As the days grew closer to Christmas of 2006, I began to anticipate my daughters' arrival to spend Christmas in Maine. So what better tale than R. P. T. Coffin's classic memoir, Christmas in Maine? Robert Peter Tristram Coffin was a poet, essayist, historian and memoirist who was born in Brunswick and grew up in Harpswell, on a saltwater farm on Great Sebascodegan Island. He is the only native son among the four writers with ties to Brunswick who are honored with plaques in our Maine Street sidewalks. (Can you guess the other three?) We have a school and (I think) a swimming hole named for him, and he still has a number of relatives in the area. His memoir describes a simpler time, when Christmas gifts, food and fun were all handmade at home. It's been anthologized more than once, for example in A Christmas Treasury edited by Jack Newcombe, and there is also available, from used booksellers, a 24-page edition published in 1941 (which would be a nice present for Auntie Knickers).
My father was also reared partly on Great Sebascodegan, in the hamlet of Cundy's Harbor, and one of his aunts who died young is buried in the Cranberry Horn Cemetery there, where R.P.T. Coffin and his wife are also buried. I don't really know how much Daddy cared for poetry as a rule, but I do remember that he carefully copied down and typed out this epitaph, one of Coffin's own poems, from the slate gravestone in Cranberry Horn:
Pungent with the fir and bayberry.
An island meadow, stonewalled, high, and lost,
With August cranberries touched red by frost.
A juniper upon a windy ledge,
Splendor of granite on the world's bright edge.
A lighthouse like a diamond, cut and sharp,
And all the trees like strings upon a harp.
I, made of clay inflamed with sun,
Something solid still have done.
I have kept the ancient law,
I have written what I saw.
(Note: the sleighride photo is from flickr.com, and was taken by This Handmade Life, who has many other nice photos there; check 'em out!)