In place of fences, we have winding pea stone paths connecting one yard to the next on our street.

It’s not something we planned or designed or that I thought I wanted. Good fences make good neighbors, I assumed. Instead, it’s a landscape that has evolved from a selfish attempt to stay connected to the friends who have become our family.

In 2005, these five families with connected yards threw their first pig roast. Pre-Facebook – or at least pre-the-entire-universe-living-on-Facebook – paper invitations were mailed and fliers were distributed. The pig, purchased at West Gardiner Beef, rode shotgun in our truck to Portland.

I recall:

We ignore a threat of rain from a storm in the Gulf called Carrie or Katie or Katinka because it will probably miss us anyway and we’ve already bought the pig.

A neighborhood kid falls off the recently hung buoy-swing and nearly misses hitting his head on a concrete slab that none of us think to remove. No blood, just tears – and then 15 more kids line up to swing again.

Kids from away (Falmouth) pick apples from our miniature apple trees and throw them at passing cars on Deering Avenue. These same kids redeem themselves later by playing maracas and cowbells.

Two hours into the party, a woman who pegs me as a host by the look of terror in my eyes announces that she did not get any pig. “Who are you?” I think.

And when a dear friend asks me for an onion, which would require that I walk up 20 stairs to our kitchen, I come unglued.

The five host families do not eat because two hours into the party, 150 paper plates and an 80-pound pig have all disappeared.

In 2007, we decide to do it again.

A bigger pig is procured and transported shotgun in the same truck. A second truck is dispatched to the Portland Fish Pier for ice. Two hundred sturdier paper plates are purchased. Rain is forecast. Tarps are raised.

Our friend’s 9-year-old son loads his entire drum kit into a red wagon and drags it three blocks west to stake his claim as the official pig-roast drummer.

Friends, who have not played music in a very long time, do.

The concrete slab under the buoy-swing is removed.

My best friend, who is in the middle of a separation and has been holed up in her house for three months, decides to brave the crowd. She cries the entire time. My courageous big sister, who lost her life partner in a plane crash two months earlier, also attends. Acquaintances who have not heard their extremely sad news get caught up by asking, “What’s new?”


Circus tents are rented for food and music. Paper plate purchase is increased to 300. I am now officially in charge of paper goods.

We are organized enough to see and eat the food.

Food: Yellow, red, green and pink heirloom tomatoes, blueberry peach crisp, homemade and bakery-bought berry pies, pasta salads in every variety, roasted beets and local-local everything; tender, moist, rich, smoky pig served with multiple sauces made in the biggest pots we own. Roasted chicken, duck and turkey are added to the fire pit for those who do not eat pork and for those who are still reading “Olivia.”

Someone suggests inviting Martha Stewart. It is vetoed.


There is no sign of bad weather, but tents are raised anyway. A 120-pound swine rides shotgun from Gardiner.

The beer truck is designated “adults only,” and the kid drinks are moved to a separate location. Clear plastic cups are mandatory.

Out of the dark, fire eaters show up and eat fire.

The party is dedicated to Nell, our neighbor’s schnauzer, who had been sick for a very long time. Nell’s humans nursed her until she passed the day before the pig roast. Shattered, one lost his voice and the other stayed in bed as long as she could before dragging herself outside to host a massive party.


The official pig party drummer, now 15, opens the pig roast with his four-piece rock band. Their tie-wearing, pre-pubescent lead singer interprets a make-you-want-to-cry version of Radiohead’s “Creep.”

Bagpipers arrive with no warning just as the pig is being carved.

I fall in love with two brothers (3 and 7 years old) who beg for the pig roast to happen every day.

After running and dancing for 12 hours, the 3-year-old collapses, nearly lifeless, on the makeshift stage.

If I make a path to your house, on your property, you cannot refuse me when I invite you to dinner … or so the theory goes.

Jolene McGowan lives and works in Portland with her husband, daughter and dog and has no plans to leave, ever. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]