Monday, December 20, 2010

Mt. Blue

Back in Massachusetts for a few weeks of holiday cheer, parties, and family time.

For most of us, Christmas is a time of feelings much more familial than religious, even though most families are as widely scattered and broken apart as the sects of Christianity. At this time of year we cling to the nucleus and try not to worry about the electrons. We remember the good times and forget about the schisms. The old pictures come out, and memories revive. It's an annual renewal of some kind of faith.

It's an especially good time to remember our family summers in Maine (it's cold today, and flurries dust the city's asphalt, and the shortest day of the year approaches), especially when my parents still lived there. Their camp on Unity Pond was our meeting ground. We would drive from North Pond, and later from Owls Head, have morning coffee and sugar cookies, leave the girls for a day of swimming, Monopoly with Grandpa, baking with Grandma, and Koolaid and chips for all, and take off for our own day of pure enjoyment. In the early days we would inevitably head for Mt. Blue, that lovely large foothill to the bigger mountains to the west and north, for a picnic and hiking. It was a climb just strenuous enough for the middle-aged, and just remote enough for the romantic-aged. The reward at the top was as good as any Catholic or Calvinist absolution. Then we'd re-trace the hour back to Unity, and have hotdogs and hamburgers on the grill, marshmallows to follow on the dying coals, watch the loons and the ducks, hope for a sight of the two eagles living nearly, and talk of the present, not the future; of goods, not evils; of joy, not guilt. The drive back home, in the slow-falling evening, with daughters nodding off in the back seat, seemed both immediate and endless. We had renewed our family.

But of course things change. Parents move back to Ohio, girls grow up, Grandpas die. Mt. Blue lives on, and if there's a tinge of sadness when I look back, seeing in the mind's eye the yellowing leaves of August, the humbling infinity of a mountain lookout, and a small white cottage on a blue pond that was left behind, well, that's what the holidays are also good for. The things we've lost are a big part of the things we've gained. And oh, the things we've gained.

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