When we moved to Maine, the only reluctance we felt came from leaving so many friends behind. But one of them reassured us on that front. “Don’t worry,” she said. “Anyone you want to see will be happy to visit you in Maine, and those who don’t want to come to Maine are not friends you want anyway.” How right she was. We’ve never tried to calculate the number of visits from old friends that we’ve enjoyed over the 32 years we’ve lived in Maine, but it’s not inconsiderable. And, not surprisingly, most come in the summer. A few–skiers or otherwise snow-tropic like us–make the trip in winter, but the bulk of our visitors come in July and August. While the “summer” visiting season now extends to Columbus Day, the Labor Day weekend remains an important fixed point, a time to reflect on the seasonal visit experience.
The last of this summer’s visitors just left. We enjoyed our times with people who came from California, Delaware, and Washington, D.C. It’s great to catch up on the lives they’ve lived since we last saw them and to report our own recent experiences. It’s satisfying to be with people with whom you share a past that makes it possible to resume conversations that took place last year—or decades ago–without needing to establish a context. And it’s particularly engaging to see Maine fresh through other eyes: no matter how many times we’ve rounded the Portland Head Light in our boat, to experience the delight visitors express makes us see it for the first time and doubles our pleasure.
But now that our visitors are gone we also feel a slightly guilty sense of relief. Making up the bed in the guestroom, cooking three meals a day, planning activities and excursions—all fun in their way but at the same time intrusions into our own routines. If you live in Vacation Land you have to expect to be good hosts, especially since you really do value long-term friendships. But you reach a point when you tire of running a B&B and a tour agency.
The cycle of summer visits reflects so many of the cycles of human life. You know your friends are coming, and you anticipate the pleasure of renewing friendships that may be four or five decades old. They arrive, and the first drinks on the deck remind you how much you’ve missed them. Then the days repeat themselves, and by the end of the visit you’re thinking with pleasure of what you’ll do when you’ve washed the last sheets and put the final breakfast dishes in the machine. Then they’re gone, and you feel regret—regret that you won’t see them for another year, but also regret that you’re rather glad they’re gone and you have the house to yourselves again. You review the visit, remember the good times, gradually forget the awkward or boring moments—and begin to anticipate next year’s visit. And so, like life, it goes.
We bought our cottage with friends in mind, liking the idea of spending more time than just a quick visit or meal with our friends. It has been a pleasure to enjoy the yearly return of old friends and to host new ones. But without a washing machine…those sheets and towels can be a challenge!