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I was at the diner the other day where it seemed everyone was talking about native son Harold Seavey and the plans for his memorial service later that day at a church a few towns over. He had lived out of state for years but lots of folks in town still knew him. Some people had no idea where the church was, so those who had some idea were trying to give directions to those who didn't. I guess it was appropriate for people to be giving directions to Harold's service because while he lived here he was known as world-class direction-giver.
Harold was definitely a Maine boy; had been born in our town and lived, worked and given directions here the first 53 years of his life - up 'til the early 1970s. But then something happened. That's when his only daughter, Marjorie, had her first baby out there in Canton, Ohio, of all places. So, he and his wife Florence flew out to Ohio to visit her and her husband. That was the beginning of the end of Harold's relationship with our town and Maine itself.
Back then most people in town knew all about how daughter Marjorie (“In't she smaht?) got that scholarship to Ohio's Oberlin College where she met her husband Ben Eaton. They were married here in town and even thought of settling here, but when Ben was offered a job at the William McKinley Library there in Canton they packed up and moved to Ohio. As it turned out Marjorie got a good job at the First Ladies National Historic Site, also located in Canton. Who would have thought?
A few months after the wedding Harold and Florence got a call about the new granddaughter and they dropped everything, packed a few bags and flew out to Canton.
It's like they say Down East, the first baby can come any time after the wedding. It's the later ones can take up to nine months.
Anyway, up until then Harold and Florence hadn't done much traveling. They'd been to Boston a few times and over to the White Mountains and visited a few of the Maritimes but that was about it. So, there they were in Canton, Ohio, and after they visited for a while and did an appropriate amount of cooing and fussing over the new baby, they decided to take a few side trips. Using Canton as their base they set off to visit places like Toledo, Cincinnati and Columbus. Getting braver they crossed the border into Indiana and spent a few days in Indianapolis, making that the farthest west they'd ever traveled in the continental United States.
As it turned out, they stayed there in the Midwest most of that fall and winter and part of early spring before finally returning home to Maine around mid April. It didn't take long for folks to figure out that the trip to Canton and all those side trips had really changed the Seaveys. Harold and Florence said they were glad to be home but no one believed it. From the moment they returned they talked about nothing but Ohio and the wonders of Indianapolis. They had boxes of color slides and would invite unsuspecting neighbors over to see them. They'd prepare refreshments and do a slide show that would go on for several hours. They had been bitten bad by the Midwest bug. In less than a year they sold their place and moved to Ohio, like so many Mainers had done before them.
I planned to go to Harold's service but never managed to find the church.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is mainestoryteller@yahoo.com.
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