I can’t inhale the scent of a wild rose without thinking of my maternal grandmother, who had a healthy crop of bushes by her porch in Cornville when I was growing up.

It was her summer house and to this day, I believe I love the smell of roses — and of fresh cut grass — because visiting her proved to be some of the happiest times in my life and usually occurred when the boy across the street mowed her lawn.

For years when our family spent the Fourth of July at Pemaquid, the wild pink roses that lined the paths to the beach threw off a scent so poignant as to engender visions of my grandmother, who would make sachets of rosebuds and place them in bureau drawers.

She has been gone half a century now, though when July Fourth rolls around, I think of her.

She was a school teacher and lived with us in Skowhegan at times when we were children. She gently corrected us when we’d command: “Lay down, Sam,” to our big black Newfoundland. “It’s lie down, Sam — lie down,” she’d say. She taught us to sew and cook and recite poetry out loud during long summer evenings.

My grandmother was a disciplinarian, but a gentle one.

She issued the three of us specific chores and required we complete them before going out to play.

She directed us to create chore boards on which we glued pictures we had cut out of magazines of the various rooms of the house we were to clean: Laura was to polish the furniture and vacuum the dining room; Jane, the living room, and I, the hall stairs and bathroom. We perused magazines to find pictures of said rooms, clipped them out, glued the pictures to the board and wrote our names in large letters next to them. When we got tired of cleaning the same rooms, we were allowed to swap. My grandmother took care of the kitchen, and of course, we were responsible for our own bedrooms.

She loved Pemaquid, as did my mother and father, who also are gone now. The night before July Fourth, my mother would prepare for our picnic on the beach, frying chicken in an electric skillet, boiling potatoes for salad and baking brownies and toll house cookies.

In the morning, she mixed cream cheese and olives for sandwiches, made lemonade and potato salad, wrapped the chicken and desserts in tinfoil and packed everything in the picnic basket.

Wearing bathing suits under our shorts and schlepping towels, we piled into the station wagon for the 80-mile trip to Pemaquid, in the town of Bristol.

We arrived at the beach, chose a spot on the white sand near the roses, and charged to the water. It was a daylong adventure in the salt air, riding the cold waves, traipsing along the beach and collecting shells.

Later, we’d visit the lighthouse at Pemaquid Point where we climbed on the giant rocks to watch the waves rush in. When we were older, we perused the nearby gift shop and then drove to New Harbor for a lobster dinner on the wharf. On the drive home, we stopped at the general store in Round Pond for shopping and ice cream.

We still make summer forays to the lighthouse and wharf, though not on the holiday, and haven’t visited the beach in several years.

Things change, and this July Fourth will be quiet, particularly as we maneuver our way through a pandemic that has forced us to adapt to challenges and alter our traditions, especially those involving the gathering of friends and family.

But we’ve got happy memories of those past holidays to sustain us.

And I’m fairly sure that, armed with our innate Maine ingenuity, we’ll find ways to have a fun and safe holiday weekend.

 

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 32 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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