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Most people throughout New England, New York and New Jersey will forever associate the full moon of October 29th, 2012 with Hurricane Sandy, a powerful hybrid storm.  I will also remember it as the date my family lost my grandmother. My Nana, as my brothers and I called her, and I had a special relationship. As the eldest grandchild, I enjoyed the most time with her out of her seven grandchildren, and we were most alike. Nana and I celebrated our birthdays together, since they were just a day apart. I remember spending lots of February school vacations with my grandparents and that usually fell on the week of our birthdays. Nana and I both shared a love of greasy hot pink lip gloss, hot pink roses and the color turquoise. She loved Liza Minnelli and the soundtrack to New York, New York. “There goes the ball game….” 

My Nana was born Mary Martha Knights in Maine, February 1924, the daughter of a firefighter, though she was much closer to her mother, Martha. She grew up near Lake Auburn in western Maine, where she met my grandfather on a double-date. Their mutual friend, Olive, who was to become her sister-in-law, was dating Robert Chaplin’s brother, and the four of them had a  group date. I loved hearing the story of my grandparents’ early courtship.  About ten years ago, I met Olive, and she gave me a pretty turquoise ring that I wear with a heart-shaped powa shell pendant around my neck. Olive’s ring symbolizes fateful love to me, since my grandparents were so obviously soulmates.

Grampa, a tall good-looking Scorpio, was a machinist in the U.S. Navy and a musician. He led his band, the Bob Chaplin Orchestra, which played all of the colleges throughout Massachusetts in the 1940s, on lead clarinet. He played other instruments as well, and taught music for many years in Portland, Maine. My Nana, a rebellious Pisces, lacked that musical talent and like me, once faked it during a school band concert. Even though they attended the same high school, Grampa was four years older, so they didn’t meet until she was in her late 20s and he in is early 30s. By that point, she was working as a secretary for an insurance company, and as an only child, was very independent. My Grampa had 6 brothers–no sisters–including a brother named Charlie. Yes, we are distantly related to that Charlie Chaplin, too. 

When my grandparents first met, neither of them wanted to get married. Despite their differences, that was one thing they had in common. As it turned out, they shared a love for the natural world, a love for gardening (they grew several large vegetable gardens for decades), a love for the water and wildlife, for animals (they always had dogs and cats) and for their three children and 7 grandchildren. They left the city of Portland for a beautiful farmhouse in rural New Gloucester, Maine, and had one of the first houses on their road. Nana and Grampa preferred the pastoral lands strung together with streams, a few ponds and wetlands. They enjoyed sports together, too, and belonged to a bowling club not far from Little Sebago Lake, where they bought and fixed up a 1920s camp in Sunset Cove near Fish Rock. Grampa set up his office at camp one summer while he was writing his book on metal removal technology, which was later adopted as a text in the engineering program at University of Maine-Orono.  Nana and I floated around on rubber rafts summer-after-summer, peering down at the sun-sparkled lake bottom for a silver ring she’d lost 25 years before, which we never found, but never lost interest in searching, swimming and floating.

Nana spoke of a summer she spent with her cousin, Ruth, and their friends at Old Orchard Beach when they were teen-agers. Stories sounded very much like the Betty & Veronica comics I read at camp. Boys, bathing suits and bonfires on the beach!

Leah

Poet. Artist. Ecoheroine. Human ecologist. Spiritual mermaid and Mystic. I write about literary ecology, wetlands, water, Romantic ecology, and quirky adventures with my dog.

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