David Treadwell

David Treadwell

Our septic system recently developed some issues. No, that’s too kind. It died. We decided to vacate the house for a few weeks, anxious to avoid risking a “back up.” (Back up plans are good; backed up septic systems? Not so much.) After discussing options, we called our good friends John and Lile Gibbons, Connecticut residents, and asked if we could stay at their house in Harpswell for a few weeks. They said, “Yes” right away. Problem solved. I first met John at Mount Pleasant High School in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1958; we both came to Bowdoin in the fall of 1960, we joined the same fraternity; and we’ve been friends ever since.

We moved our stuff to the Gibbons on a Sunday afternoon, and that night we joined some Bowdoin alumni and spouses for a post-basketball game function. When they heard our tale of septic woe, our friends Rob and Cathy Jarratt said, “Stay at our house. It’s close to your house, and we’d love to have you!” I first met Rob in 1960, as he was also a Bowdoin classmate, and he sang at our wedding at the Bowdoin Chapel in 1989. So we called the Gibbons to announce the switch and thank them.

To our surprise, it took only 10 days to have a new system designed, get approvals from the town of Brunswick, select a company to install the new system and have the work done.

Rob and Cathy were super hosts in every way. We, in turn, tried to minimize our impact on their house and their lives. Everyone had a great time; in fact, the experience evoked memories of college dorm life. In fairness, we’d had a successful dry run with the Jarratt’s, spending three days and nights with them during a delightful theater excursion to NYC in December.

Incidentally, our good friends Hugh and Surrey Hardcastle invited us to stay at their house on Bailey Island if the Jarratts got tired of us and kicked us out. Hugh, a fellow fraternity brother, was a year behind me at Bowdoin; Surrey’s brother Mike was another fraternity brother. In fact, during our sophomore year Mike arranged for me to take care of his younger sister Surrey, then a 15-year-old, during a long Bowdoin weekend. He thought I’d be a “safe” escort since I had a girlfriend who was in college in Ohio. Happily, I maintained my reputation and Surrey’s honor, and I take pride in having been her first Bowdoin date.

Our septic problem reminded me, once again, of the value of old friends, such as those mentioned here. We’ve shared joys and sorrows over many decades — about ourselves, our kids, our grandkids, everything. We know each other all too well to put on airs or pretend that everything’s “just fine” when, in fact, it isn’t. We can haul out shared memories in a trice. If someone asks our opinion, we’ll give it. If not, we might give it anyway. If we need an ear or a hand or a hug or a house we’ll gladly provide it. We can call each other up and say, “Want to go to the movies?” half an hour before showtime. Some of us — well, one of us, yours truly — have even been known to invite ourselves over for a holiday dinner at someone else’s house if our own calendar is blank.

Septically speaking, our life is back to normal. We’re going with the flow, so to speak. Some good old friends were there when we needed them. They always are and always will be. And that’s a very good feeling.

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David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns at [email protected]