We decided since it was a beautiful day, we would take the dogs hiking. Our first thoughts were to take the dogs up to Rattlesnake Mt, which is a fun, short, yet scenic hike up in Raymond. I raided the hen house good and early and started on a hearty breakfast of french toast and applewood smoked bacon. I mixed up the french toast batch with some vanilla, pumpkin pie spice and I had real maple syrup to go with. I LOVE Sundays like this. LOVE LOVE LOVE them. I love cooking for people I love. LOVE LOVE LOVE it.
I quickly realized my fry pan was not big enough for bacon AND french toast, and improvised by baking the french toast in my oven - which I then discovered my cookie pan did not FIT in my small little apartment sized oven. *sigh* I miss my big kitchen with it's stainless steel appliances, my pampered chef pans, my big Kitchen Aid mixer, and my ample counter space and fancy cookware, plates and dishes. Sometimes I wonder why I left it all behind.
Once I switched out the cookie pan for one that WILL fit in my oven, I was now on my way to having breakfast done. The sun streaked across my apartment and warmed the kitchen. The chickens started cackling, and my little apartment glowed in the morning sun. Lexi stretched out and napped in a sunbeam. Derby was curled up on the dog bed, and MyHoney stumbled into the kitchen for a second cup of coffee, and because of the tight floor space, "had to" hug me on the way to the coffee pot. With his arms around me, and his breath on my neck, I realized... Ah yes, THIS is why I left all that other stuff behind... because I LOVE this place. I love my new life. I love my apartment - the sunny windows, the pine ceilings... the chickens, the dogs, the peace, the quiet... I love all of it.
Our plans got thwarted when my cellphone jingled at 8:30am... it's my Dad. He wants me to come down to the farm and help him list his bulk veggies for sale on Craigslist. A pang of guilt overcame me, because this was the first fall ever that Dad had not called me to ask for help - with anything. It was the first year he did not plant 15 acres of rutabagas. It was the first year I did not spend every weekend of my time covered in mud, sweating my ass off or freezing it off... depending on the elements, and hunched over row after row of root vegetables with a knife in my hand and a crick in my back. I told him that Mike and I were taking the dogs hiking, but we would take them to Bradbury Mt instead of around Gorham so we could swing into the farm, and I could help him with Craigslist. He sounded relieved. He must have a hell of a surplus on his hands if he is turning to the internet for help. It's taken a while for Elwin to get into the "modern" age... but even he is seeing the use of social media. I helped him sell off all his rutabaga processing equipment this past fall - I came down and took pictures of each machine, let Dad write a detailed description, and uploaded it all to Craigslist. To Dads amazement, the phone rang... and yes indeed.. there was someone out there who wanted to buy potato processing equipment that had been re-purposed for rutabagas. Dad suddenly had a new appreciation for "the internet" when he had a wad of cash in his hands, and more space in his barn.
After breakfast, we cleared the dishes and loaded the dogs in my car. Mike followed me to the farm in his van. As I drove into the yard, I noticed that the barn doors were closed, and all the pumpkins were gone. I felt like I missed an entire season. Dad's tractor was pulled up in front of the house, and he and my brother were taking a dinner (which to most people is lunch) break before going out and harvesting the rest of the root vegetables. Mike and I sat down at the kitchen table - I sat in the same place I have sat for 38 years, directly to the left of my Dad. My brother always sat next to me, to my left - but he was sitting at the end of the table today, so Mike took that seat. My mom has always sat across from me, to my Dads right, and when my sister lived at home, she always sat to the right of my mother. Unspoken seating arrangements, just another tradition that is upheld in the Hansen household that brings me back to feeling like I am 12 again.
We had a cup of tea, and two hydrox cookies. I don't even like hydrox cookies, but ate them because my father placed them in front of me. He wrote out a careful description of his advertisement he wanted me to post, and Mike and I said we would return later. We left Mikes van in the dooryard and rode together with the dogs to Bradbury Mt in Pownal.
Well, apparently everyone had the same idea, because the parking lot at Bradbury was so crowded we couldn't even find a parking space. The dogs were going mad with excitement, and we realized the walk would not be enjoyable for the humans with so many people, so many kids and so many dogs sharing the same trail system. Since we were close by, I suggested we go to Wolfes Neck State park instead. Agreed.
It's a beautiful ride out to Wolfes Neck. Rolling pastures, open fields, and colored trees painted the landscape. As I drove, I pointed out to Mike - "This was so and so's house" .. or "that's where (my ex's) Grandmother used to live..." and after rounding the next corner, a white pickup with lawn spraying equipment popped up over the hill, and almost as nonchalantly as I had been playing tour-guide I said "and there goes my ex".... Yup, must be on his way from our old house in Brunswick to his new place of residency which happens to be his girlfriends house, which happens to be one town over from where I live now. Well, they say you have to have thorns with your roses right? So why am I surprised that our beautiful autumn drive not have a few Weeds?
Once we got through Freeport, we were once again treated to farms and fields that are nestled along the shores of rocky coast. Cows were peacefully grazing next to pristine ocean views. Its really a gem of a place, and just driving there brought me back to the days where I would take a Sunday, much like today, pack up my beach chair, a floppy hat, a good book, and whistle to Destiny - "Load up pup! We are going to the beach!".... and we would spend the day walking the trails, sitting on the rocky coast line, wading, swimming and sunbathing. I would sit in my chair and read about other peoples adventures and Destiny would explore the beach and rocks and create her own.
Mike, Lexi, Derby and I spent a few hours at Wolfes Neck walking and exploring. It was a little stressful because there were so many people and dogs there, we had to keep Lexi and Derby on leash. We did manage to burn off some of their pent up energy by letting them off leash down by the water, where Mike threw rocks and sticks for them to chase. We walked out of the trail hand-in-hand, Mike feeling a little more relaxed after finally taking a day off... and I feeling a little reminiscent and grateful of being able to share a place with my new "family" that used to mean so much to me and Destiny.
On the way home, I decided to drive out the long way through Brunswick, and found myself driving past my old house. My ex rents the house out to his cousin, who is like a nephew to me. He and his girlfriend just had a baby, who I hadn't had a chance to see yet. As we drove by, I saw Jesse out in the driveway, and asked Mike if he minded if we turned in. Of course he didn't oppose.
The first thing I saw as I drove into the driveway of the home that was once mine for 12 years was Destiny's pen. She loved that pen. Often, I would leave the door open to the pen, and let her outside, just to find her later curled up in her dog house, or playing with her toys beside it. In a flash, I was transported back in time. The house hasn't changed, the porch is still falling apart - my ex obviously hasn't put much care into fixing it up. A thick carpet of green moss has taken over the garage roof, and the same smurfy blue paint was peeling off the siding of the house. Before I moved, I had scraped more than half the house of the sickly color, but because I didn't finish the job, my ex had to slap blue paint back on where I had scraped it off so he could refinance the house so he could pay me off my share.
Jesse greeted us in the driveway, and said "You just missed (my ex)"... Mike and I laughed saying we knew that.. we had passed him on the road earlier. Jesse invited us in. At first, I said no... but when he brought the baby outside, and I realized I was making a baby be cold because of my bad manners, I concluded it wouldnt hurt to come inside. Besides, Mike had never seen the house before. The house on the inside looked pretty much the same - minus my snowmen, my blue leather couch, the big screen TV (which undoubtedly the ex took to his girlfriends house) and all the other "homey" touches I had given it to make it my home.
I gave Mike the "nickel" tour. It was kind of neat to be able to show Mike the house I had tried explaining to him in stories... my old kitchen with the pearlesent white tile, the blue countertops with the snow white corrian edge. The stainless steel appliances, and what seemed like miles of countertop. The tall beechwood colored cabinets, and the "jack-frost etched" glass panes above the bar. The deep blue Berber carpeting and the icy blue walls in the living room that appeared deeper blue as the sun set, and white when the sun shined. My Uncle Willy painted the inside of the house for me... I would make him hamburgers for lunch. He thought I made the best hamburgers. All I did was add a bit of horseradish... but that was my secret.
Down the hall was my oatmeal colored bedroom, with the pine wood trim....There used to be moose and bear print curtains that matched a moose and bear print comforter. Then there was the swirly water colored tile in the bathroom with the deep emerald marble sink. I used to have the prettiest dragonfly shower curtain and rug that matched the photograph of a blue and green dragonfly I had taken. In July, the backyard would swarm with dozens of dragonflies... they would flit and float around everywhere. They would land on my shoulder as I sat on the porch reading a book, or they would land on Destiny's ear as she tried to nap in the sun beside me. I picked out every detail in that house. I created it all. I once made this place my home.
Jesse said he and his girlfriend were moving next month, and my ex is going to rent it out to someone else. While I am happy for Jesse (that house really isn't big enough to have a baby in it)... it felt weird knowing that a stranger will be living there. A stranger using my kitchen, a stranger opening up my french doors and swinging the side windows open to attract in the summer breeze... a stranger sitting on the porch in the spring watching the crab apple tree shower pink petals down in the breeze. A strange dog will sleep in Destinys dog house, and play in her pen.
A stranger will also be listening to the 18 wheelers rumble by on route one and the Amtrack train streaking by only a mere 30 feet from the garage. A stranger will also be the one bailing out the basement from 6 inches of water when the power goes out, and a stranger will be tripping over the loose boards on the porch. Actually, strike that.... a stranger will be calling my ex to fix all those things that are in dis-repair. Maybe a stranger will actually get him to do all that... because I never could.
I handed back the baby to his Momma... took one last look around - looked at the packed boxes, at the empty kitchen counters, at the bare walls and curtainless windows... and saw the house for what it really was - a memory.
After, MyHoney and I went to Bingas Wingas and had some out-of-this world hotwings and beer, and as the sunset on our day, we talked and laughed and created memories that are as warm in my heart as the sun was on our backs today.
Back at the farm, we talked with Mom and Dad a little more - Dad gave me careful instructions on exactly what he wanted the advertisement to say on Craigslist. I nodded, said yup yup yup, and my Mom just muttered "you know what to write... " and then to my father "Elwin she KNOWS what to write!" and then Mike and I agreed it was getting late, and the hour we had gained earlier in the day seemed to be more of a curse now than a blessing. My eyelids were heavy, my belly was full, and my mind was foggy. We left in separate vehicles - he to go to work, and I to go home.
I drove the long way home, through the back roads, past old friends houses, past a few other memories, past Sebago Lake, and pulled into my driveway. My little porch was illuminated by the porchlight, and I opened the door and Lexi bounded up the stairs. My apartment was still warm from the days sun, but I flipped on my heat register on the way by, knowing the heat will drop quick enough now that the sun has set. My kitchen greeted me with the smells of applewood bacon, maple syrup and coffee lingering from this mornings breakfast.
Kicked off my shoes, absent mindedly threw my keys on my counter, walked into my bedroom which is adorned in pine cones, moose, bear and chickadees, and pulled on my fleecy pajamas. I caught a glimpse of my fly-tying bench and an array of colorful feathers. Deciding to read for a while, I walked back into the living room and lit a few candles, admired the glow of the flickering flames and flopped onto my couch with a cup of tea. I looked around at my snowmen figurines, some in silly poses, some playing, some skiing, some dancing ... one even making a snow angel and smiled. I reclined back and watched the candle light dance off the pine board ceilings. Lexi hopped up, did a few circles and curled up with a satisfied sigh. I reached for my lap-throw and pulled it over my shoulders, warm and cozy. Lexi stretched out so her head was nestled on my lap, and I stroked her soft ears, and said out loud "Little Lexi... it's so good to be HOME."