current face

billy, ca. 1930

my grandfather bill tells stories sometimes about his summers at camp cobbossee in winthrop, maine: about hiking into town to have strawberry phosphates, how his parents and sister would come up from new jersey and stay at a nearby hotel with other parents of campers, how someone told him he had funny knees once and it made him self-conscious. you can’t really see his knees in this picture, but i think they look okay. you also can’t see much of maine in this picture, but as soon as i saw it, i knew that’s where it was and my heart gave a little leap in my chest.

when i went away to college in maine, i thought that the fact that it had been the subject of my 5th grade state report meant that it was fate. i liked that somehow when i picked maine for my project (because, by the way, it was the state closest to prince edward island and therefore anne of green gables), i was truly connecting myself to something without even knowing it, anticipating another decision i would make many years later. in reality, though the line that connected me to maine was much longer than that, begun by my grandfather on the shores of lake cobbosseecontee when he was 7 or 8 and sent to camp for the first time. i didn’t know he had gone to camp in maine – or anywhere else, for that matter – until i went to college and he began to talk about it, and every other piece of information he knew about the state (which is a prodigious amount because he knows everything about nearly anything): about the fact that potatoes come from aroostook county, about those strawberry phosphates, about the number of soldiers maine gave to the civil war. this place that we both spent time in and have very fond memories of became yet another thing that we share in common, another little secret that no one else in our family really shares.

during one of my last weeks before graduation, i drove up to camp cobbossee by myself one day – just because. my grandfather had been sick and was still in the hospital when i did this, and i think i intended to go take some pictures to amuse him and cheer him up. i was also, of course, doing this for me, because i wanted to see where it was that billy spent his summers. i didn’t actually make it out to the camp itself, because it was down a long private road and i was afraid of getting yelled at (because i am always afraid of getting yelled at), and i didn’t take many pictures of anything, because i saw nothing to photograph. but driving around lake cobbosseecontee, down roads that my grandfather might have crossed when hiking in to town with his friends and counselors, i realized for the first time how close together the places (the lakes around winthrop, the seashore around brunswick) we both hold in our hearts and memories are in space, if not in time.

i love this picture, which i’d never seen until a week ago, because it places this little boy who i only know as my grandfather in a world i can recognize, a landscape that i know and love.

About rebeccafm

botanical gardens, ice cream, and family photos.


9 thoughts on “billy, ca. 1930

  1. He is wearing a fish skirt!! I love this image. I miss childhood but I like to think that I grew up exactly like my grandmother did… covered in dirt and a bit of trouble. I relate to this story because I feel like that openness of Maine and the feeling of those roads is something that I know well. It’s a beautiful feeling.what are strawberry phosphates?

    Posted by maggie and becky | July 26, 2007, 12:46 pm
  2. I am in Alisal…I will show this to my mom in the morning. She’s going to FLIP. You write so beautifully and capture so much of who Poppy TRULY is within your little homage. Wonderful.

    Posted by Anonymous | July 27, 2007, 12:40 am
  3. i too am in alisal, and i am sitting right next to katie right now (go figure!). this is great! love what you wrote….you and me need to get him in front of a camera (you interview ill tape)

    Posted by Anonymous | July 27, 2007, 12:51 am
  4. phosphates are an old fashioned soda fountain drink that involve water and a little packet of stuff that fizzes, like alkaseltzer but with good flavors. or something like that. some places still have them, but i’ve never had one.maggie, i wish i <>had<> grown up like this, or at least had the opportunity to be during summers. alex and katie, i love you both so much and you are the greatest. and yes, we will make an interview video.

    Posted by rebecca ann | July 27, 2007, 9:00 am
  5. i am in palo alto waiting for a concert that billies grandson is going to perform in. I am so moved by the beautiful story that you wrote. Keep on with your photos and stories.

    Posted by Anonymous | July 27, 2007, 4:36 pm
  6. Wow, that was beautiful and touching. I love the way that you use Billy’s photo as a launching ground to share so much of yourself. It is wonderful to see the subtle connection to Maine that is shared by two people that I love so much!

    Posted by Anonymous | July 29, 2007, 10:00 am
  7. thanks, mom and dad…billy has told me i don’t have the whole story, so here is another part of it (he said i have to wait for all of it until tomorrow): this was taken not when he was actually at camp, but at the inn next to the camp, where camp families stayed. he wandered away from the inn and over to a different part of the lake, a part of the lake where there was a hatchery, or where hatchery fish were introduced into the lake. he did not reveal if he got into trouble for that – but that’s why he happened to catch so many fish, which were, by the way, served for dinner at the inn.

    Posted by rebecca ann | July 29, 2007, 4:12 pm
  8. my mom says you need to copy this and give it to poppy; that it would make him cry out of happiness.She would type it herself, but that would involve having to find her glasses in our carpet man-infested house.

    Posted by Anonymous | August 2, 2007, 9:55 am
  9. actually, my dad printed it out and faxed it over to poppy on monday. and he said it did make him cry several times. 🙂

    Posted by rebecca ann | August 2, 2007, 3:16 pm

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