Welcome Back

We just got back to Maine, after being away for 5 weeks.  We spent the Jewish holidays of Purim and Passover in our home town with some of our children and grandchildren.  While there, two of my granddaughters were being treated for minor orthopedic issues and I spent time babysitting and shlepping to Physical Therapy appointments.

At one PT visit, the younger granddaughter happened to be the only pediatric patient; the rest were all patients in their 50s and 60s undergoing post-op rehab for knee replacement surgery.  Now that I am in my fifties my own knees are not what they used to be; but after seeing how hard these patients worked to regain post-op mobility, I see that knee replacement surgery is not something one wants to do except as a last resort.   (I found out that post-op rehab, rural New England style, is conducted somewhat differently . . . but more about that later.)

The older granddaughter got a cast on each leg as part of a 6-week treatment protocol.  As a precaution she stayed home from school the first day following the procedure, but really it turned out to be unnecessary — she was managing fine and certainly could have gone back to school.  But for selfish reasons, because I was doing the babysitting that day, I kept her home, so we could have some one-on-one quality time.  And what a day it was!

I spent about an hour decorating her cast and the little “walking shoes” that could be strapped on.

My granddaughter chose navy blue casts to match her school uniform.

My granddaughter chose navy blue casts to match her school uniform. (click to enlarge for more detail)

Then we baked homemade pretzels from a little kit I had picked up at a discount store in New Hampshire.

pretzelkit

AFter the yeast dough rises, my granddaughter rolls it out and shapes the pretzels

After the yeast dough rises, my granddaughter rolls it out and shapes the pretzels

pretzeldone

Proud of her accomplishment and distracted from any discomfort!

 

After that we watched Mary Poppins.  This was extremely sentimental for me.  When I was seven years old, the Mary Poppins movie came out and I loved it so much I saw it seven times in one year.  Now, here I was, a HALF CENTURY later (!) watching it with my seven-year-old granddaughter!  Am I really that old?

I love Mary Poppins still.  I realized how few movies are made today in which people segue from normal conversation into elaborate song and dance.  There was no cursing and no nudity.  Also, kids back in my day were not overstimulated and distracted by so many external forces, including media;  life moved at a slower pace, so it was not the challenge it is today for a seven-year-old to sit and watch a full-length movie for 2+ hours without getting antsy.  While my granddaughter enjoyed the movie, there were parts that she found boring and requested that I “fast forward,” not having the patience to sit through the parts that didn’t hold her attention.

Afterwards my husband played Monopoly with her.   We hadn’t played Monopoly in at least 30 years.  Alas, art imitates life:  my husband got creamed by a seven-year-old because he was over-mortgaged, in debt, and broke.

monopoly

Assured of her recovery, we left the next day for Maine.  Even though it took an extra 50 miles and 45 minutes of driving time, we went via the Poconos to avoid NJ and NY tolls, which are outrageous.  We arrived at 3:30 a.m. and dragged our tired bodies straight to bed.

Although I love my kids and grandkids and truly enjoy spending time with them, I really don’t like my hometown city’s culture, crime or weather.  But the 11-hour commute and paying two mortgages really is starting to wear thin.  I know that when my husband retires, we won’t have the income to keep both places, and a decision will need to be made.  A house in a city I don’t like, but with family nearby?  Or the remote rural lifestyle I prefer, devoid of loving family?  Slowly I’ve been trying to convince myself that living in Maine is not a long-term option.  But then I return to Maine, and experience not only the physical beauty of my surroundings, the purity of air and water, the sighting of wildlife, and the slower pace of life, but also the helpful, friendly nature of storekeepers and townspeople, and I don’t know how I can possibly leave.  (The only other place I’d consider living away from family would be Israel.)

Despite so few hours of sleep, I knew I had to get to the post office before the 9:30 a.m.closing time.  Due to Federal budgetary cutbacks, the post office is only open from 7:30 – 9:30 a.m. and then again from 2 – 4 p.m.  Our mail had been held for 5 weeks and I was anxious to conquer what would be a huge pile of letters, bills and magazines.

When I came to collect the mail, Deb the postmistress said, “Oh!  Welcome back!  I’m so glad to see you.  And it’s lucky you came just now, because Betty is here!”  Betty is the mail lady who actually does the deliveries.  Deb and Betty exchanged side glances and then looked at me, uncomfortably, like they were holding something back.

“Anything wrong?” I asked.

“Well . . . ” Betty began.  “I was just wondering . . . is everything okay at your house?”

“Yep,” I replied, “at least, as far as I can tell.  Why do you ask?”

“Last week I was out delivering mail, ” she said, “and I noticed a green truck parked on your driveway.  And then again, the next day.  I was concerned so I took down the license plate, in case anything was wrong.  You know, sometimes people who have summer homes around here get vandalized while they’re gone, and I didn’t want that to happen to you.”

I was so touched that Betty was looking out for us!  I couldn’t imagine that would ever happen with the postal workers in my home town.

Effusively thanking Betty and Deb for their concern, I explained that the green truck belonged to Pete,  our heating guy who had made some repairs while we were away.  When we built our house he had suggested that we buy a “freeze alarm.”  This is a little plastic box with a thermostatic sensor.  We set the parameters, and if the thermostat in the house falls below a certain temperature, it automatically dials our cellphone. That’s how we knew we had a potentially major problem: our furnace had stopped working and the interior of the house was only 40 degrees.   The danger is that if temps continued to fall, our pipes would freeze and burst and cause lots of very expensive damage.   Fortunately our freeze alarm saved us from this scenario.  Pete knows the code to get into our house and was thus able to complete the repairs.

From the post office I went to the Town Office where I caught up on the latest local news and bought this year’s fishing license; I went to the small general store to buy worms (bait).  Then I made my way into North Conway NH where I went to the supermarket, so I could buy stuff to cook for Shabbat dinner later that night.  I also stopped into Wal-Mart to buy some fish hooks.

While in the fishing pole aisle an elderly gentleman struck up a conversation with me.  He is a retired army veteran, having served our country for 30 years, where he worked as a sapper (explosives).  “I was born and raised on a New Hampshuh fahm (farm), and that’s what I came back to.  I guess I’ll die on a New Hampshire fahm some day.”  Like so many rural New England men, he was single and very lonely.  Once he started talking, he just kept spilling the beans.  I heard about his truck, his tractor, fishing, hunting, his border collie which he rescued from an abusive situation, his time in the military, the weather, and every ache and pain, all in a span of 20 minutes in the fishing pole aisle in Wal-Mart.  Even though New Englanders are said to be dour and  extremely taciturn with outsiders, for some reason many of them seem to open up to my listening ear. (This was a trait of my mother, as well.  She seemed to know everyone’s life story – – young or old, male or female – –  within minutes of meeting them.  After her death, I found postcards from people around the world who had met her only briefly in casual conversation while she traveled, yet they felt such a connection with her that they wrote to her from afar.)

I asked him how long he was in rehab following his knee replacement surgery.

“Oh, I didn’t do re-hab!” he said.  “I’m a fahmuh (farmer) and that’s all I know.  Got no time for re-hab!  Just got on my horse, and kept that foot out of the stirrup so it could dangle.   When the horse moved fah-wahd (forward), my knee and leg went back-and-fawth, back-and-fawth – – which is all they do in re-hab anyhow!  After a month I’m good as new!”

(Incidentally, I think the only place outside of rural New England that has a greater single male-to-female ratio  is Alaska.  I guess many women don’t care for the hard living and isolation that comes with rural living; it’s hard for mountain men to find a mate.  And despite their tremendous physical strength, many of these men look far older than their years, worn out and bent by time and troubles.  They rarely have someone to talk to and even their recreational pursuits – – hunting and fishing – – are done solo.)

 

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One response to this post.

  1. I appreciate you writing this post. What a wonderful story! I am eager to follow your decision making process as you decide what to do – leave Maine to go back home or stay in Maine.

    Reply

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