They’re all dead now. Bye-bye, gone. My father, his older brother, and finally his sister Mary, 99 years old. She was fond of saying “after my demise,” so there you go: wait long enough, and everything shows up.
Mary always was my favorite aunt, up until the troubles. She tried to keep my wife and me from moving to New Mexico by crying, “But it’s a wasteland!” (So it is, in the sense she meant, and exactly why I came here.) She’d given us the money for the down payment on our house—actually an inheritance she passed on from her mother—and probably felt betrayed. I didn’t understand that at the time, but now I do.
We had some good times with her at her home in Maine. It suited her up there, I think, where the regional culture’s emphasis on what I’ll call “thrift” for now because I’m being nice meshed nicely with the family creed. She ate all the local weeds and thrived: fiddleheads, dandelion greens, lambs-quarter, berries, fruits, saps, and edible extrusions of just about anything that grew nearby and didn’t cost too much. Besides not acknowledging her due, the worst sin you could commit was wasting something. Anything at all, if it had a second or a third use. Especially food.
She had a specialty called “lobster butter.” After we’d eaten our delicious lobsters that she’d had us buy in town that day, she’d collect the little bowls of melted butter we used to dip each bite and save the dregs for later use on pancakes. That I eschewed mixing rancid bits of lobster meat with maple syrup was incomprehensible to her, though I don’t think she did it for the taste. The lobster butter was a victory over waste. (That no one else had thought of it was even better.) She kept it in the fridge and offered it as if it were the finest caviar whenever butter might be served.
And now I’ve inherited the “contents of the house.” I don’t know what that means yet, but they’ll tell me. At some point in the next few weeks or months, I’ll fly to Portland, rent a car, and drive on up to East Vassalboro. For the first time ever, as I write this, I’m looking at the name. What do feudal tenant farmers have to do with Maine? Just looking at the airline schedules and maps reminds me: take it or leave it, this is what you get.
Very Farr-like, certainly. And did I mention that they’re gone?