Kate Flora here, a few days after the 4th, still basking in the fun of a perfect family holiday as we head off to the Samoset, in Rockland, for a family wedding. On the 4th, we did all the right Maine things–we took a walk over to the Giant’s Stairs so our visiting cousins could climb on the rocks and peer into tide pools. We had a cook-out on the deck and ate homemade potato salad. We got out the tubes and went for a refreshing swim in the sea, then hiked down the street to Library Hall for the Bailey Island Ice Cream Social.
The day ended with a potluck supper and lobsters a few houses down the street. There was a spectacular Maine sunset, and then fireworks in all directions. The little cousins loved it. The adults loved it. The hot day cooled and it became perfect sleeping weather.
All that fun reminded me of summer days when my boys were little. Our ritual was to drive to my mother’s farm, and then everyone would go to Thomaston for the parade. After the parade, there would be a picnic by the lake, and lots of swimming, and a fire and roasted marshmallows. The kids would putter around in my mother’s tubby little orange boat. Throw the requisite number of rocks onto the shore to keep the swimming area sandy. Walk the shore looking for fossils. Finally, when the day drew to a close, we would drive back to Thomaston for the fireworks or stand out on the back lawn and light our sparklers, while in the field below, a million fireflies would try to compete.
If the weather got gloomy, my mother would get out drawing pads and markers, and all the cousins would sit around the table with her, offering encouragement as Grandma tried to draw a dragon. She would marvel over their drawings while bemoaning the fact that everything she drew looked like a fat goat. If drawing stopped holding their attention, she would arm them with cups of soapy water and troop out to the garden where they would compete to see who could pick the most bugs off the vegetables.
Getting to entertain our young cousins also brought back memories of August vacations on Martha’s Vineyard, and my husband’s aunt Dorothy, or Aunt Dub, as she was known in the family. In her work life, tiny, dynamic Aunt Dub ran the Wage and Hour section of the Labor Department and enforced the Davis-Bacon Act. Later, she consulted for the Iron Workers, though she had to stand on her briefcase to see over the podium. In our lives, though, Dub was the aunt who understood kids. She was the one who organized family softball games and made sure the littlest ones didn’t feel left out. She always had games and crafts and gift bags for all the cousins. She led the game of jump off the porch and was the first to start the cry of “We want ice cream.”
At the time, I was always feeling overwhelmed with the challenge of keeping up with two busy, and very different boys. This week, as I entertained three busy and very different cousins, I finally am appreciating what a gift it was to have a relative who put that much time and energy into making sure the kids had a great time on their summer vacation. She had three granddaughters. We brought two boys into the mix. And Dub spent hours planning and shopping for those special family occasions. At the time, it looked seamless. Now I understand better how much thought went into that.
So last night, after the kids at the pot luck had feasted on a sand pudding, mixed in a beach pail and served with a small shovel, we stood on the dock and turned in every direction as fireworks exploded all around Mackerel Cove, and all over Harpswell, and south beyond the islands in Portland and Cape Elizabeth. While they were cheering, I thought about about my mother and her fat goats, and Aunt Dub, grabbing the hands of a couple small children, and jumping off the deck into the sand.
They modeled joy, and caring, and inclusion, and family. Thanks, A. Carman Clark and Dorothy Come. You showed our generation how to do it well.