much better to do something hard faster.” As she told me this story I thought how typically thoughtful of Julie to come up with the perfect way to ease this old woman’s pain of selling her mother’s prized sewing machine by assuring her that her mother will never be forgotten, when the woman was not even asking for that.
It is so wonderful to know that a person I thought was the highest caliber human being when she was a teenager, really was and continued to be. The years apart were merely a blink of an eye. We promised to not wait another 30 years and try and see each other again next year.
There are two things my friend Warren loves, Howard Johnson’s and antiques. His house is a contrast in styles, the main living space which is full of country, primitive and fine antiques including the kitchen with a 1920’s stove and 1935 General Electric Monitor top refrigerator and the HoJo’s room which has Howard Johnson artifacts from the thirties, through the mid century modern era to the seventies right before the HoJo’s started disappearing. Now many people think Howard Johnson’s is an antique given that there are only two HoJo restaurants left in America, one is Lake George, NY and the second in Bangor, Maine.
Being that we are only an hour from Bangor Warren thought we should go and visit a real Howard Johnson’s and eat fried clams since he felt like the kale salad I was cooking at his HoJo’s was not very traditional fare for the turquoise and orange. So off we went this morning after visiting the town dump to drop off the trash and recycling. Oh what excitement here in Maine.
We pulled into the restaurant, without an orange roof, with only one other car in the parking lot. I was a little worried about the future of this HoJo’s, but after a lovely meal sitting at the counter we learned that there was an interested buyer who wanted to revive the Howard Johnson’s brand in Bangor.
Full and satisfied we left to head home, but true to Warren’s nature we veered into a few antique stores we passed on the way. I browsed as Warren struck up conversations with store owner’s quizzing them about their knowledge of antique refrigerators. See, Warren’s beloved Monitor top, which is his primary cooling device is somewhat on the fritz. After many a call to repairmen and much searching of the Internet he was yet to find someone to work on his prized machine. At one stop a nice woman said there was an appliance store in town that had vintage appliances in the window, so off we went to talk to yet another person.
While sitting in the service department with young Andrew who could not fix Warren’s fridge himself, but who was keen to help he finally said that Warren needed to go visit Al, at General Appliance around the block because he could fix anything. So off we went. At this point I feel like I had learned enough about vintage refrigerators to be able to fix it myself, if only I had the parts.
Right around the block must mean different things to Mainers than it does to southerners and eventually we found a building that was named Picket Appliance that we assumed was the right place. Outside the building sat strange looking stoves from Brands I had never heard of and when we entered the building it was full of one type of fridge, one that does not need electricity. In the corner was a composting toilet. We were not in Kansas anymore.
A woman approached us, Warren in his polo shirt and I in my pink peddle pushers were not the normal customers for this store. Warren asked to speak to Al and the woman protectively said he was unavailable, we assumed the man on the phone at the counter in the rail road engineer cap with the curly grey hair sticking out beneath was someone else.
Warren described his old fridge dilemma and as soon as the woman decided we were not tax collectors or FBI agents she said that Al could help us as soon as he finished on the phone. Such screening for an appliance repair guy.
Warren introduced himself to Al and began to tell his tale of woe. Al made some comment that Warren should be fine if he had me as a wife. We laughed and Warren made a comment about the fact that I was another man’s wife and the investigation about if Al could help continued. Warren was feeling like he was finally making some real headway as Al described possible fixes for Warren’s sick machine. Then in the middle of a sentence Al stopped short and looked at me and said, “has anyone ever told you you have the bluest eyes?”
That was it! Warren was furious that Al had lost his train of thought about the difference in compressor or electrical issue and it was all my fault for standing there with my eyes open. In the end it was fine since Al said he could help Warren in the winter, when his busy season was over. Turns out Al’s business is to supply appliances to people who live mainly off the grid. It was clear to me as Al described his customers that I was probably the only female he ever saw outside the old woman who worked for him and that I was certainly the cleanest. Warren says I may have to return to Maine when he takes the fridge to Bangor for Al to repair so I can ensure good service.
One of the nicest things about my friend Warren is his generosity in sharing his home with me and allowing me to entertain at his HoJo’s as if I were the franchisee. Yesterday when I had just barley arrived we had my friend Wendie over and today m Durham friends Sheppy and Dick Vann.
Sheppy and Dick are actually now Nashville friends having moved away from Durham after Sheppy’s retirement from DA last year. They summer in Liberty, Maine where Dick’s family has had a house for something like 90 years. I am thankful that they come here because it increases the chances that I will see them.
Last summer when I stopped by the Vann’s house when I was at family camp I told them all about Warren’s Howard Johnson’s. Sheppy is of the age that she visited HoJo’s regularly when on family trips because it was always a reliable place to eat. When I made plans to come to Maine this summer I asked Warren if it would be alright for me to have Sheppy and Dick for lunch, knowing they would appreciate the HoJo’s. Of course he said yes.
Although Warren has all the HoJo’s corporate cookbooks I chose not to make traditional lunch offerings since there is probably nothing healthy in clam steps, chicken croquettes or Mac and Cheese. Instead we had to make due with tomato, basil and burratta served with oat bread with butter, radishes and salt finger sandwiches served on Howard Johnson china. We followed the first course with a kale chicken Caesar salad with some purple roast baby carrots. Warren is not usually an adventurous eater and was a little worried about the anchovies I put in the dressing. Howard would be rolling in his graves for he saw my menu. But everyone seemed to like their lunch and even Warren ate the whole thing.
After lunch we retired to the front porch to enjoy the breeze from Clam Cove and have blueberry pie for dessert. Sheppy thankfully brought her needlepoint and we had a great visit while Dick and Warren wondered the property. Just as I thought, Sheppy loved the HoJo’s and Warren thoroughly enjoyed both the Vanns. What a fun day it was. I am thankful to know such wonderful and interesting people who are generous enough to open their homes or drive an hour for lunch. Life in Maine makes me happy.
Thirty-eight years ago I met my friend Warren and we became fast and furious friends. We have remained so ever since, building up years of memories especially in the last few years as my family has come to stay with Warren every summer at his lovely house in Maine.
Thirty-one years ago my ground zero Washington DC friend, David MacKay, who is responsible for practically every friend I made in DC, introduced me to Wendie Demuth. We became life long friends immediately, who could go years without talking but able to pick right back up where we left off without skipping a beat.
This morning I boarded a plane in North Carolina, not without first spilling my giant Starbucks all over the floor of the ladies room without having first taken a sip. It did not seem like a great way to start the day. I arrived at Logan airport and learned that my flight to Owl’s head was delayed. Day not getting any better.
Eventually me and the eight other passengers were escorted to our tiny plane where I got to be the co-pilot. Happily I was able to needlepoint, while flying the plane. And some people thought I only needle pointed through board meetings. The day was looking up.
Thanks to my not hitting any of the levers or steering thingies we landed safely just as Warren was walking in the airport to pick me up. At last I was in Maine for my summer vacation, it was just a little sad that the rest of family was not.
At a little bit after five Wendie, who it turns out was living in Maine arrived at Warren’s house so I could take them both for a lobster dinner and introduce them to each other. It was the collision of two of my greatest friends who should have known each other long before now.
So off to Belfast we went to eat on a beautiful dock, tell stories and laugh. It was a very, very good day. There is nothing I like more than introducing people to each other who should be friends. If I could have this happen everyday I would throw a Starbucks coffee on the floor of the ladies room all the time.
It’s a big tomato season this year. Farmers are picking more red globes than usual and the prices are reflecting the over abundance. At the Raleigh farmer’s market you can get a case of “canning tomatoes” for $10, that’s .40 cents a pound. Canning tomatoes are just not a beautiful as the slicing tomatoes, but perfect for making sauce.
2 large sweet onions diced
40 ripe tomatoes – cored and quartered
1 small can tomato paste
2 T. Sugar
In a giant stock pot put the onions and the tomatoes and bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Stir the pot every ten minutes and cook until the volume reduces by at least half.
Using a food mill with the medium sieve run all the tomatoes through food mill to get the skins and seeds out. Return the sauce to the pot and add the tomato paste, sugar and salt to taste. Cook another 20 mins.
This is a good base for so many sauces and soups. Freeze in smaller containers so it can be defrosted in a timely manner.
After our much too fast 24 hour visit with Carter ended Russ, Shay and I made the familiar drive home from camp to the empty front half of our house and the disastrous back half crammed with all we own. In these last few hours before the floor men arrive we finished covering up the window treatments and covering the furniture with sheets.
I had a half a case of tomatoes and since I am not going to be able to use the kitchen to cook I made marinara sauce for the freezer. I must be the only person on earth who in the final moments I have left in my house for two weeks decides to slow simmer a stockpot of tomatoes. I just could not let them go to waste.
I also made two tomato pies, one for dinner and one for the freezer while doing two last loads of laundry so Russ will have all the clothes he has access to clean. See I thought he had set aside the clothes he needed for these two weeks before the movers came and put his two dressers wrapped in shrink-wrap in the middle of all the other furniture. When he asked me where his belts were and I pointed to the inaccessible chest he gave me that, “Are you kidding me?” look.
After what feels like years, but in reality is only two months of getting the house ready for this face lift of sanding and refinishing I realize that come tomorrow I will get a two-week break from working on the house. I am going to be quarantined from cleaning anything else. Even though I will have access to one part of the house it is going to be unpleasant to be here so I am doing the best thing and leaving town.
Shay has been the most upset by all this moving around. She picks up her blue stuffed dog and carries it around crying because the bed where she likes to bury her stuffed animals is gone. She wanders the empty rooms and is disturbed by the lack of the familiar. She cries and sticks close to us worrying that we might disappear too. Thank goodness she is happy to go and stay with her friend Mary where there will be a pack of dog friends to keep her mind off her loss of habitat at home.
First thing in the morning the crew will show up. I am staying home for the first day of the job because I was worried about running out of town and not being available to answer any questions they might have about the color or finish I wanted. I hope that it was not a mistake to just run away as soon as the refinishers walk in the door.
I am mostly looking forward to the mandatory break from cleaning, packing, throwing/giving stuff away and reorganizing. The only bad part is that it is just a break. As soon as the floors are done I have to undo everything and put it all back in their rightful places as well as clean every surface in the whole house, including the parts that were not refinished because I know dust will get in every nook and cranny. For now I am just going to pull a Scarlet O’Hara and “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
Hooray! Today has been a great day to be a dog. I got to ride in the car on my daddy’s lap all the way to Camp Cheerio. We came to take my mother Carter out of camp for her 24 hours off. I have missed her so much since she has been gone for three weeks. Since I can’t read the calendar I have no idea how long three weeks is, but it feels like forever. I wander around the house and look for her day and night, but can’t find her anywhere.
We took Carter and her friend Trey out to lunch. We had to drive on the blue ridge parkway a long distance to get to the biker bar that is the only place with outside seating for me. I don’t like bikers and especially loud Harley’s that the old people ride on. Every time one drove past us I jumped. I did like getting to sit on Daddy’s lap and next to Trey at lunch, especially when Trey gave me his chicken from his salad.
After we dropped Trey back at camp we drove down to Winston Salem to a hotel made just for dogs. I got to go on a long with with my Dad while my Mom and Grandmother, that’s what I call Dana, went to the mall to buy my Mom some new converse sneakers for camp.
I really like staying in a hotel with two beds because I can jump from one to the other. My mom is really happy because she has her own room where I get one bed and she gets the other. She says a long shower, some TV watching and a good nights sleep are just what she needs.
I love camp visiting, staying in hotels and rising in the car. Mostly I like seeing my Mom. sIx weeks without her would have been much too long. I don’t know how long that is, but it’s too long just the same.