Our summer visitor friends rhapsodize about island life, about peace and quiet, and about self-sufficiency as if it were their latest hobby. Many good folks have lake camps up long narrow roads, and dream of the day when they might decide to quit the grind and see the whole year through watching the loons. Others relish the small-town lifestyle, with church suppers and men working together to find a community Christmas tree, school plays, Ladies Aid societies, and rarely a stranger in sight.
The schoolkids walked up to my house to pick up the instructions for the dreidel game. They had in mind to download this simple Chanukah game’s directions but something was wrong in the ether and the school finds it has no Internet today. All manner of technical people assured our teacher that the problem was not within their particular bailiwick, so the assumption was made that it was evil spirits, and it would fall to somebody at Maine Laptop Initiative to effect the exorcism.
Heather, our island schoolteacher, assured me that I ought to tell the rest of the story.
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 is such a lovely day to go to the dump.
“What do you do,” the summer visitor asks, “out here on this rock, if somebody gets sick?”
Matinicus does have a tiny little EMS service. We don’t have an actual ambulance, we cannot offer any sophisticated care, or even a guaranteed trip to the hospital (it’s all about the weather, as usual,) but the patient is not necessarily on his own.
Going away to high school isn’t always all fun and games.
Son Eric called up in November of 2005 from Gould Academy, in the western mountain town of Bethel, Maine. He’d lived all his life on Matinicus Island, and now was a freshman in high school, unsentimentally reveling in his new life as a mountain kid. “I need all my outdoor gear, and I need it right away. I’m joining the Ski Patrol.”
“You’re doing WHAT?”
“Ski Patrol. I know a whole lot about medical emergencies. I’ve been watching you guys (the island EMTs) for years.”
The man did not smile. In fact, he looked entirely startled when hearing where our little island girl was about to begin high school. He looked me squarely in the eye. “You realize she’s going to get an excellent education,” he pronounced in his starchiest tone. I can almost see him standing up on his tippy toes in his docksiders to emphasize that truth. It was all I was worth to resist blurting out: “Oh, and all this time we thought she was running away to join the circus!”
We had strict orders: no rainbow tie-dyed sweatshirt from Reny’s, no black and red plaid wool coat, no Grundens, and never, ever, follow up an introduction to a teacher with the query “Didja gitcher deer yet?”
Ah, Parents’ Weekend at the posh boarding school. Tarzan Visits the Big City. Well, not quite.