Round Pond, Maine

by Luke O'Neil

A powerfully romantic, blurry old family photo of a woman in a long pink beach caftan or robe with two little kids on a rocky shore, the palely glittering sea behind them
Images courtesy of the author

The first thought is dad sprinting back and forth across 95 somewhere north of Boston. Like an old tabletop video game. Salvaging as many items of our wind-strewn clothing as he could. One of those tubes they make you stand in and the air blows the cash around. He must not have secured the suitcases well enough to the roof of the station wagon. Mitt Romney with a dog. Ours was safely inside though. An Irish setter named Arlo crouching in the backseat panting and staring dumbly at things he didn’t understand and didn’t need to anyway.

It doesn’t seem worth it to me now. Risking all of that. But I’ve never had to pay to clothe children. Especially ones that aren’t technically my own. 

Father and small son, already soaking wet, in vintage trunks (the son in yellow water wings) diving and/or falling into a pond

My mother’s family had been coming summers to stay at a defunct cove-side motel in this no stoplight town since they were children. Then at a small house of their very own. Next door to one church and across the street from another. Imagine New England on a postcard. The one hundred year old general store. Lobster traps everywhere even on land. Fried clams and ice cream and cold sadness like the water a few inches beneath the parts the sun reaches. 

OK now imagine it all slightly poorer than what you were thinking. Just a town. A town in Maine. Sunburnt men in overalls who knew how to do things and then died early for having done them.

Over the years my grandmother took to decorating the house like a musty drawing room in a gothic romance. Velvet and lace and burgundy. A purposeful dimness to it. Miss Havisham’s cake. A vampire with a rusting lobster boat he kept meaning to take out on a cloudy day. 

She’d go on to live out the rest of her days there mostly alone. Not the full rest of her days but the rest of them before the last of them. Cobwebs everywhere. A tiny bathroom my dad built under the stairs that he also built. No flushing allowed unless it was absolutely necessary. The thick beams of the roof jagged with nails older than all of us pushing outward at impossible angles like gnarled claws. I worried when I was young what would happen if everything tipped upside down. 

It’s a paywall, but a small one

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