Thursday, July 26

heading north

Believe it or not, we are once again going on vacation.

Tomorrow morning, my father is arriving at 8am to pick us up and drive to Maine.
For those of you who don't know, my parents bought a 19th century farmhouse in the early 1970s. I've gone there every year of my life; my mother even found out she was pregnant with me when they were there. It's a very special place for me, though every year I find my relationship to it shifting.

I often read Apartment Therapy, and recently there was a thread about a blogger who is living for a year making no environmental impact. He and his wife and daughter live in New York City but have gradually given up everything that impacts the world: electricity (meaning that they don't even take the elevator in their building), transportation that requires gas, you name it. They have even given up (gasp!) toilet paper.

In any case, Apartment Therapy was reporting on them because someone had asked the blogger how he entertains his daughter without a television. His response was really, really wonderful, and it made me very excited to see that sort of parenting. It's exactly what I'd like to model my own parenting style (when the time comes) after. And it also reminded me of my childhood and made me reflect a little on it.

We spent the summers in Maine. I honestly don't know whether we were there a week or 3 months, but it seemed to stretch on for a glorious lifetime. We didn't just sit around and read or go hiking or something, like other people do when they visit Maine (not my parents!).

My parents bought two houses on the same driveway and neither of them were modernized. I mean, really not modernized. There was no telephone, electricity or running water. We used an outhouse, got our water from a hand pump in the kitchen or from the well, used kerosene lanterns and bathed in a lake.
Gradually, things changed. First we got a telephone, a party line, and our neighbors would sometimes come over to make or receive calls. We kept a log on who called what numbers for billing purposes. Electricity came next- probably around 1980, running water came about 10-12 years later. My parents still don't have a shower or a completed bathroom; about 10 years ago my father carved a bathroom out of what had been a guest room, erecting some beams which he covered in fabric and installing a toilet in the middle of the room. The wall is now solid but the bathroom feels more like a room filled with bathroom fixtures than a finished room: a clawfoot tub, a Victorian sink, a toilet. It needs to be honed, but it works for now.

I never missed having what wasn't there; as a child this lack of amenities was fascinating and special, I knew my experience was rare and I treasured it for that reason. There is also so much to do at any one time; a television is beside the point. There are books to read, letters to write, drawings to make, sweaters to knit-- nevermind all of the repair work the house constantly needs. And that was always part of the experience: working on the house. So will this trip be a vacation? Hopefully, in some ways. But my dad is already talking about putting in an outdoor shower, so maybe I'll be helping him with that.


Terra said...

Cute butt! How old were you when your father first put you to work mixing concrete?

Anonymous said...

It was plaster, and moreover, she volunteered to help.