Thanksgiving on Matinicus Island
As I write it is the day before Thanksgiving. Here on Matinicus, several of us have absolutely no idea where we’ll be eating tomorrow. Like everything else around here, it’ll depend on the weather.
Daughter Emily just called me from the supermarket in Rockland. “Shut in thick,” I reported, “and doesn’t look too promising.”
“It’s brightening up a bit over here,” she told me, but we both knew that didn’t mean much with regard to flying conditions out here, seemingly halfway between Rockland and Ireland. It is, as they say, “dungeon thick.”
There is no boat service this time of year, and many of the island lobstermen have either hauled out for an extended winter vacation or already left for the holiday weekend. At least one is injured. Not all of those who remain are in any shape (be it vessel or captain) to be crossing the bay under less than ideal conditions.
My extended family’s plan had been to converge in South Thomaston this year. Paul and I were to fly off the island at 3:30 in the afternoon today, as an earlier forecast had allowed us to think such foolishness realistic. Yesterday, high school senior Emily borrowed a car, drove from Portsmouth to Burlington to pick up her brother Eric, then to Putney in southern Vermont to collect Lydia. Island neighbor Lydia is a high school freshman and away from home for the first time. (If you are wondering why a kid from Matinicus is going to school way over in Putney, Vermont, you might scroll back through a few of my earlier columns having to do with island students and high school.) She expected to fly to the island today, as did Jill and Kate and Rich, while Heather the teacher, Paul, and I flew to the mainland.
However, on Matinicus, “you can’t get there from here” isn’t lame Maine humor. It’s the weather report.
Sometime in the morning, as I had sweet rolls rising and blueberry cake in the oven, and Paul was out loading propane for a customer who was inexplicably completely out, Wanda the postmaster called. “Troy is leaving in ten minutes.” So much for the widely-held (by people who don’t live here) myth that there’s “always somebody going by boat you can get a ride with.” Ten minutes? We thanked Wanda for the message, but we couldn’t do it.
A couple of hours later, as I did some errands — taking an elderly neighbor’s blood pressure, delivering the sweet rolls, and dropping off a new backboard to the first-aid shed — Robin stopped over from the school, just next door. We laughed about how if everybody got stuck where they were, her husband and mine and the teacher could all bring together what we’ve got and enjoy a Thanksgiving meal without our various grown children and significant others, but in good spirits just the same. I’d baked an apple pie and cranberry bread and blueberry cake (in mind to take it to the mainland). Robin has a can of pumpkin to make a pie, Heather has potatoes, but none of us has a turkey. We had all ordered birds from local co-ops which get them from Maine farmers (serious foodie environmentalist do-gooders that we are) and although such birds taste great, they can’t be delivered until practically the last minute — and thus, all of us have turkeys on the mainland. No common old 69-cents-a-pound turkey from Shaw’s for us this year, no sir. Jill has picked up Robin’s at Rising Tide in Damariscotta; Emily has collected ours and Lisa’s from the Good Tern in Rockland. We may well all be eating bacon and eggs tomorrow. Oh, with apple pie and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie and squash. It’ll be fine.
Arriving back home, the phone rings. It is Kate, asking if we’ve heard anything about transportation. I told her we had not. Five minutes later, son Eric calls from Rockland, and says “We’ve now got a time constraint. We have to get Lydia to Spruce Head right away. She’s getting a ride out with Troy. Which place is Atwood’s?”
I gave him directions to Atwood’s Lobster Company on Spruce Head Island, from which Troy said he would be leaving (very soon,) and called Kate back and told her about it. As a general rule Matinicus lobstermen are willing to take passengers, but as they are not in the ferrying business they are not willing to wait around very long for them. If you happen to be in the right place at the right time, fine, but if not, tough beans. Kate said there was no way she and her husband Rich could get from their home in Hope to Spruce Head in time, but thanks. I then tried calling Robin to get word to Jill about the possible ride. It turns out Jill (along with her family’s turkey) was in Augusta getting something fixed on her car.
Eric called a bit later from Spruce Head. “Lydia’s aboard the boat.”
“Is anybody else riding out with her?” “Nope, just Troy and his sternman, Solomon the dog who is sort of freaking out, Lydia’s got more stuff than she can lug, I don’t think she’s ever done this before, and Troy says he’s going to haul fifty on the way out.”
Oh, that sounds like a barrel of laughs. Note to readers with only a summertime, romantic impression of riding along on a lobster boat: remember, it is late November, it is thick fog, raw, forty degrees. We all go through this, though, and sometimes we’re even thankful. Eric sounded skeptical that Lydia would enjoy the trip; I think he figured she would rather go to the movies with him and Emily in Rockland and take her chances with the flying weather the next day, but getting home is getting home.
I took my apple pie out of the oven. Robin stopped by and we compared notes. We’ve all got plenty of food should we be stuck here; Paul says we can set up a conference call and raise a glass wherever we are with Jill and Eric and Emily and Heather’s fiancé Fred (and, we thought, Lydia too, until that last-minute ride with Troy). We’ll have a good time even if the fog does its damnedest to defy us. Here’s what I am thankful for: kids who can manage on their own, island friends who can keep a cool head despite the incessant sabotage of well-laid plans by the thoughtless and careless weather, and a pint of cream so we can have chocolate cream pie out here.
So what if none of us has a turkey.
Eva Murray has had transportation screwed up by the weather for more than twenty-two years on Matinicus Island.