The Sweater

I’ve written about the place where I grew up. Various arcs incorporated baseball, my personal recollections about the town from an earlier time—as well as creating my own take on Moxie.

I once contemplated updating the history of the place, post-Plummer. I’m glad I didn’t bother breaking that rock, fashioning it into a story; the scenario of a significant investment of time and research without much of a return seems likely for that kind of project—people no longer seem to appreciate the necessary effort required to dredge up the past, and get at what’s behind the façade of the place where they reside.

After 26 years of living across the river from the place where I was born and put down my initial roots, just moving one community to the east feels just about right to me—actually, somewhat overdue. If my writing emanates from place (which I think it does), then my new home proffers up all kinds of new opportunities and material to mine.  I’m looking forward to learning more about a place I’ve observed as an outsider and semi-regular visitor.

But it is the holiday season. A period each year-end that delivers a personal mix of sentimentality, sadness, and even anger thinking back on Christmases past. Despite Perry Como’s musical refrain that there’s “no place like home for the holidays,” I’m apt to demur.

There are pleasant memories. Some of these actually involved the place where I’m now living. Like the first year that I bought my wife a Christmas gift. We had just started dating. The year was 1978.

Mary will tell you that I’m not the greatest gifter in the world. I overthink the process, and then get stressed out when I haven’t found “that perfect gift,” with Christmas bearing down.

This particular year was different. While I didn’t know that she was the one I’d eventually marry, I recognized that she made “my heart flutter and my knees grow weak,” or something akin to that feeling you get when you experience that initial rush associated with being in love.

The house where I grew up didn’t look kindly on falling in love, at least at the age of 16. Having a girlfriend was frowned upon. It’s possible that one of my parents (or both) still harbored hopes that I’d join the dwindling Catholic priesthood. Whatever the reason was at the time, getting that first gift meant some pre-planning, not the least being—how would I get to Brunswick to do some shopping?

Hitchhiking at the time was still a fairly successful travel mode, at least covering distances 10 miles from home. That would be Brunswick’s Maine Street and the newly-opened Tontine Mall. An aside here: I’m impressed that the Tontine Mall has survived for 40 years now, still serving as a central beacon to Brunswick’s vibrant downtown district.

The Tontine Mall--A Brunswick Downtown Landmark.

The Tontine Mall–A Brunswick Downtown Landmark.

There was a sporting goods store in the mall at the time. I can’t recall the name. Funny how our memories are fuzzy on details the further out life pushes us from events.

I imagine that I felt pleased on my return trip, transported along by the grace of passing motorists likely returning from work in Brunswick or Bath. The next hurdle would be sneaking my package into the house and squirreling it away, and then, how to deliver it to my love on the other side of the river where she was living. Note to readers: the property and house that we vacated was part of a larger parcel of land that my late father-in-law bought and moved Mary and her Mom to from Cumberland. This was fortuitous, as without that relocation, it was unlikely that Mary would have left Greely and transferred to Lisbon. I’d never have connected with one of the best things that has happened to me in my life—meeting and ultimately marrying, Miss Mary.

Mary tells me that she still has that sweater, packed away somewhere. I look forward to seeing it again, as we re-order our lives and decide what to keep and what to winnow.

So this Christmas, with a myriad of memories—both happy and sad—I’m choosing to think about some of the cheerier ones. I also harbor hope that we’ll create some brand new ones that we’ll look back in our twilight years and treasure.