As a young lad growing up in Little Falls, I used to love our family trips down east to Lubec. The annual event produced some of the fondest memories I have from my childhood. There was just something about going to Lubec. The summer didn’t seem complete without it. We used to all pile in to the station wagon and off we went. Even the trip alone held some kind of magic of it’s own. It was along one for us back then. We lived in Gorham, so it was a good 5 hour trip.
The seven of us all piled into the family wagon was a sight to see. I can remember counting Volkswagen Beetles on the way, as well as pick-up trucks, blue cars, red cars, and so many other games we used to play along the ride to consume the time.
Of course we all got along like the angels that we were. Huh? As you can imagine, there were those rare occasions when we used to disagree on certain things. I can remember that I was the one who usually sat way in the back of the wagon making sure that we all knew what was coming up from the rear. I can remember my dad saying, “Don’t make me stop this car.”, or, “That’s it, no Perry’s Nut House for you guys!”. That’s the one that usually straightened us out.
I can also remember him looking at me in the rear view mirror and winking at me. That one always made me break out in an uncontrollable smile. He always had a knack for making me feel really happy. That sparkle in his eye lit up my heart.
It seems that we always had rituals as a family on these trips. We always ate at Jaspers in Ellsworth on the ride down. There were certain areas along the trip that marked our progress, and set in motion the process of getting closer to our destination. Lubec.
Even the name triggered wondrous and magical feelings from deep within. From Blueberry Hill, to the Blacks Woods, to the long stretches along Route 1 where the tracks ran along side the road for what seemed like forever, to driving through the area west of Machias that had been ravaged by wild fires some years before.
Another staple along the trip was when we stopped at Uncle Bobby’s service station in Machias and gassed up. This was the start of the last leg of the trip. It was all downhill from there, or downeast.
Once we hung a right in Whiting, the trip was just about complete. The last thing to me that meant we were finally there were the chicken houses just before the corner of West Lubec. Once we came up over the crest of that hill and saw those buildings, I knew we were home. It seemed like home to me anyways.
With all of the magic and wondrous feelings associated with Lubec, the feeling of love was the strongest feeling of all. Going down East meant one thing, HUGS! Lots and lots of hugs. Don’t ever think you have ever had enough hugs in your life, because you haven’t. I usually had the stuffing squeezed out of me more times than I could count, and a thousand wouldn’t have nearly been enough.
I never felt as much love and sense of family as I did on those trips. It seems that I have always tried to emulate those feelings in many things that my family has done since then.
There was just something about the feel and the smell and the cool crisp morning air and the fog and the list goes on and on. From the shirt tail parade at the festival of the 4th, to walks along the beach in behind the Seaview Restaurant, it all felt so safe and warm.
One summer I can remember the squid beaching themselves at high tide chasing mackerel and as I walked along the shore with a stick flinging them back into the ocean. They would run out, turn and beach themselves again. From what I was told, it was due to the red tide that was affecting the area that summer. I had never seen anything so strange and fascinating. Thousands of them lined the beach and I felt like I was watching a Captain Bob science fiction movie. The next day when I returned, they were all gone, like it was all a dream.
Those summers somehow seemed like a dream for the most part. The family gatherings were an event to behold. The food and the laughter and the games and all of those cousins. So many cousins. I didn’t know half their names, but I loved them all. How could anyone have so many cousins? A family festival of fun and frolic and food. Oh the food. I loved the food. Mostly the seafood. Lobsters and steamers and haddock and pies and cakes and 5 extra pounds by the time we got home. I am sure that if you listen really hard, you can still hear the sounds of music and laughter from the family events of those years still lingering around today, echoing across the bays and coves of Lubec.
I loved when we finally made it to our Grandparents Cleaves house. The first thing you smelled was the chocolate chip cake or the blueberry cake. Either way I was in heaven and usually was in her pantry for a few minutes sampling whatever the tasty morsels were. It must be rather apparent to you by now that I do love food. Oh how I do still love tasty morsels, and will until the day I die.
Some of the cornerstones of Lubec were all so obvious to me. The light house at West Quoddy Head was certainly one of them. The old lady seemed to grow more majestic as the years rolled on. I would always walk up to her and pat her gently and say under my breath, “How are you ma’am? Hope you had a good year.” The walks along the trails and shores of the park are forever engraved in my mind. This past summer I had the opportunity to go downeast again with my sister, and I got the chance once again to say hello to the old girl one more time. I couldn’t see her very well, except in my mind, where the memories will never fail me. I knew and felt that she was still standing there in all her glory.
From the trips to Campobello Island with Wilson’s endless beach, to listening to the lighthouse out in the bay as the fog rolled in in South Lubec, there are just so many portals in my mind that take me back instantly to those summer trips to the farthest corner of the country. Main Street over the 4th was always a beehive of family and friends in a never ending homecoming festival. It seems that we never took more than a dozen steps down Main Street without having to stop and meet old friends or family. They were everywhere, and my folks knew them all. It was just so wicked awesome to feel like a part of something so wonderfully cool. And then there was the Lobster Trap Gift Shop. I loved that shop and was traumatized when it finally closed some years later.
I suppose that I could go on and on forever about the feelings and memories that I have from our trips to Lubec in the summer months. These memories are one of the staples in my life. They are a good part of why I am who I am. The feelings that I get now when I go downeast are a little different than they were as a young boy. The factories have for the most part all folded and left the area. The faces have changed, but the grip that Lubec has on the soul will go on forever.
The grip that It had, that it has on me will linger in my heart and stay with me as I continue to gain in years. I will always feel like skipping stones at high tide, or jumping from rock to rock on the rugged shores in South Lubec with my brothers and sisters.
From the hugs from Grammy Lyons, to the smell of cologne on my Grandfather Cleaves, the memories will always be there.
I can only hope that everyone has the chance to live and breathe in deep the sense of family and love that I have had on those summer trips to my other home downeast. Nothing can ever compare to it. Nothing can ever replace it. Nothing will ever feel quite like it. The smell of salt in the air instantly takes me back to those treasured days of yesterday. Nothing will ever quite feel like the trips with my family to Lubec. That place of my birth, that little town wrapped in salty shores on the corner of the country will forever hold a cozy corner of my heart.