The melancholy of leaving, and the joy of return

Our sweet little vacation cottage at lovely Goose Rocks Beach, Maine. We’ve spent a couple of weeks there every August for the past several years. It is always hard to leave it, knowing we won’t be back for another whole year. As you can see, it is for sale. Out of the question! We already have a Manse to contend with.

This morning Raymond and I packed up our stuff, said goodbye to our little rented vacation cottage in Maine for another year, and headed home. I have always disliked goodbyes, and endings, and I avoid them when I can. But there was no avoiding the fact that we have to return to work and regular life, so goodbye it was.

If you have ever spent time – vacation or otherwise – every year at a place you are very fond of, perhaps you will have experienced what I did this morning. You tell yourself you’ll be back “same time next year.” But in the back of your mind you’re thinking, “A lot can happen in a year. Good things; bad things. Will we really be back? What might have changed in a year from now?” This rather melancholy and anxious feeling about departures and farewells is getting stronger as I get older, I think. Perhaps not surprisingly.

The Hemingways, Hadley and Ernest, in happy times. They didn’t last.

What probably added to my mood was the impression made on me by the sad and lovely book I’d just finished reading. It was the novel The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain; my sister-in-law Jeannie (who was in Maine at the same time we were) had given it to me as a birthday gift. It is based on the real story of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway‘s first wife, and focuses primarily on the years they lived together in Paris in the 1920s, the “Lost Generation” time that Hemingway himself chronicled so beautifully in A Moveable Feast and novelized in The Sun Also Rises. I don’t think anyone doesn’t know that Hemingway had several wives, so it probably won’t come as a surprise that the story ends with the end of the marriage. McLain writes about it from Hadley’s perspective, and it is so very sad. So I had endings on my mind this morning, I guess.

What does all this have to do with the Manse? Well, the way I felt this morning as we left our happy little seaside cottage reminded me of how much sadder I was as an almost-15-year-old when my family left Queensborough and the Manse for the last time, as my father the United Church minister took up a new post elsewhere. How can it ever be easy saying goodbye forever to the house you grew up in?

I remembered how on that last day I walked slowly all through the mostly empty Manse, stopping for quite a while in every room, thinking back on all the things that had happened in it. Thinking about endings, and loss.

But of course that story has a happy ending. I wish someone could have told me on that sad day at the end of June 1975 that a little more than 35 years later my husband and I would be back at the Manse as the owners, able to enjoy it – and Queensborough – as residents (okay, part-time residents, but still) once again.

Maybe that happy ending was what helped my melancholy eventually lift as we drove homeward today. And it is always good to be home. But in the future: Maine in August 2013. And Queensborough next weekend!

7 thoughts on “The melancholy of leaving, and the joy of return

  1. Sitting here in a family house in Metis which has been in mum’s family for just over 135 years in a place which I have seen every summer of my life (and where she has been every summer of hers !) I can understand perfectly.
    See you back at St. A & St. P. in a few weeks.
    K

    • Raymond and I look forward to seeing you again at church in Montreal, Kerry, but enjoy those last precious days of your time in Metis! I would love to see some photos of your family’s ancestral place there sometime. I am sure it is absolutely lovely. What a splendid tradition you have, to be able to spend every summer there.

  2. Speaking of manses and of books I recently came across this sentence in a well loved book and thought of you and Ray-Ray……so I propose to you and your readers, who said and or who wrote, “They would be boarding with Mrs. Lynde until the manse was ready” ?
    Love to you both…..cousin Suzie (we love your blog)

    • Hello, Suzie, and thanks for the literary challenge – I love challenges! I thought that quote sounded very Jane Austenish, but Raymond (who had seen your comment and took the easy way out, Googling the quote) told me that wasn’t right. He then gave me a clue that totally got it for me, so in the interest of fairness I will share that clue with readers: Canadian. Can you guess which book it’s from?

      • Good lord, where have you ever heard of that one? I had to look it up. How does it end?

        Let’s just say the quote that Suzie (Raymond’s cousin) found is from a considerably better-known Canadian book.

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