When summer reluctantly returns to the Pine Tree State, the natives also return to their beloved state of Maine. My small five-room ranch house turns into an unlicensed bed-and-breakfast. At the end of May, I begin the preparations for the influx of family and friends longing to see their relatives and set foot on the soil where their roots are.

The spare room must be aired out, mattresses turned, comforters washed and hung out to dry.

Reading materials and towels are set out for my long-awaited kinfolk. A cot is set up in the den, and the overflow gets the living room couch. This is a much-coveted spot, as it has TV privileges and air conditioning.

The out-of-staters send me their arrival and departure dates and times. Scheduling is as complicated as scheduling the World Series. If I mix up the roster, we can end up with sleeping bags on the living room floor and a line for the bathroom.

As one group leaves, another arrives. The summer visitors arrive from all over the United States and Europe, and each family member has a favorite place or a favorite food they must have and that can only be found in Maine. They crave Italian sandwiches, lobsters, blueberry pie, Needhams and whoopie pies.

They yearn to see the ocean and walk barefoot in the sand of their favorite beach. The Old Port area is always on the list of essential places to go, along with Two Lights State Park and Old Orchard Beach.

Nostalgic visits are taken to their old neighborhoods.

They want to see the schools they attended, the parks they played in, hills where they went sliding, rinks where they skated and their old hangouts.

They are a bit sad at the changes that have taken place since they have been gone, but they have wonderful memories, and they laugh as they reminisce about their first crush, their friends and their teachers.

Over the many years of these summer visits, a certain protocol has developed. The guests have staked their claims to a particular bed or place at the table.

They are territorial, and this order cannot be tampered with.

They are home again. They like that things are the same as last year, and all the years before. Because of all the changes they have experienced in their lives, they take comfort in the time warp of my home.

Mornings are my favorite times with the relatives and friends. We sit around the kitchen table talking and laughing, and plans are made for the day’s activities.

The visitors have other family members they want to see while in Maine, and family reunions are planned to coincide with these visits so everyone gets a chance to reconnect with their kinfoks.

How wonderful it is to see them all — it is like they never left.

Elaine Parker entertains her guests at her five-room ranch house in South Portland.


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