by Sheila Webster Boneham
I'm in Maine! I'm on my way home today, so because I'm traveling, I'm rerunning this post from last July. I think it's particularly apt because I've just completed my Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in creative writing from the fantastic Stonecoast MFA Program. Enjoy! ~ Sheila
When I was a child, my father traveled several times a year to Maine for work. He was an engineer, and was instrumental in the development of sonobuoy technology for detecting submarines during the cold war. The Navy tested the equipment off the coast, monitoring from the Pemaquid Point lighthouse.
Happily for me, in the summer my mother and I often made the long drive from Indiana with my dad, and I spent many happy hours on the Pemaquid rocks and exploring the tidal pools. At Pemaquid I learned that the sea will take back the treasures you gather if you don't move them above the tide line, and that seagulls will take your lunch if you don't keep it safe from aerial thievery. It was there that I met my first sea creatures -- starfish, mussels, and more. It was also in Maine that I met my first author and learned that real people write books.
We always stayed at the Pemaquid Hotel, a lovely old place with guest rooms and dining room in the main hotel and "cabins" outside. We liked the cabins because they had little porches where we could sit in the evenings and listen to the frogs that sang in the pond at the back of the grounds. The hotel was owned by the Allens, who lived there year round and opened for guests in the summer months. Some of the elderly guests had been coming to the hotel since they were children, a thought that boggled my pre-teen mind. From the hotel it was an easy stroll to the lighthouse, the rocks, the ten-stool snack and souvenir shop where I bought a copy of Mystery at Pemaquid Point by Mary C. Jane.
Serendipity being ever part of life, I took my new book to dinner with me and Mrs. Allen saw it on the table. Her daughter, she said, had been in Mrs. Jane's fifth-grade class a decade earlier. My mother asked how to contact Mrs. Jane, and Mrs. Allen produced her phone number and address.
Perhaps my mother saw my future even then. I don't know. What I do know is that she called Mrs. Jane and asked if she could bring her young daughter to meet her and have her book signed. So off we drove to the town of Damariscotta and Mary C. Jane's home for lemonaide and cookies, and a lifelong memory of meeting my first author.
I have just returned from ten days of writers' workshops, readings, talks, and interaction at the Stonecoast MFA Program's summer residency in Maine. I didn't get to Pemaquid Point this trip. but it will always be one of my favorite places in the world. And my memories of Maine will always include the three women who conspired to let me meet the author whose book I loved. Knowing what I know now about most authors, I cherish the idea, too, that Mrs. Jane was as delighted to meet a reader from far away as I was to meet her.