A short story by Madison McGlaughlin
My name is Ginny Green. I currently have a type of dementia called Alzheimer’s. I am slowly losing my memory. One place I hope to never forget is Dark Harbor. Dark Harbor is located on the back west side of Grand Manan Island. Memories come rushing through me when people ask about this special place. Dark Harbor is easy for me to remember because of the sounds, smells, sights and memories, I have from my childhood summers at Dark Harbor. This is all because of my mother and father taking us to Dark Harbor when we were children, and it has become a tradition ever since.
Today I had a conversation with a young girl named Payson, who was visiting me at the nursing home. She had long, dark brown hair, with an enormous smile that could be seen from a mile away and sparkling, dark brown eyes. She was visiting the nursing home with her classmates, who were working on projects about special places on Grand Manan Island.
“Hi Ginny, I heard you have known about Dark Harbor for quite some time, and have many memories there as a young girl. Is there anything in particular you may like to share?” asked Payson
“Why yes,” I replied. “My father built a camp in 1964, at Dark Harbor where my father, mother, brother, sister and I could live for the summers. Many families including mine went to Dark Harbor during the summer to make money by dulsing. Dark Harbor was a happening place. During our free time from work, we could be found out in the ocean rowing the dory to see what we could find. We sometimes went swimming and every now and then we would climb the cliffs exploring the nature around us with our friends. A few times a week our mother would go collect necessities for the camp and she always came back with fresh-baked cinnamon rolls and potato salad, enough to feed all of Dark Harbor. From there it’s all history.
Just before I could say much more my daughter and granddaughter walked in.
“Hello, how about your memories out to Dark Harbor?” Payson asked my daughter Jenny”.
“Well my mother and father decided Dark Harbor was a great spot for a camp. My mother decided to buy a camp just a few camps along the shore from her old camp, where my mother, father, my four brothers and I could vacation. When I was young we didn’t work at Dark Harbor, we just had fun. Card games and painting rocks were some of the activities we did to keep ourselves out of trouble. We always went out in the dory. Sometimes my mom even tied the dory to a giant rock to keep us from going far. We had so much food our tummy’s were always full. We would always end the night with a cozy bonfire and a game of trouble”.
“Oh wow! Seems like an amazing time,” exclaimed Payson. “What about you?” she asked my granddaughter, Madison.
“I have been going out to camp as long as I can remember. Some of my favorite memories are of going out knee deep in the water as the tide crashed against our bodies, and of finding marbles in the ocean with my sister. The smell of salt water and seaweed is something I will never get tire of. Some One of my fondest memories is spray painting our names on the cliffs you see as you drive out to Dark Harbor. Although it is illegal, nobody seems to care if you do it. Spray-painting your name is just a tradition to many. There is a swing right below my nans camp in the water, with a buoy and a wooded seat. You can only swing on the swing when it is low tide, during high tide you would have to swim out to use it. The smell of the cottage was also one of my favorite things; old wooden boards that creaked and the smell of freshly washed blankets. I remember eating chocolate pudding and popcorn. When nighttime came we would play cards and sit by a crackling fire as we cooked s’mores and watched the sunset. Overall it was one of my favorite memories as a child with my nan, papa, mom and sister.”
“Thank you very much for all your exciting stories. I am sure this will help with my school project,” said Payson.
After Payson and my family left I started to really imagine Dark Harbour in this very moment. I hadn’t been out there in years. People have asked me many times to describe what it was like out there, and I always, simply replied with: “Dark Harbour is a place you can’t describe, you have to go there and experience it, because it is magical.” My small, wooden, cozy camp filled to the roof with memories. I thought for a minute about what my father had started by simply taking us to Dark Harbour to work. All of the memories out in the water, working so hard and eating plate after plate full of food. Then taking my children to the camp, which brought us more together as a family. The laughs we shared, the s’mores we ate, and the memories we created will last a lifetime. My children then took their children to camp. As a mother and grandmother, that was such a powerful, beautiful sight. I miss the sound of the gentle footsteps that creaked across the old wooden floors and the whispers you could hear coming across the camp from the bunk beds, followed by a little giggle that would brighten your day. Falling asleep at night listening to the fire whisper as it crackled, and the small waves pushing themselves against the rocks and boards that held the deck of the camp up. Those will be some of the memories I will miss. As I bring myself back to reality, I hear a knock at my door. It is one of my nurses checking in on me. “Hello, Ginny” the young nurse said.
“Hello”, I replied.
“Would you possibly like to go on a drive with the rest of the residents to Dark Harbour?” she asked
“Yes, as a matter of fact. I would love that,” I answered as a small teardrop of joy, wiggled its way down the creases of my face.
I may have forgotten many things, but Dark Harbor is a place I will never forget.