Friday, December 6, 2013
By MARJORIE A. STOCKFORD
PORTLAND - In November 2010, I purchased a nearly 200-year-old house in Portland's West End, with a yard large enough for my daughter Kanha's soon-to-arrive puppy Theo and a thousand creaks and cracks to fix.
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This was nothing new for me. I had bought or rented more than a dozen houses or apartments over the past 30 years in cities and towns around the world, including one in Portland where I lived for a few years a decade ago.
But over the 18 months we've been here this time around, I've realized I can finally stop. Everywhere I look I see a connection to my past, to the warmth of my entire life.
I have found my home.
When I venture across the Casco Bay Bridge to pick up food for Theo, just two more turns will take me to my grandfather's rambling brick house on Sawyer Street, where he used to mow the names of my three siblings and me into the back lawn: LYNN, MARGIE, NANCY, DANNY.
If I'm headed to the beach instead, I can drive down Mitchell Road and fly past the Cape Woods condo where my parents lived for the four short years of their retirement, or take a quick detour to Portland Head Light where we all used to walk together on Thanksgiving mornings, grateful for the air, the cold, the crashing waves and each other.
The Lobster Shack isn't much farther, where I ate fried clams and climbed the black rocks as a kid 45 years ago, just as my own daughter has done for the past decade.
And when I'm feeling the need for peace, we go to the Cape Elizabeth cemetery and sit beside my dad's grave while Theo bounds about among the vast spread of stones.
Embarking on foot from home, I can head up to the First Parish Unitarian Church where we honored my dad back in 2000 in a colorful memorial service that featured stories about errant chipmunks and hidden beer, an off-key bagpiper, and a tremendous amount of love, and then stop at the Eastland Hotel where we finished the day at a noisy, laugh-filled reception. We chose the Eastland for its location, reasonable price and connection to our past; my dad's dad had lived there with his girlfriend in the last years of his own life.
Even closer to home, I can venture just to the other side of Congress Street to wander by the big old Victorian house where my ex and I lived when Kanha first came home from Cambodia. I see the patch of grass in the backyard where she and I tossed a ball back and forth and can peer up to her bedroom window, imagining the night she climbed out of her crib three times in a row before we put it away for good.
Just down the hill I can meander through Deering Oaks where I ice skated with my grandfather, walked with my dad and fed the ducks with my daughter.
Since this is the great state of Maine, I know I can never truly be "from here." Yet this is where I belong.
Marjorie A. Stockford is a resident of Portland.