never found mistletoe last year, but i am recommitted to finding it this year, real or fake. i want to hang it over every threshold, and then stand under any doorway and look up, until a certain someone notices.
Today I lost my most valuable possession. It was a sweater, a hand-knit red-white-and-blue sweater, hand-knit by my grandmother and worn on many a cross-country ski by my father. That is, until I stole it. At some point, early in my college career, when my father had abandoned it in a never-used bureau, I decided it would be mine.
I wore it all across the University of Vermont campus. It was my signature. I would run to class as a blur of red, white, and blue. I adored it. My friends called it the Amy sweater. Ever since my dad told me that my nana said she sewed a prayer in every stitch, I always felt safe in it. In periods when I have been too poor to afford a winter coat, I would just layer thermal undershirts under the sweater and go off on my own cross-country ski adventures.
I honestly believed I would own it forever. I thought it would fit me even once I was ready to have children. I thought it would be the perfect pregnancy sweater, the thick wool protecting the most valuable thing that I could every carry.
If I were to lose it, I would want to lose it in the Bigelows, or on the Allagash, or even on the mountains in my backyard. Instead, I have lost it at the grocery store, a place where people think nothing of throwing things into a dumpster. It makes me so sad, sad in a way I do not usually feel about possessions.
Yes, indeed, it was loved. It was cherished. It is hard to imagine my universe without it. It will be missed, truly truly missed.
I had moved back to my winter place that morning. My lovie and I decided we would celebrate by lighting a fire in the wood stove and watching the game, me determined to have lots of fires this year and he the son of an exceptionally talented ball player. We had no wood, and so we headed to the Somesville One Stop, in search of something that would help make the evening happen for us.
I knew the exact distance of the One Stop from my house, both being on the marathon route. By eight PM on a Wednesday night in the end of October, the One Stop had less than a dozen cars parked around it, mostly beer and Subway sandwich runs before the game. I did not miss the congestion of the parking lot on a summer afternoon, but I missed watching the networking between contractors in their respective trucks, the conversation of workers tired but with their wallets full.
We found a log wrapped in paper, designed so that the paper would be lit in three places and that one log would last a couple hours. For three dollars, we thought we would try it.
It was designed more for a fireplace than my narrow bellied Swedish wood stove. I held and fed it in while my lover lit the designated spots. When we shut the door, he stayed on his hands and knees, face four inches from the glass, as I had done whenever I had a fire two seasons previous.
Satisfied with ourselves, we found the game. I did not have tv the last winter that I lived there, it was a strange new addition to a house that I often described as “straight from 1992″. Yet my company and the television strangely made the house feel less empty, more grounded in reality, more part of my adult life.
I fell asleep after the Star Spangled Banner. My love watched every inning while sitting on the couch next to me, and woke me up when it was over.
“They won. Time for bed.” I looked to see the three dollar log still burning, and I was happy. Yes, happy for all the Red Sox fans who truly want victory and care more than anyone else I know, and happy for myself, happy to be back, happy to have my fire, happy to fall asleep next to someone who wanted to share all the beautiful and not-so-beautiful parts of my life with me…
On the Friday before the MDI marathon, I decided I wanted someone to dangle a Whoopie pie at the finish line for me like I had done for a friend two years prior. I wanted the marathon to become a new fall tradition, and the Whoopie pie at the finish line would continue to be my own quirky fun twist on a quirky fun event. I decided to ask my mom to carry out this responsibility, and of course she said yes.
A week prior, I did not think I would still run. Despite having signed up in February, I trained in an unconventional at best, inadequate at worse way. I had not run longer than 14 miles. I whacked my leg open in July and could not run for three weeks. Some weeks I would be gung ho about running, other weeks I would be jazzed about hiking, other weeks I just wanted to lift and use the elliptical machine. I was ready to skip the marathon and hike the ten highest peaks again.
That is, I was ready to bail until a friend told me that would be unacceptable. This particular friend was the first female thru-paddler of the northern forest canoe trail and an accomplished firefighter and aspiring deer hunter (she just bought her first tree stand). “Amy, I will run up to ten miles with you. You cannot quit.”
I decided to take her up on the ten miles, and race with her companionship to look forward to. I asked her to meet me at the intersection near the Asticou.
By the time I arrived at the Asticou, mile 11 or so, I already knew I could make it to the finish and would be running next year. I thought I would feel way too self-conscious in front of spectators, but in fact I so appreciated the energy, the recorded and live music at water stops, seeing produce customers cheer me along the way. For the first time in my life, I felt like a runner.
My mom and her friend were waiting at the Asticou intersection, as was my friend. I was there earlier than expected, she was not quite ready to join me but I was not stopping. I knew she could catch me.
She was not there to push me. She entertained and distracted me for what turned out to be the last fifteen miles of the race. I could have run it without her laughing and telling stories the whole way, but I would not want to.
When we reached the last mile, I told her to run ahead so I would have to try to keep up. Then I told her, “Go grab the Whoopie pie on a stick from my mom, I want you to dangle it in front of me the last .2.” Yes, just like two years ago.
Just like two years ago, the crowd appreciated the performance. More importantly, just like two years ago, the Whoopie pie stick holder said shortly afterwards that she planned to run the marathon.
“It is just like throwing a bouquet at the wedding reception picks the next bride. Whoever holds the stick runs the next marathon.” At least I hoped so. I wished so.
When I am feeling grandiose, I think I would like to inspire more of my friends to run a marathon, not necessarily a fast four hour marathon (though those who do are incredibly, incredibly admirable), but a steady marathon, a six hour marathon, a seven hour marathon, a hard-earned feat at any time.
Letting go of the grandiosity, I am content that I inspired one. That is an accomplishment.
P.S. In case you missed it, here is the link to my account of the 2011 MDI marathon, when I started this tradition:
“i love that both ‘cussed’ and ‘cadence’ are in your vocabulary.” she meant it, meant it even though he felt like he had let her down on katahdin. the truth was that she did not need him as a hiker, she had lots of hikers in her life.
no, he proved strong at the end of the day, after she promised her friend a ride from roaring brook to the golden road. the three of them vaguely remembered a shortcut from the tote road to the golden road, but the toyota echo was so new that she had not yet bought a delorme. she turned at the sign that said “abol store 4 miles”, and he promptly corrected her. “that sign ain’t meant for cars, it is meant for snowmobiles and ATVs.” the pavement on the road was broken and rough, and both her lover and friend begged her to stop so they could consult their maps.
yet the only two maps in the car were a snowmobile map and an appalachian trail map. her companions were trying to triangulate the two with their current location to figure out if the road was passable. she should have been worked up about her car, the underbelly dragged over rocks and smacked into potholes. yet she was lost in the poetry of the moment, of two people from the opposite ends of the outdoors spectrum trying to navigate to a place that they both knew well.
they talked her out of driving on that particular shortcut, and they eventually stumbled on another. “we should have driven my truck, this road ain’t meant for your car,” he told her. he proceeded to tell her when to slow down, and when to speed up, and to stay on her side of the road. “you are a hell of a hiker, but you don’t know how to drive.”
they dropped off her friend at dusk at the abol store, and she was anxious to go back over the potholes and washboard gravel sections before dark. he continued to tell her when to turn her high beams on and off, and he almost drove her crazy, except he was right, and that only made her want to kiss him more…
“i want to take you to chesuncook in winter,” he said, and he hooked me, hooked me with a place that i had not been since i was a child and only in summer. he kept asking me,”have you ever been to this place? have you ever been to that place?” some i had: the trains up by chamberlain, ripogenus dam, kokadjo. others i had only seen on the pages of the delorme and wondered about, wondered how i would get there, if i would ever get there. now i had met the person who wanted to take me, not as i had traveled before but in ways that i had been forbidden to travel.
yet suddenly those ways made sense to me. suddenly i could rationalize that if what had always been forbidden got me out of the house in a season that i struggled to enjoy at times, i could like it. i would forever love the idea of seeing the same places in different ways, and i did not move back intending my next twenty-five years to be exactly like my first.
when i told him that i wanted to look at maps with him, he said he had one on his bedroom wall, and he did. he slept underneath a map of all the snowmobile trails in the state. i knew my family had that one in our shoebox of maps, but we never used it, and i did not know any of the routes. i studied it, overwhelmed and excited by the possibilities, imagining more than i would ever have the time to do. then i let him kiss me, flattered that he liked me, that he wanted to have adventures with me unlike any that i had had with another man, that he could sleep deeply next to me…
when i told my mother that i was carpooling to boston, she woke up at 530 and baked a chocolate zucchini cake. she packed it in a cooler, along with a bag of green beans from her garden, and ratatouille, and blueberry muffins that have the highest berry to muffin ratio possible.
my friend and i laughed over and over again about a claim that portland was chosen as the most culturally fascinating city by an obscure travel magazine. i told her that i wished she had the 207 tattoo instead of me. i thought she could pull it off, she, the audrey hepburn of downeast maine, driving to her new life out-of-state in a little black dress. she said, “i’m glad you are here because otherwise i would bawl when i crossed that bridge.”
my grandmother trained me to bring her flowers. when i lived with her, i would bring her vegetables from the farm, but she just wanted bouquets. we drove past a farmers’ market, and i jumped out. all i saw was one stand selling sunflowers. “amy!” the farmer was a friend that i had not seen in four years, she covered in dirt and glowing in a way that i knew all too well.
i enjoyed seeing what my grandparents had kept from their old house when they condensed their lives into an apartment. nana kept the firm hardback couch from the formal living room and tossed the one from the television room. she kept the stuffed monkey that I had always asked for, and she had always refused to give me or to any of her other grandchildren. she and grampa had moved the porch swing to their balcony. they had filled the apartment with pictures, some of which were displayed prominently in their former home, and some of which were pictures of my grandmother as a teenager that had been lost for years and resurfaced in the move.