This month many of us are re-posting earlier blogs. The blog below, “Summer Visitors,” was written and posted at the end of the summer of 2019. Below the re-posting I revisit the topic with some current thoughts. Here’s the 2019 blog:
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, New Jersey, 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.
Revisiting the topic:
Can it be only two years since I wrote about the mixed feelings summer visitors engender? Much has changed, from mighty national events like the election and inauguration of a new President to local and personal ones like the development of our granddaughter from a toddler to a little girl about to start kindergarten. But of course the big change came about from the plague. Even though the virus appeared to be under control in Maine, the summer of 2020 was visitor-less for us. The usual visitors, the ones we counted on for yearly trips, simply stayed home. One who lives in Delaware and who had visited routinely for 17 years decided that though he would be safe in Maine he dreaded passing through (and using restrooms, restaurants, and hotels in) the states in between. So the summer of 2020 went by with no direct contacts with from-away friends and hence none of those mixed feelings I described in the 2019 blog.
We expected this summer, 2021, to be different. We expected a return of the visiting patterns of the past. But now, in mid-August, we have had no visitors. General fear of travel and uncertainty about potential outbreaks explain our friends’ reluctance. We do expect one to fly up in September, but she is growing cautious because of the apparent threat of the new Delta variant. We hope she makes it. We have missed her and the other former visitors and the many ways in which contacts with them revive old friendships and bring the special pleasure of re-establishing relationships. We’ll know next month about her visit, and we harbor secret hopes that another one or two friends will decide that an autumn visit this year makes sense.
Of the pandemic, some sages say everything changed and nothing will be the same again. Well, some things have indeed changed, but we remain hopeful that not everything has changed. Come on up, friends; we miss you.