It came in February 2020 like a rock thrown through our windows. It arrived around Valentine’s Day with cards and flowers, candy and kisses, and we sat up listening to the broken glass and wondering aloud, “What the hell was that?”

February smelled of fear, March and April smelled of smoke, and just to make sure we were paying attention, God slapped us awake with a snowstorm in May and gave us another chance.

That hot wind from the East chewed up the pages of our calendars, but here we are practically in June peering through the curtains, waiting for the all clear to sound.

Memorial Day is, as we know, an American holiday that honors the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.

Starting this year and probably for years to come, it must surely also honor the first responders, the nurses and doctors, who died while serving in this brand new war we’re all fighting, even as they stumbled through daily mine fields of rules, data, warnings, lies and misinformation.

But then, you know all of this and it’s almost summer. My dreams of summer always begin early in the dark nights of autumn as October slips away. I’m not a real Mainer. I just came East for the lobster and ran out of money.

And here I sit beside you, just hunkering down and waiting for the all-clear sirens. When my Hollywood life grew tiresome, I came here to find the summers of my childhood and you took me in. It’s been more than you bargained for, and I thank you.

It’s no secret that I’m a romantic child of the movies. Summer for me is an MGM season and every summer should look like “Meet Me In St. Louis” with ice cream trucks in the street, watermelon lunches and fireworks at twilight, drinks on the deck with someone beautiful, and someone putting supper on the table.

It should be about baseball and politics, stump speeches, flag buntings and first kisses. Hear those crickets and the slamming of screen doors in the dark? Summer.

Well, once again, June is nearly here, folks, all dressed in white shorts and flowered tops, new running shoes and sunglasses, waiting for the starting pistol shot to let the good times roll.

Even though we’re told that there will be no fireworks exploding over the Kennebec this summer, fire crackers will still be heard, and children will run around the yard with sparklers. Don’t give them all the details, just light the sparklers.

Sadly, there will be no nostalgic crack of the ball against wood, nor home run screams from Fenway Park, farmers market lettuce and onions.

But this is Maine where the very young and the weary old have decided to endure and engage.

Hope cautiously springs eternal, and bright young minds are coming up with sprigs of hope.

Among them, Central Maine Motors Auto Group owners Chris and Linanne Gaunce are working on a beautiful plan to reconfigure their pastures of shiny new cars and provide a magic field for a Waterville High School graduation ceremony. You want to support them with more than applause while you’re there supporting the kids? Buy a Toyota — and wear your mask.

Memorial Day. As in every Memorial Day, we bury the dead and honor those fallen. There will be a great deal more of that next Memorial Day, so pull on your grown up pants, gloves and masks. There’s work to be done. Move safely to support your local merchants, and help feed the hungry.

Take heart. Out there among the sounds of weeping and sirens down the street, birds are still singing. Secret romantic June weddings in the woods are being planned, babies are being born, homes are being built, and somewhere tonight, supper is being put on the table.

Can you hear that persistent throb in the dark? That’s the great American heart.

And, yes, the beat goes on.

 

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 


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