This summer was the summer that I got to really know Maine. Yes, I went to Colby for three years (well, granted, I was in Copenhagen for a semester), but there are times when the Hill seems distant and removed from the outside world. There is so much happening at school, so many people to meet, so many things to do, so much to learn, that I forgot that there is a larger world outside this comfortable bubble.
It happens to the best of us, or at least I try to comfort myself by saying that.
My neighbor really opened my eyes to what Maine is like during the decades of his life, and in a way, I saw the changes and constants through the lifetime of a local.
My neighbor grew up in South China, and he drove me to the town that he grew up. The sunlight filtered through the rows of trees, and we passed by the house where his aunt still live in, and the farmhouse where he used to work as a child. His brothers and sisters and him used to wake up in the crack of dawn and chop firewood right at that spot, and they would go to school in that little white house. My neighbor would come home and his mom would have made forty biscuits, and he would be so hungry that he could eat a whole bowl of mashed potatoes.
As a teenager he is rebellious, much as most of us. He tells me his crazy stories as we drove around. He told me how he would work if he lost his license, and I laughed and told him that I walked everywhere, but that is because I don’t have a car.
My neighbor drove me to Augusta, and he used to drive this highway two times a week to go to work in Connecticut. My neighbor said that those long drives really makes him bored, and he likes to drive as fast as he can. I would joke and tell him to keep us alive and please drive safe. Another day, we drove by the factory that he worked for two decades; I walked among the beams that weight more than a ton, and every single beam was made by people like my neighbor, from 5 am until night. My neighbor takes a lot of pride in his work.
I really like going to his old house and visit his son and future daughter in law. They had two great huskies: the older one is calm and collected and loves attention, the younger one is energetic and talkative and steals attention. His future daughter in law would talk me on a four-wheeler ride around, and then we would have a great big bonfire. Over the soft crackle of the logs, my neighbor told me how he saved up his money and bought this piece of land. He cleared the trees himself, and built the house brick by brick, plank by plank.
My neighbor also took me fishing. I was pretty lousy at it, catching only two tiny, tiny trout that I ended up releasing. My neighbor had children when he was fairly young, but he told me, from the moment he held his first son, he knew that he wanted to be a good father. We rode around for half a day trying to find the exact same spot where he used to take his sons camping, hunting and fishing, but we ended up having sore backs from the rocky roads. There is something about nature of Maine that is just beautiful. There was this other family, a guy was teaching two little children how to cast the fishing line; you could see the line where the water meets the sky, and the water was clear and you could see the fishes swimming between the rocks. I tried to imagine a new childhood for me, a childhood where I went fishing instead of window-shopping.
At night, we cooked the fishes that were caught, and also some deer meet that was hunted by his future daughter in law’s father. My neighbor’s son would come to his apartment and ask for pasta and meat sauce. My neighbor said that his son knows how to cook pasta, but his son said, “I just don’t make them like you do.”
Why Maine? Why Waterville? I don’t really know when I was an underclassman. I thought it was Colby, or the beautiful sceneries, but this summer I think it was because of passionate people like my neighbor. In my Zumba class yesterday, my instructor told me how much she enjoyed helping everyone get in shape, in my Hospice training class, a women told me how much she loved doing art to beautify the town. Yes, Waterville is a small town, and Maine is a very cold state in the winter, but what attract me about a place have always been the people, and the memories and experiences of these people about the place.
P.S.: I did not draw a picture because I am just not good enough to draw pictures about my feelings in this article. I guess this is why I like to write; I want to paint pictures with my words instead. But there you go, I included something for you. This is a drawing of my friend’s beautiful and smart and gentle and funny cat that passed away recently. My friend’s cat is called Doc, and he is as awesome as The Doctor.