Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Barry's Boy

My family had lived continuously in Boothbay Harbor from 1628, when it was known as Townsend Gut, until the death of my grandmother in 1977. While there are still Lewis' in the Harbor they are not from our clan although we still have distant cousins, Stovers and Pierces, in that Maine community.  That is 349 years of history in one community for anyone trying to do the math and for a few of us, my Dad, myself, and probably cousin Elizabeth, it is still home if home is defined as where the heart is.

We moved from Boothbay Harbor when I was 12 to spend a short sojourn in Ogunquit before returning for a short time to East Boothbay before moving a year later to Princeton, down in Washington County, now Oxycontin capital of the world.

From Princeton we would travel back to the old home town every vacation, holiday, and any weekend we could manage the two hour drive back to my grandmothers house. Boothbay Harbor was still home although I suppose we had become 'away' people. Arriving at my grandmother's house I would stick around long enough to be polite but would soon be off to John's or Richard's house and if they weren't home I would hurry off over town to the hangout at Romar Bowling Lanes to see what was happening and meet up with someone.

And so it was I found myself walking across the inner harbor footbridge one cold, snowy day before Christmas when I was about 18. The snow squall was sandblasting my face. The only other brave soul venturing out that day an old salt somewhere between 80 and God walking from the opposite direction. As we closed to within a distance he could be heard over the wind he said, "You're a Lewis, ain't ya?" It was more a statement than a question and I nodded in the affirmative. "Barry's boy?" Again I nodded and then, since I did not recognize him from Adam, asked how he knew. "All you Lewis' walk alike," was his reply as he passed me.

"All you Lewis' walk alike." Well, I didn't know although I do now.  But think about that for a moment if you will and compare it to the overly busy, stick-to-yourself world we inhabit today. Some old salt between 80 and God could identify the inhabitants of his town, even if they didn't live there any longer, by the way they walked. I walked like a Lewis therefore I must be a Lewis and, I suppose, my age pinpointing me as Barry's boy. An entire families history summed up in their gait.

I have lived in the this town I live in now for 40 years. If I go to town I might, might, see one or two people who know me by sight or by first name. On a rare day I might see someone who knew me by my first and last name. Occasionally I might run into someone who used to work for father who might inquire how he is. But, nowhere in this town will I ever be known as Barry's boy and no one will ever ascertain a 349 year family history by the way I walk.

Progress. I hear people tell me we have progressed since the 50's and 60's that seem to only live in my memory. Progress. Is it really? Have we really progressed at all?

When I was growing up we never locked the door to the house at night. We didn't even lock them when we went away. Some neighbor might need to borrow something.  As a child I might leave home at sun up and not make it back until dinner time. No one worried and fussed if I had been molested or kidnapped or murdered. Those things didn't happen. Everywhere I went in the course of a day someone who knew me or knew my family would make note of my passage. Barry's boy.

Given my druthers I'd druther be living 50 years ago and still be known as Barry's boy. You can have what you call progress. I tend to think progress may not always be forward.

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