I’m excited about today. I love family gathering days up here in Maine, even if this one will be a small affair today. There will be fireworks over the lake tonight and prior to that, we will get our BBQ on over at Haley Pond.
I have mentioned this before, I think, but I am super thankful for all the east coast blessings that came along with Rhondi and the kids. Being able to come up to Rangeley for much of the past 17 years has made my life so much richer and much of that is because of the people who I have been fortunate to get to know.
Today we will be hanging out at Rhondi’s cousin’s camp. Ned and Ellen have two cabins on Haley Pond, which is just off Rangeley Lake and just behind the main drag in the tiny town of Rangeley. It takes about five minutes or so to drive over from Doug’s house and it is a spot I have grown to love.
I can’t count the good times I have there, over the years, on my digits anymore. That’s in the past. It is a beautiful, buggy spot and Ellen, especially, but Ned, too, make us feel so comfortable there. The kids all love the spot, too, and we have tons of great pictures of them there over the years.
Will, which is short for William, is Ellen and Ned’s son. He was pretty young when I first met him, but it has been a privilege to watch him grow into a fine young man. We have a little too much fun, sometimes, as he likes the strong (and delicious) beers, but he’s a keeper. I wish we were able to spend more time together, but hey, a guy’s gotta work and make a buck.
After we get done at the cabins, which I should probably describe, I think we are going to try and get over to Parkside and Main where Will works to watch the fireworks over the lake. Could be tough to find a spot. We shall see.
The cabins are small. Each have two bedrooms, a living room area, a bathroom, a screened in porch, and a small kitchen. They were originally purchased by Ned’s parents, and I believe Ned has been going up to Rangeley for the majority of his 70ish years. They are exactly the kind of place you want to hang out in when in Maine. Rustic, charming, home.
Although you wouldn’t want to be there in the winter, but that’s okay.
The first time I went to Haley Pond was when Rhondi and I were getting married. It was probably my first afternoon in town and we went to have a barbeque. I had already met Ellen when she was in Phoenix on a business trip. In fact, she was the first member of Rhondi’s east coast tribe I got to meet. I was so hopeful I would pass inspection because Rhondi told me I was definitely being inspected.
I can’t remember why, I think she was working late, but Rhondi couldn’t make dinner, so I took Ellen and the kids to Carlos O’Brien’s (RIP…although I am not sure I really miss it) on 12th Street and Northern. We had a nice dinner and I hope I passed the test. Rhondi said I did, later, and it certainly seemed like it when I got to Maine.
So, we got to Haley Pond, and I met Ned for the first time. Before I knew what was going on, he had me in one of the cabins and was pouring me a shot of vodka. If I remember correctly, I think he asked me if I liked vodka right after I said, “Nice to meet you.”
I do like vodka but prior to that moment in the small kitchen of the middle cabin, I don’t think I had ever purposefully done a shot of vodka. Sure, I had taken a small swig out of a bottle here and there, and I love a good vodka tonic, but shots of vodka were not on my radar.
What was I going to say? No? I had heard about Ned from Rhondi, and I wanted to make a good impression because I instantly liked him. He has a certain charm and I feel fortunate that I get to see it. I downed my shot like a good guest and heard:
It wasn’t a question, so I said sure. I can do one more. I think Ryan had followed us in and I saw him roll his eyes a bit, but I did the second shot and felt the warmth spreading through me. Ned seemed pleased but I could sense that there was another shot coming my way if I didn’t nip it in the bud.
I played the “traveled all day” card and Ned kept smiling. By that time, Rhondi had come in with Teresa and was introducing her to Ned’s mom, Janet.
I feel so lucky to have met Janet. She had suffered a terrible stroke some years before I got to meet her, but the joy she expressed in meeting Teresa warmed my vodka-infused heart. She kept saying, “Oh boy,” but I know she was saying how much she loved meeting Teresa.
Those first five or six days I got to be in Rangeley were filled with amazing moments but meeting Janet and the first night at Haley Pond is right up there for me.
Later today when we ae “celebrating” our nation’s independence, I will be thinking of Janet, may she sweetly rest in peace, and Ned and Ellen and Will, and how thankful I am they are part of my life. A really huge part, actually. They represent what I think makes America great more than any image of a patriot or fireworks in the sky. They represent hope and love and possibility and embody why I love Maine so much.
See you tomorrow.
The great Haley Pond.