I hugged my childhood pen pal yesterday.
She's 75 now and wearing her hair in a curly bob, so I'm not sure I would've recognized her had we run into each other in Shaw's or Hannaford, which is how my parents ran into her a year or so ago. She used to have two long, black braids and a bandanna fixed horizontally across her forehead. In fact, my memory comes exclusively from a picture I have of the two of us—she in her apron and me barely fitting into girls' size 12, braces and no need for a bra—both smiling at the camera, an arm around each other.
Christine owned and ran a small breakfast joint on the tiny island in Maine where we vacationed for a week every August, all throughout my youth. She was magical—one of those special people you identify as special immediately, even if you have no way of articulating how or why. On a shelf beside the griddle was a shaker marked Love Dust, and I watched as Christine added it to everything she cooked. Since I had no idea what it actually contained, I couldn't replicate it exactly (as was my modus operandi when it came to anything I adored and/or admired at that time). So, I put my own spin on it: I collected and mashed together bits of mica (a mineral which abounds there because the island's very foundation is flaky metamorphic rock) in an empty Tic Tac container, drew a label, and spread my dust wherever I pleased.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that by age 10 or 12, I was thoroughly enamored with Christine, and somehow—I've zero memory of how it began—we determined that during the rest of the year, all those weeks when my family wasn't in Maine, she and I would write each other letters.
I wish I could tell you I remember what I wrote to her and what she wrote to me. Sadly, those details are lost in a way that frustrates me absolutely, because, in trying to recall them, I can feel myself pressing against the limits of this mind that's sure to forget more and more as time goes on. And there's so much I want to remember.
I saved her letters somewhere in my childhood bedroom and I intend to find them (tomorrow even; we've just arrived in New York an hour ago, hence the later-than-usual timestamp). I want to reread them to remember what we wrote about, but also to remember who that little magic-sensing girl was all those years ago.
At some point—again, I can't remember when—Simply Chris closed its doors, our letter-writing trailed off in a sort of natural, mutual fashion, and I never saw Christine again.
There's a much longer story that goes with this, having to do with kismet and right-timing and a whole bunch of things that may or may not be in your wheelhouse of believability. But. It's worth noting that a specific series of events had to happen in order for me to get a second opportunity to see Christine in this lifetime. She's a self-described hermit and I can be inexplicably introverted at times that are flat-out malapropos. Sometimes we're working against ourselves, you know?
I know these thoughts are scattered and a bit incomplete (good gravy, it's late and I've been in a car all the livelong day), but I wanted to share it all with you still.
Just as we were leaving Christine's home and right before we took a quick tour of her garden, I spotted this on her shed:
It's been on my mind all day today, the whole drive down through New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and into New York. I don't know what it means. What 'it' means. For me, I mean. I'm working on a list, though, because I can think of a number of things I'd like to plug into 'it' (guilt, shame, expectation, bitterness, etc.). But, unlike most adages, I can't for the life of me figure out the general truth behind it. And is that the point?
Anyway, I'll be writing Christine a letter next week to ask her what 'it' means to her, what she's choosing to live without.
Would you hit 'reply' and tell me about your 'it'?
Ate: butternut squash ravioli with ricotta & brown butter, personal pizza using dough from Portland Pie Co., local garden pesto at our neighbors' weekly pasta night, homemade cole slaw with golden raisins, hash brown egg casserole, Christine's coffee cake with blackberries from her garden
Visited: Kaylin & Rob; Christine
Watched: The Man Who Knew Infinity
Sorry, friends—none this week. Too busy trying to sear into my memory these end-of-summer sunset colors.
The L.L.Bean Bootmobile was spotted tooling around the Harpswell Islands this past weekend. (It's modeled after their iconic shoe, with real rope shoelaces and seats upholstered in those classic canvas totes.) Once its specific location was confirmed, Dana sped me down the winding roads to the lobster house parking lot so I could stare.