… on driving miss judy


Once, Upon Time

Just next door to me, on the lovely Landing Road (I have learned that, in Maine, you put ‘the’ in front of a lot of things… the Landing Road, the Hannaford’s, the coffee (okay, maybe that last one was not all that illustrative))…


Just next door to me, on the lovely Landing Road is a beautiful old home, painted a deep blue grey.  It has a room on one side, the side closest to our house, that connects our two special places through time.

Once upon that time, when our house was an inn, the room in the house next door was used for ‘overflow’ guests.

There was a path from The Southport Inn that led to a side door, and a room, in the neighboring house. I often imagine a guest or two walking along it, a hundred years ago, after a ‘Shore Dinner’ and maybe a cocktail or two, to turn in for the evening.

I have had many conversations in that very room – it’s former door now a window – sipping iced tea or coffee, nibbling on tiny cinnamon buns or cookies.

When we first came to Southport, I would sit there and talk with Bud and Judy, who had been coming her for nearly thirty years at that point, and they would tell me stories of days gone by.

Croquet games that would span the lawns of multiple neighbors along our road.

Dressing for dinner.

Actual cocktail hours… card table bars on front lawns, stocked with scotch and cognac and bitters and bing cherries, filling my head with words like ‘Manhattan’ and ‘Sidecar’.

Years later, I would sit with Judy, who I always wanted to call Miss Judy because that just seemed to make sense.

Bud has been gone for nearly four years now.

Their marriage spanned more than fifty years and a was so clearly a great friendship, among many, many other intricacies of such a long time together.

The first few seasons after he died, Miss Judy was up here very little.  A week or two at most. I saw her when she came, and we talked and she wondered what she would do with this place that left her flooded in nostalgia.

I get that.

This was their special place, their dream of a house in Maine.

It holds many of her best memories.

But this year, she is up for a longer amount of time.

She has a few ‘issues with her eyes’ and doesn’t have a car with her this time. Her sons and grandkids have been up here and there, and she has many friendships in the area, collected and nurtured over three-plus decades.  People who visit, and to go out with. Friends to call upon should she need anything.

But I get to drive her to the post office.

I call it ‘Driving Miss Judy’.

When we first connected this year, she asked me for a ride to the post office so she could get a P.O. Box for the time she was here.

It was a great trip.

Because her eyesight is poor, she double checked a few items with me on the paperwork.  I suggested that she put me down as a trusted person who could collect her mail, and she gave me the extra key to the box, in case I was out and could swing by the post office on my way home.

That first day, we took advantage of being out together and headed over to the island’s General Store so she could check out the new addition, and see how it had changed in the last few years.

Then we headed down to the beach to see the lighthouse and gossip a very little bit, speculating on who would buy the old house across the street from the water, where an artist and mapmaker named Ruth lived until she was more than 100 years old. Ruth owned the beach, but allowed the public to use it.  When she died a couple of years ago, the town bought it to preserve public access, which had been granted by the owners for as long as anyone could remember or trace back. So now the town has done their work to make the beach legally public, and Ruth’s house is for sale, and it looks over the sand and rocks, and beyond to the lighthouse and islands.

We sat at Ruth’s beach for a while, and then backed out and meandered down tiny roads with pine and spruce so thick you could not see far down the driveways to the houses on the shore. But we guessed at each of their views.

We were talking and laughing and decided to take the ‘long way’ home, turning right instead of left as we approached the small island school.

We had so much fun, we decided to do the whole route, from post office to beach to back roads to ‘the long way home’, like a new tradition, every day or so.  And we do.

Our talks touch on a thousand tiny topics, none of which I remember right now.

Maya Anjelou made a wonderful observation once, when she said she had learned that “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

And how do I feel when I drive Miss Judy?

Amazed, at her grace.

Happy, that I am sharing this planet with her.

And hopeful, that I will be as full of life and humor and wonder when I am eighty-three.

Can’t beat that.

Thanks for readin’.


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