- PHOTOGRAPHY BY: JENNIFER BAUM
By Jon Reiner
Sixty-four Winter Street, Yarmouth, ME. Cape — Single Family Home. Oceanfront setting on Littlejohn Island! Four bedroom, two bath Cape-style home on four acres and over three hundred feet of water frontage. Fantastic water views from almost every window! Watch the leaves change & wildlife stroll thru the yard from this Adorable Island Home. Easy access to Yarmouth & close to Portland. Quintessential Maine.
I bookmark the listing and click back to the Realtor’s home page. There are four houses in my price range that have been sitting on this site since the fall, and I wonder when they’ll come down 10 percent. Surfing Maine real estate is my guilty pleasure. I read the listings like tea leaves, looking for signs and hidden meanings in the details and omissions.
My wife and two kids have been asleep for hours, and I’m up again on a winter’s night tapping away at my habit to transport me on a geographic fantasy. I dug through all the small-print realty in the current Down East last night, so I’m back online, imagining the four of us in ydifferent home hundreds of miles from here. Here is New York City, where we live on top of each other like boots in a box, without the third and fourth bedrooms, the second bath, the three hundred feet of water frontage, the ocean views, and the quintessentialness. The tantalizing Cape glows in the dark alcove we call a “study,” where I’m camped out in an L.L. Bean robe and pajamas sewn with red lobsters floating up the legs. I’m jonesing for the Pine Tree State.
My family have been seasonal Mainers for eighty years, an enduring love affair that calls me back to Thompson Lake every summer. I belong to that enormous camp of displaced persons who never leave the state psychologically, even when our bodies are in New York, or Massachusetts, or Florida. On nights like tonight, it can be a particularly tortured existence, feet planted in the city, heart longing for Maine. Months after I said goodbye to our lake, I can’t shake the place, can’t shake the idea that moving to a house like the Adorable Island Home would deliver us into The Way Life Should Be. For absent lovers like me, Maine is more than a place; it’s a state of mind. Sure, I know the native’s response to my obsession: Have you ever tried a Maine winter? True, my Maine is that of perpetual summer, but, hey, it’s cold and snowy where I am, too. If we lived at 64 Winter Street, at least I could smell the ocean.
When the anxiety of city living keeps me up, I go online and live for a few hours in Maine houses that are perfect in the pictures. It would be wrong to call me delusional — I’ve calculated what price house we could afford after selling our apartment and have registered online for that category only. You can’t call me irresponsible, either — I’ve limited the search to towns whose public schools are highly ranked. The only thing you could call me is tired. It’s after 3 a.m.
Morning comes; I drop off my boys at school and stay a few minutes at the playground fence to chat up the other parents. One of them, Paul, a father of four, looks as beat as me, yawning smoke trails. “Late night?” I ask.
“You could say that. I was on the computer.”
“No. Real estate.”
It surprises me. I see Paul every day, and he’s never mentioned leaving the city. “You’re moving?”
“Not at the moment. It’s just something I do when I can’t sleep.”
“What suburbs are you looking at?”
“You’re kidding. Where in Maine?”
“On the coast. The towns with good schools.”
“Yarmouth?” I may have discovered a wayward Down East comrade. My excitement overwhelms the shame of closeted Web surfing.
“Yeah.” Paul’s tired eyes light up, like “Yarmouth” is a beacon drawing him out of the fog.
I’m in deep; there’s no turning back. “Sixty-four Winter Street?” I ask. “Four bedrooms, two baths, three hundred feet of water frontage? Close to Yarmouth and Portland?”
Paul can be brusque at drop-off. Running to the subway trumps pleasantries. Now, though, he stops and faces me. He raises his rower’s hands philosophically to his chest; they’re separated the length of a prize catch. It’s a soulful gesture from a man not known for them. He smiles and drinks in a breath before he speaks, completing the listing emphatically. “Quintessential Maine.”