[Originally ran in the August 2014 issue of The Village.]
For some reason, it’s been important for me to try to remember all the lasts.
The last time we walked the Cove, talking about anything and everything, all the while gathering sea glass. The last shared meal, which to the best of my feeble memory was a couple of cheeseburgers picked up at Hot Digity Dog and brought over to one of those picnic tables in Rotary Park overlooking the river. The last time I heard him play guitar – perhaps a recording session at Monica’s studio, perhaps playing acoustics at my house afterward. The last time I heard his distinctive laugh, a close-mouthed, mirthful chortle. The last time he greeted me with, “Hey, old friend.”
From an utterly selfish perspective, one of the most devastating aftereffects of Taylor Sinclair’s death is that the only person capable of reminiscing about our shared childhood experiences is gone. We were supposed to be a couple of old guys laughing about the time we did this and the time we did that.
Nostalgia, as a solitary endeavor, is a melancholy mourning of the past. I usually avoid it. That being said, while the sensation while experienced alone – all-consuming, warm, narcotic – can be oddly comforting, shared nostalgia can be sweet and uplifting. Whenever Taylor returned to Maine for one of his visits (which, though my ego would vehemently deny it, was invariably anchored around a lobster-frenzy at Nunan’s over in Cape Porpoise), our conversations on politics, spirituality, music, movies, and family would be peppered with joyful reflections on Augusts past.
Which is why I waited until the August edition of The Village to write this piece on my late friend.
July is fine. It always has been. But August was the month. August was the month I looked forward to all year-round. August was the month we shared at Kennebunk Beach for ten years, from the time we were around five to the time in high school when his family stopped coming out from Pittsburgh to summer on Great Hill Road. We were inseparable.
Nowadays, a month flies by. But in kid-time, it stretched forever. Taylor and I didn’t know each other as elementary and middle school students; we were summer friends, which meant that all our time together was stripped of responsibilities (save getting home by dark, which was mostly adhered to until around 1976, when staying out late became worth the risk of being grounded). Our mission was to have fun for four straight weeks every year, during that precious month when summer started feeling those unmistakable hints of autumn. Every day had to count.
Clambering on the rocks up one side of Lord’s Point and down the other – preferably at high tide, to make our adventure appear more like trespassing – was a favorite pastime for a couple of Augusts. So was exploring the woods behind Great Hill Road, which brought us to the meadows behind the Wentworth Hotel, the Mousam River, and – a serious discovery – the Bridle Path, which may as well have been the Oregon Trail. We rarely ventured beyond the border of Kennebunk Beach in those days, so to walk through the woods all the way to Main Street in Kennebunk was an accomplishment worthy of Lewis and Clark, particularly since the Bridle Path in the mid-‘70s passed three or four houses.
But, like I said, the only other person who really cared about all the things we did is gone. Further examples would be pointless and far from entertaining. They’ll be fine remaining in my head, occasionally referenced during solitary nostalgia.
At the memorial gathering held out in St. Paul in late May, I learned that Taylor had the same effect on others that he had on me, that being the uncanny ability to make you feel as though he’d rather be nowhere else than in your company. He was present. He was engaged. And because he enjoyed being with you, you enjoyed being with him.
As he neared teenagerdom, Taylor started sleeping in. It became an August ritual: I would wake up, have breakfast, go skim stones, mentally gauge the time that had passed, cross Great Hill Road to the Sinclairs’ house, knock on the door, and be greeted by Mrs. Sinclair, who would kindly inform me that her son was still in bed. It drove me mental. Here was another beautiful summer day (even if it was raining), and he was wasting it by sleeping late? We had boats to row, candy to devour, rocks to throw, comics to draw. We had important things to do.
August just wasn’t August unless I was playing with Taylor.