Gramps throws around the word, famous, often. I have learned that words are relative so when he tells me someone is famous I take it from whence it comes. For example, in Gramps’ youth, the young girls from Willimantic were famous for being jaw-dropping beautiful Norwegian young ladies.
Or Annie R from East Road was famous for her biddies. (She loved those chickens.) When Gramps was a young boy and the 8 party phone line rang, he and his sister ran to the phone for a little amusement. ‘How are your biddies today, Annie?’ they heard Mary C ask. And Annie would reply, ‘Oh, them biddies is doing the best they can.’
Gramps’ father was famous for his temper and some other things I won’t mention here. His mother was known far and wide for her hospitality, hard work and bean swagin. She followed the proverb found on the gravestone of the first Walden to live in these parts – I opened my door to the traveler and the stranger did not lodge in the streets.
Lambie, Gramps’ sister, was famous for her smile, blueberry picking and Tarzan yell. So in this neck of the woods being famous is what you are known for in your world.
This is part of the charm of small towns. You may not have planned it but you are likely famous for something. And it can change over the years. Gramps has been famous for many things. He was president of his class in high school and his fraternity (Phi Kappa Sigma) in college. He was a soldier. He ran the airport. He built a church. He is a storyteller; everyone who knows him would agree. He is a card player par excellence.
He’s provincial; his roots in Greenville go back to the earliest settlers and he is connected deeply to this land. So connected is he to his home that when the town took the Walden Farm by eminent domain for an airport, Gramps came home from Connecticut where he was working at Pratt and Whitney, put the house on a cradle of birch logs and pulled it down to a new foundation where it overlooked Wilson Pond. But that is a story for another day.
Of all the things Gramps is famous for, love of family and home tops the list, at least in my book. My husband and I and our five children have lived across the world and in different parts of the USA – but we always knew that wherever we were, we had a home place to come back to. When our daughter died we buried her in Greenville where we knew we would always return.
Gramps gave us roots. When we head north from wherever we have been, there are certain milestones on the way. We pass the MAINE sign; surely the air is immediately fresher. Heading to the Moosehead Lake Region, we stop at the Abbot bakery for the best doughnuts. We top the hill into Greenville and behold the view of picturesque Moosehead Lake. At the library we turn right up Pleasant Street and soon we are turning onto Walden Farm Road. Here on the hill above Wilson Pond is Gramps – and home.