Searching for Summer

ESSAY-May 2009

by Rebecca Falzano

A Maine free from winter’s clutch is mere folklore as I write this, a foreign experience to a newcomer who made the state home on the first day of winter. My belief in summer here is based on faith alone, although evidence is mounting in its favor. I have heard tales of glowing beach days, seen photographs of ground and sky in bloom, and found closets where flip-flops hibernate. The other day I noticed something stuck to the fence near the driveway: packing tape from the frenzied move-in day three months ago. It had been buried during the unrelenting snowstorm that welcomed us, its illicit presence finally visible as the remaining heaps of white retreat. As the stretch of gray slush fades, the change of atmosphere is palpable. Cozy frost-filled days are all I know of Maine so far, but soon, lush greens will compete with clear blues, and sea-soaked warmth will surround.

Essay_acadia_wIn the final days of winter, a photograph reminds me that I have in fact experienced summer in Maine before. It was during a childhood family vacation, and while the sensation of bare skin escapes me, I do remember, even then, the green-blue vastness of Acadia stretching before me. I remember the fog enveloping Bar Harbor, and with my parents and brother by my side, thinking we were on the edge of the world.

Landlocked in upstate New York, my family was always an ocean-seeking family—though we discriminated, preferring the colder waters of New England over the more crowded beaches of our mid-Atlantic neighbors. We spent so much time in New England year-round, the term “tourist” felt inaccurate. We were not natives, but somehow we did not quite feel like visitors either.

Like any family, we had our vacation traditions—the places we stopped, the songs we listened to on the ride there, the things we said along the way. A restaurant on the moors at the tip of Cape Cod was one of my favorite places to go with my family. It was constructed almost entirely from mismatched debris washed ashore after a fire had destroyed its original structure. Amid weathered planks and buoys and rusted anchors, I would order a Shirley Temple, happily surrender the dreaded maraschino cherry, and imagine tales of pirates and sailors and fishermen. It was wonderful in every way right down to the cocktail napkins designed with signposts going every which way and the motto “Know where you’re going” underneath. It was a phrase that grew in profundity as I grew older, and right before the restaurant was torn down and replaced with a hotel, my mother framed a pristine napkin for me as a memento and, now that I think about it, perhaps a subtle bit of life advice.

Many years later, my parents still like to prepare one of the restaurant’s signature dishes from a wrinkled, sauce-stained recipe which we requested from an obliging chef. My father has found a way, despite the challenging conversion from restaurant-size to family-size, to replicate the meal perfectly, enabling this place and our time there to live on forever.

This summer, like any summer, Maine will be the birthplace of vacation stories like these. To those who live in a place that is commonly loved, the seasonal swell of traffic and crowds shows us that other people treasure the things we do about where we live. It is also a humbling reminder that we are all visitors somewhere. Indeed, on my first encounters with breezes from open windows and late evening sunsets I, too, will be one.

Acadia, summer 1988.
Rebecca Falzano can be reached at
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