Chebeague Island, pronounced Shuh-beeg, has not one single touristy thing to do on the island. There’s not bumper to bumper traffic. In fact the cars that go down the road are few and when they pass, everyone waves. Not a side to side wave, but a simple lift of the arm and back down. Mary told me when she picked me up from the ferry, “You wave at everyone, whether you know them or not. It’s how you can tell if the people are local or visitors.” I waved at everyone. Even the people passing from behind wave as they pass. It’s one of the sweet things I love about this island life and I had the privilege of spending three days here.
Coming over, I parked at the satellite parking in Cumberland and rode the bus to catch the ferry. It surprised me the amount of items that were being carried onto the boat. People carried groceries, lawn chairs, and plants from the bus onto the float for the ferry. There were carts that they could use to transport their supplies. Two dogs also, rode the bus and ferry with their owners. I watched and listened to the islanders talk with one another while waiting for the ride over. It seemed easy to pick out the visitors because we sat apart from the others on the ferry, smiling politely or reading a book.
There was one lady and her daughter that seemed to have an awful amount of food, so I asked her if they were bringing food over for a restaurant. She laughed, nodded at her daughter, and said, “I have three growing teenagers.” Later in the week, I met her again with the daughter and a son at the small general store. Height definitely runs in the family. She was concerned that my stay might have been hampered by the rainy weather.
The hosts of my Airbnb was Mary and John. Mary is a special education teacher, and has her hat in many volunteer activities from snatches of conversation I heard. Her love of the island is so evident. Their home has been in John’s family for generations and was beautifully taken care of and decorated.
She endeared herself to me. She is a gracious hostess who has a quiet, dry quick wit. She’s from Connecticut, so she doesn’t have the Maine accent where the ‘r’ sound like ‘ah.’ It’s so interesting hearing their accent that I could truly listen to Mainers speak for hours.
While touring the island in the car, she broke out her Maine accent and entertained me with tidbits about living on island. I think she sounds a bit like Katherine Hepburn when she speaks ‘Mainah’ (Mainer). Totally stole my heart! The homes on the island are lovely and historic.
In her home, I felt like a friend rather than a paying guest. When escorting me around town, she introduced me as ‘Becky, who is staying with us.’ I felt special in such a nice way.
On Saturday, I came across and Arts & Craft fair. I watched a weaver working on a place mat that was so beautifully done. (I did pick up her card). There were wooden bowls exquisitely made by David, a well-spoken Englishman who later I had the privilege of watching a soccer game with him and his lovely wife, Melanie. I listened as he visited with Mary about a birthday surprise gift. From him, I bought a simple wooden ring. Leaving on Monday, I ran into him again on the ferry and chatted with him on the bus. He’s a retired professor and quite the gentleman. He speaks German and French also.
That evening there was a Jazz band playing at the church, so I attended that with Mary. She shared a story of how the free concerts started. A gentleman wanted to give his wife a present, so he organized a concert for her and from there it grew. She pointed them out to me and I spoke to them during intermission.
So, what did I do on my days playing islander? I walked and waved. Exploring the small seashore that could be walked, admiring homes, taking pictures of lovely flowers, and picking up sea glass and shells. Mostly, however, I simply took in my surroundings and soaked up the personalities that make up the small community. You’ll have to ask me about my ‘author’ encounter that left me shaking my head because it’s humorous.
A group of Methodists were using Mary and John’s home also. Breakfast time was one of conversation pinging around the kitchen. Imagine nine people making breakfast and standing in a small kitchen as eggs, bacon, toast , and coffee come together. Being befriended is so sweet.
There was laughter, a slight awkwardness, and conversation as we learned to navigate. Mary didn’t claim the kitchen, but simply joined us, letting control of the kitchen be in the hand of her ‘guests,’ giving slight instructions about the stove or in my case, how to work the coffee carafe. Sweet camaraderie. I happen to walk in as they were having lunch one day and they invited me to eat with them. Of course I did!
My room was absolutely gorgeous! I had booked the small twin bed that was attached to the back stairs in the kitchen, but when Mary picked me up from the ferry, she said they ‘upgraded’ me. I had a full size bed, a sitting room, and a balcony. So much roomier than the one I booked. It allowed the church people to be in connecting rooms, and I came out feeling pretty special.
Michelle, from Texas, arrived late one night and spent one day with us. On that rainy Sunday, we explored Small Chebeague because when the tide is low, people can walk the sandbar from Great Chebeague to Little Chebeague. No one lives there anymore, but before WWII, there were small cottages. In its heyday, the ferries brought visitors to the Inns on that small island. Mary fitted us in ‘wellies’ and we donned rain coats, and off we went. It was so much fun to explore with someone. We took turns taking silly pictures while fighting off misquotes in the rain.
After all the other guests left and I was alone with the family, friends came over. We watched the soccer match, drank wine, and had chicken stew. That night Mary gave me a couple of books to read, one about a ghost and the other about the neighbor, who gardens and does sculpture. After reading the ghost story, I slept with the lights on because it was about a ghost in their house.
No, there wasn’t anything special to do on that small island, but because of the sweet personalities of the people, it is one of the fondest memories I have of my Maine trip. Relationships are the ties that bind and make life special.