Anyways. Brad was really taken by the little creek that runs from our backyard to the street. He kept trying to get his horse to splash in it. My daughter thought it was awesome.
She was less enthused when Brad started skinning squirrels and playing World War I in the woods. That got kind of disturbing. My son, however, appreciated the fact that finally someone was crawling in the commando-style he so prefers.
We eventually distracted Brad from "storming Germany" by showing him the in-home beer-making kit I mistakenly got for my kids when I thought it was a large play-dough churner. As he fiddled with the carbonation mechanism, Brad turned chatty. He wanted to learn all about Maine. Do we sleep under bear skins? Do we bury our dead on high mountain passes? Is there anyone here as beautiful as Julia Ormond? Blah blah blah.
These questions were all hard for me to answer. Then he asked me one I could really run with, and the afternoon was saved. Tell me about the fall, he said. Tell me about the signs of the fall.
This is what I told him.
In Maine, we know the fall is coming, not because we are reading a calendar or referring to an almanac. We know the fall is coming because we can see it, we can smell it, we can touch it, we can taste it. The signs of the fall travel in the wind and dance in the light. Kind of like an airplane. ("An airplane?!?" interrupted Brad. "Quit the act, Pitt," I retorted. "This role ended for you almost twenty years ago. You've spent the better part of the last two decades on a plane. Now hush up.")
The signs of the fall in Maine are these:
- There is a frost in the morning, a warm sun around noon, and a brisk chill by evening. Layering is therefore a must. Many leave the house in a tank-top, t-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, turtleneck, fleece vest, and windbreaker every morning. They remove one article of clothing every 30 minutes and then, after lunch, put one article of clothing back on every 30 minutes. Fall in Maine is the reason The Gap is still in business.
- The ocean takes on the color of a piercing cobalt blue. Fisherman who are bored after a summer of lobstering successfully market "Heart of The Ocean" Tours to unsuspecting tourists. They believe the old lady in Titanic really did drop her necklace in the waters off Portland, and that the water's color is a result of the sun reflecting off that whopper of a necklace. (Canadians will believe anything.)
- There are apples in everything: breakfast pastries, jams and jellies, desserts, meats, and beverages both hot and cold. Also bananas. (That last item is for my Canadian readers.)
- The best time to do anything at any place in Maine is between 1-4PM on a Sunday. That is because the Patriots are playing then, and everyone is at home watching them. Yesterday, in those three hours alone, I managed to grocery shop, buy all my Christmas presents, get my car detailed, renew my license, and enroll both kids in kindergarten.
- Children wear nothing but athletic gear. There is always a game or a practice for football or soccer or field hockey or cross-country. It's just common sense time management to shoo kids out of the house in the morning with their cleats, mouthguards, shoulder pads and/or Garmin watch already in place.
- Hands, feet, and noses become perpetually cold. After three months of sufficient temperatures for complete warmth, the body's internal combustion engine is out-of-shape and blood circulation is a real chore. The extremities suffer.
- The leaves are changing and falling. Yards are littered with large piles of them and several varieties of rakes. Toddlers often go missing for minutes on end when they stumble into one of the piles and can't figure out how to stumble out.
- Churches get busy again. Everyone is suddenly a fervent parishioner. The secret is that they're all just praying for the Red Sox's season to end already. (And for guidance on which leaf pile to look in for Junior.)
- Neighbors start to judge one another. Because nothing justifies comments of "Jim and Shirley really are morons, I don't care that they let us park the boat on their lawn" like having Jim and Shirley pelting their lawn with little white ghosts and a Mitt Romney jumping out of a coffin weeks before it is even October.
- The air is drumming with a steady hum of "thwack, thwack, thwack" as everyone sturdy enough to wield an axe (ie. everyone) starts felling every item of wood in sight. This is good news for the fireplaces and the log piles spanning two tree trunks, bad news for swing sets and picnic tables. But hey, winter's coming and the cost of heating oil is through the roof. So quit whining about your play fort being in splinters, or figure out how many lemonade stands it takes to buy one month's worth of radiant heat!
This is me and Brad during our little tete-a-tete. Yes, we have prairie grass in Maine.