I've never seen such clear signs of the economy as I do here, in Maine's "Premier Family Beach Resort." And it's not in the tourists (or lack thereof), it's in the faces of the Locals- people who are here to work the season and hope for the best. Or rather, hold onto the best. Because summer in Maine is as good as it gets.
I talked with Cindy today. I've seen her half a dozen times. I ask about her husband, who is sometimes with her. He likes our steak wrap.
"He's only here on the weekends," she tells me. "During the week we go our separate ways."
Odd, I think. But don't say. Because everyone's story is a little different, everyone's marriage works best a certain way. I get that. She must have seen my questions, because she continues on with just a moment of hesitation, her voice quieting and slow.
"His business fell apart," she says. "Sprinklers and fire protection. Nobody's spending for it anymore."
"That stinks," I say, feeling inadequate; without words.
"Yeah. We lost our house. We lost our car. Everything." Her eyes take on a flat quality and I realize that I'm looking into the face of this recession- or whatever we're calling it now. A fifty-five year old woman who's renting a single room to work the only job she can find. 3-Midnight at a market, selling siz packs and cigarettes. A job that will end too soon, pays (way) too little, and is still something to hold onto.
She turns from the sadness and looks me in the eye.
"But you know what? We're ok! I'm healthy, he's healthy. Our kids are healthy. I have beautiful grandkids. This morning I took a walk on the beach, and the bus is still only a buck twenty-five, even all the way to Walmart." Her eyes are bright again, and I can't tell if she's beaming with joy or ready to cry.
"It sure is," I say. It sure is. And for the first time this summer, I am humbled to my knees, just reminded of how fragile all our pieces are; how resilient our people.