The four children and I had begun our journey to Maine, with the ultimate goal of scattering Dad’s ashes in the New Meadows River as he had requested, but also anticipating some time to have fun. Our destination was 1800 miles away, and I knew from multiple conversations with Eric and Jenny that it was unwise to try to do the journey in two days, arriving in the evening. Logistically, it was always better to arrive in the afternoon so there was time to make beds, go to the grocery store, etc.
Our first stop was Chatham, Virginia. My father’s best friend from childhood lives in Seattle, Washington, but his daughter lives in Chatham, Virginia. Cara had come to the gathering we held at Mom and Dad’s home a few weeks after Dad died, and in the course of conversation, she graciously offered to all of us the opportunity to stay with her if we were traveling in that direction. I had wanted to take my younger children to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello for quite some time, having taken the older kids many years ago. (None of the middle three claim to remember that trip, but they did get to go when they were younger.) It turned out that Cara lived just about 90 minutes and just off the main highway to Monticello. The second goal for that leg of the trip was to visit my 98 year old grandfather. Grandpa had met two of my children, Little Princess and Dee, as well as Sweet Pea, over the last few years. I desired that all my children get to meet him. Grandpa lives in a retirement home in D.C, which was just another two hours from Monticello. The second leg of our trip would commence from Cara’s house and end in D.C.
Cara had made preparations for our arrival, although she herself was out of town, and we settled in for the night. It took longer than the time I budgeted to get going the next morning, so we ended up eating breakfast in the car–horray for my over-the-top, filled-to-the-brim bag of traveling goodies. Granola bars and yogurt were our breakfast provisions, and off we went to Monticello.
Monticello was a great place for the kids, but it was SO very hot that day! I had booked us for a family tour of the house, and the tour guide was very good. Each of the children took away something different. Weeks later, Lil’ Adventurer was wanting to confirm all the languages in which Thomas Jefferson was fluent. We did not have time to explore all the grounds as thoroughly as we desired; between the heat (I had Sweet Pea on my back in the Ergo carrier) and the time considerations, we toured the house, made a quick stop at the children’s outdoor activity center, and hit the gift shop where we purchased a few little things to help us remember our time there. We ate lunch on the road, and then we started our journey to see my grandfather.
The GPS took us through some beautiful territory in northern Virginia. We drove through Manassas battlefield park, and past many horse farms. It was a beautiful day for such a lovely drive. Traffic in DC was horrible, and I missed a few turns simply because I could not get over to the correct lane. GPS was great about making adjustments, although I swore the GPS voice sounded a little testy with me. We were a few minutes late getting to Grandpa’s retirement center for dinner, but I had called ahead, and they had seated him in the chapel at a larger table to accommodate all five of us. We had a lovely dinner with Grandpa, and afterwards, he enjoyed watching Sweet Pea play. He could not take his eyes off of her, and if she went around his wheelchair, he would turn so he could continue to watch her. She is his first (and so far only) great-great grandchild.
We left Grandpa and drove the half-hour to our hotel, only to discover upon arrival that we did not have the diaper bag. I specifically remembered having it when we left the retirement facility, and I remembered handing it to Lil’ Adventurer. He had left it on the sidewalk next to where I had parked the van. We climbed our weary selves back into the van and drove back the 30 minutes (only 8 miles!) and found the diaper bag still on the sidewalk! I was very relieved that no one had mistaken it for a bomb, although there was a dirty diaper in there that could have been classified as biological warfare. (We later disposed of the offending diaper in an appropriate place.)
The next morning we grabbed some fruit and muffins as we left the hotel and started our journey to New Hampshire. I was mortified at how expensive the tolls were! The biggest toll was $15 to cross the George Washington Bridge into New York. That day we spent about $45 in tolls. (Another $4.50 was spent the next day on the Maine Turnpike.) We arrived just after 8 pm at the home belonging to the grandmother of my friend Tammy. Grammy Bascom welcomed us with open arms. A tiny, gruff sounding giant of faith, she showed us our rooms, and invited us to visit with her in the living room. Little Princess talked her into a Cribbage game, and the boys happily played with the assortment of farm toys and vehicles on her shelves while I checked in at home and laid Sweet Pea in her crib for the night. (She was still waking once or twice at night at this point, and I was really glad to have a private room for the two of us.)
Grammy Bascom showed us her home the next morning–a beautiful two-hundred year old former inn–and made us pancakes for breakfast. Her sons are the largest suppliers of maple syrup in the state of New Hampshire, and I purchased a quart of syrup from her before we left. She and I had talked a bit about why I was going to Maine, and what I hoped to find there. She told me she would pray for me, and after witnessing the scriptures written on scraps of paper held by magnets to her refrigerator, taped in key places on her walls, needle-pointed onto pillows, and displayed in various decorative forms around her home, as well as seeing in passing her prayer closet, I knew that I could really count on her prayers for me. I also knew I had the prayers of all my close friends. I felt unsure of what was going to happen when I arrived in Maine, but I was ready. It was this morning as I once again searched for my Bible in my bag of books, that I realized with a sinking feeling that I did not have it with me. God was faithful to bring appropriate Scriptures to me when I needed them, though…and I was ministered to in NOT having my Bible with me! (I had taken it out to take to church the morning we left, and somehow I failed to put it back into my bag of books.)
Grammy Bascom bid us farewell, and we set off on the last two hours of our journey, well fortified with prayer AND pancakes. As we crossed the big green bridge from New Hampshire into Maine, I got quite emotional. I remembered this bridge so very well. When I was a child, my Daddy would always announce, “We’re in Maine, kids!” As I got older, I remember looking backward out of the station wagon rear window (because I always claimed the rear-facing jump seat in the back) and seeing the bridge from that vantage. It is, in my opinion, a pretty bridge. I told Little Princess to look up, and she read with glee, “Maine State Line.”
When we finally came to Bath, Maine, I did not recognize anything! The GPS took us in a back way that I did not remember, but then we turned onto a familiar road. We passed the Meadowbrook campground, and the excitement in me began to grow. I was finally on familiar territory! We passed Wally the Frog, and then came our turn-off. Thirty years ago, the roads were all dirt roads, and there was a tree in the middle of the intersection where we turned off to go to our property. That tree had wooden arrows with family names painted on them pointing the way to go. That tree is no longer in the middle of the road, and the road is paved all the way to the summer community just before our peninsula, but the further I drove, the more I began to recognize. We came to the isthmus, and I stopped and rolled down the windows, as I remember my father doing when I was a child. The intoxicating smell of salt water, rotting sea weed,. pine woods, and boat exhaust wafted into the van. I pointed out to my children our boat dock. We drove the last little bit onto our peninsula and turned up the hill. As I pulled into the spot in front of our cabin, I could barely contain myself. I noted that in addition to my sister’s van, there was another car in our other parking area, and I figured that since it had a Maine tag, my Uncle Peter was somewhere around. We all exited the van, I unbuckled Sweet Pea, and we entered the cabin.
I was home. For the first time ever as an adult, I walked into someplace I had either lived or spent significant time and felt like I was home.The feeling was overwhelming in its intensity, and after noting the beautiful flowers and welcome note my sister had left me on the table, I walked to the futon (a new addition since my last visit 30 years ago!), sat down and sobbed for the next five minutes. My boys kept asking me why I was crying, and I kept reassuring them that these were happy tears. I was home. As a Christian, I know that this world is not ultimately my home. My ultimate and forever home is heaven….but this was a foretaste of what THAT homecoming will be like, and all I can say is that I cannot wait to experience that !
My sister had cleaned the cabin for me. After the long winter, the family properties are quite gross. Cobwebs, 9 months of dust, and mice droppings make the first cleaning of the year a difficult and disgusting job. Jenny had dusted, cleaned the floor, washed ALL the dishes, and generally left the cabin in beautiful order for me, and I really appreciated being able to walk in and unpack without having to clean first.
The children and I went back outside, and after assigning Little Princess to Sweet Pea duty (our property is not at all toddler proof or friendly!) I started unloading the roof bag on the top of the van. Lil’ Adventurer was delighted to have a good excuse to be on the roof of the van, and I was happy to find that it was still relatively easy to remove, even after all the times I had tightened the roof bag straps . We had just unloaded the last box from the roof when Uncle Peter came up the path from the dock.
It was a happy reunion. Little Princess had spent some time with Uncle Peter at one of Grandpa’s birthday celebrations, but it had been at least six years since I had seen him, and the boys had never met him. After introductions and hugs all around, Uncle Peter announced that he was just on his way to launch the Royal Tern (our family sailboat) and would the children like to go with him? They grabbed their life jackets and some snacks (we had not yet had lunch) and off they went, leaving Sweet Pea and me to unpack the rest of the van. I fed her a quick lunch, set up her play pen and laid her down for a nap while I made order out of the chaos. I admit that I slipped out the back door more than once to marvel at the view, breathe a prayer of thanksgiving, and take in the reality that I was finally in Maine.
Some changes had been made in the cabin since I had last been there. The floors had been sanded and are now a beautiful yellow instead of dark brown. A dormer had been added, allowing much more light to flood into the cabin. It was so much more light and inviting instead of dark and gloomy. A full-fledged bathroom had been added on the back porch, which is actually the porch one enters from the parking area. When I was a child, the shower was outside below the kitchen window, we used the outhouse for matters of excretion, and we used the kitchen sink for everything else. Best of all, the creepy basement room made of rock had been converted from sleeping space to a tool room. My brother and sister had gifted a queen sized air mattress bed, and with the queen bed already there and the double futon, the cabin now sleeps six.
I was happy with all the changes….the integrity of the cabin had been preserved, but now it is more comfortable and inviting. The kids returned with Uncle Peter full of stories about the boats and meeting cousin Cyrus. We went to the store for provisions, ate our first dinner in the cabin, and settled down for our first night. I had no idea of what was to come, or how God would work to bless and further heal me. I fell asleep exhausted, emotionally spent, and so very content. But more and greater blessing was yet to come…..