Sunday, June 22, 2014

Kennebunk: On the Search for Mary and Joseph


 This is the kind of camping I've been missing for the last two weeks, the kind in a real campground, where people walk by walking their dogs and say hello, stop to chat.  A campground where you actually run into people in the bathroom, where the owners are curious and friendly and wave when you drive out and drive back in.  So, if you're ever in Arundel/Kennebunk, stay at the Hemlock Grove Campground.  It was spectacular.  I wanted to take my English teacher's pen to all the quotation-mark-as-emphasis on various signs, but that's just my own personal trial.

So, in the morning, which happened to be the best night's sleep I'd had in weeks, I went in search of the historical society in Kennebunkport. Where Siri said it should be (man, I've missed Siri...), I found the library instead, in this gorgeous brick building that had a sign in front of it that said "Book Sale." Seriously, if you wanted to catch me in a trap, all you have to do is put "Book Sale" on it. Inside, where it was more like a used book store than a cart of books for sale, I bought three:  James Lee Burke's Burning Angel, a 1962 book called The Fun of Family Camping, and Maiden Voyages, an anthology of travel writing by women.  Doesn't get much more perfect than that--even though it wasn't the historical society.


So, I asked for directions, went back the direction I'd come to the old schoolhouse and it was the research arm of the historical society. The older lady who was there didn't exactly seem unhappy to see me, but she wasn't too excited about helping me either.  The last name didn't ring a bell with her, which wasn't terribly surprising (though it would have been nice to have some recognition in a small town, but as I thought about it later, my great-grandfather was one of seven, two of which were boys, and one of those boys married and moved to Long Beach in 1922. So that left five girls, whose names would have changed when they married.). In any case, I found that my great-great grandparents, Joseph and Mary Babine were buried in Hope Cemetery in Kennebunk.

It's in the center of town, she told me. You can't miss it.  So I went back to Kennebunk--it's maybe four miles between Kennebunk and Kennebunkport.

What she neglected to tell me is that it's a huge cemetery. The good news is that there are thousands of stones--no wooden crosses here--but it was like a needle in a stone haystack.  No map or directory, so I just had to wander blindly.  My method was basically this:  Joseph died in 1934 (and according to my grandfather, suffered a stroke in 1931) and Mary died in 1950, so I tried to find the burials in the 1930s era and see if I could find anything.  I wandered in the sunshine for about an hour, but didn't find anything.  Okay, not true:  I found a lot, but not the ones I was looking for.


Like the Craven family--quite the travelers they were.  I wonder what their connection to China was, what happened to baby Frank.


And this family, who should stay as far away from water as possible.

I went to find some lunch, but found the Mainely Murders bookstore instead and I've got another favorite bookstore.  It was magnificent.  Part of the appeal of bookstores--even if they're not crime literature, which was just about the best class I've ever taught--is how they're arranged.  This one was arranged by nationality, as well as subject.  The gardening mysteries were here, the golfing mysteries were there. I nearly did a happy dance in front of the Irish mysteries when I saw how many Ken Bruens she had--and though I had most of them, I wanted to buy her out of them. As it was, I bought Brock Clarke's An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England and Bruen's Headstone.  Then I went back to the cemetery, with fresh eyes and blood up from my success at the bookstore.

It took on the quality of a treasure hunt.  They were fishermen, carpenters, very working class people, so they wouldn't have had an expensive stone. There weren't many of them buried there--not a clan of them, so no family plot, so I could basically skip the huge plots.  I figured it would be a simple stone.

I hadn't wandered more than twenty minutes, when I found them.  I was right about the stone, fairly low to the ground, very simple.  Unbelievable.  I just stared at them for a few minutes, completely disbelieving that I'd actually found them out of this huge cemetery.  






After I'd taken my pictures, I decided to head to Kennebunkport and be a tourist.  Too nice a day to do anything else--and I was not alone in this desire.  Kennebunkport was packed.

Because a vegetarian can starve in the Maritimes, I had lunch at an Irish pub with a portobella sandwich that was distinctly not-Irish, with Magners cider that made up for it. Liquid sunshine.


Then I wandered the area, popping into the tacky tourist shops, the upscale ones.  Wondering what I'd find.  It was a splendid day for wandering.


In the end, I bought a cookbook. And when I happened upon Maine-ly Drizzle, a shop carrying gourmet olive oils and vinegars, I might have died and gone to culinary heaven.  I had no idea what I was doing, or what I was looking for, but the man (who seemed to be the owner) was thrilled to give me the tour and give me a head start.  I tasted oils, I tasted vinegars, he mixed some for me and I tasted that too.  I decided that I would take some home for Xmas presents, as well as some for myself, and the trick will be not to keep those intended for gifts.  I bought a honey ginger balsamic vinegar that's going to be spectacular drizzled over grilled peaches...  And then I went to a pottery shop and bought a little pitcher pressed with flowers and ferns.

When I got back to the campsite, I was that happy kind of exhausted.  I took out my zero gravity chair, picked myself a book, and enjoyed the evening at Hemlock Grove, the wind in the trees, the sunshine.  


In the morning, I would head west.  I had intended to stop in Worcester, Massachusetts to go cemetery hunting for the Irish side of things (my great-grandfather married an Irish girl from Worcester), but I decided I hadn't done enough research and going blindly around Worcester looking for headstones was an entirely different proposition than doing so around Kennebunk. So I decided to hit the road, hard, and move towards home.

Next stop:  hard driving and regaining the joy of the campgrounds.









1 comment:

  1. Good Monday morning Karen, another great post with beautiful pictures! How fun exploring the library/book sales! My kind of day : ) glad you had a gorgeous day & evening at the campground. Have a good day from Kim & Jeff in MN

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