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Sorry Maine, but your COVID-19 rules will not ruin my summer traditions this year

My parents needed a morale boost, and I was determined to make it happen

Signs on Ogunquit Beach ask beachgoers to stay safe with masks and distancing.
Signs on Ogunquit Beach ask beachgoers to stay safe with masks and distancing.Christopher Muther/Globe Staff

Nice try Maine, but if you think you can scare me away with a couple of travel restrictions, you don’t know who you’re messing with. I don’t roll over that easily.

This summer Maine has decided to assume the role of the popular girl in the high school cafeteria. Maine has invited all the cool kids from the Northeast to sit at her table, except for Massachusetts and Rhode Island. She’s saved a seat for Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut. Heck even New Jersey got invited. Yes, you heard that correctly, New Jersey!

Residents from any of those states can travel to Maine with no restrictions.

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Meanwhile, residents of Massachusetts and Rhode Island are getting treated like the kids who don’t shower after gym class. Travelers from the two states, who have been friends with Maine for, like, 350 years, still need to quarantine for two weeks when they arrive, or show up with a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of coming to the state in order to vacation there. I certainly respect Maine’s determination to protect the health of its residents, but at the time I’m writing this, Massachusetts’s positive test rate has slowly ticked up toward 3 percent, New Jersey’s has stayed consistently around 1.5 percent. Seriously though, New Jersey over Massachusetts?

Here’s where it gets personal. My family has been vacationing in Maine since Leon Leonwood Bean was tottering around in plaid, flannel diapers. OK, that’s a tiny exaggeration, but my parents have been going up every year for the past 40 years, probably more. Shortly after the pandemic began, they received word that their southern Maine summer rental was canceled and they were refunded their money.

To make matters worse, I’ve essentially been their prison warden since March. I’ve begged my dad to order food online rather than go to Costco. When my mom confessed she snuck off to CVS in the early spring because she had $72 in store coupons that were about to expire, I’m pretty sure there was steam coming out of my ears. I gave them so many dirty looks that I’m surprised my face didn’t freeze into a permanent scowl.

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Last month my mother had back surgery, and I realized I needed to spring them from jail. Think of it as parole for good behavior. They’re diligent about wearing masks and staying away from crowds. Despite a few transgressions, they were model quarantine prisoners who badly needed a morale boost.

The best way to boost their morale? Take them to Maine and make sure the yearly tradition was not going to end during what has amounted to the worst year ever.

I found a vacancy at a resort called Hidden Pond in Kennebunkport, and I booked it. This was a risky move for a few reasons. First, the nightly rate, on a scale of Zuckerberg to Bezos, was about a Rockefeller. Then there was the matter of getting into Maine by the rules. I would need a second mortgage to quarantine for two weeks at Hidden Pond, so we needed negative test results, and we needed them within 72 hours of getting there.

A couple of days before departure, my parents scoured the hinterlands of North Central Massachusetts to find a place where they could get tested quickly. Once they were tested, they were told their results would be ready in a week or two. Meanwhile, my husband and I were tested and received our results within 24 hours. Thankfully we were negative. By some sort of miracle, my parents’s tests results came back within 24 hours as well. They were also negative, and summer was saved.

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Yes Maine, we would be sitting at your cafeteria table. Perhaps you could ask New Jersey to move over to make room for us?

I opted for Kennebunkport because it’s central to beaches and towns my parents tend to frequent. We could drive to nearby attractions, and my parents could walk as much or as little as they wanted. I took them to Kennebunkport last fall, and we had dinner at Earth, which is the onsite restaurant at Hidden Pond. I was so intrigued by the restaurant that I wanted to stay at the resort.

Last month Hidden Pond was named one of the top 10 resorts in the Northeast. So despite the steep price (about $1,000 a night), I bit. My parents deserved to get spoiled this year, and my vacations have been canceled, so why not? As Nancy Sinatra says, you only live twice. We had our own two-bedroom, two-bathroom lodge, which was called a treehouse. (It was not in the trees.) This theme was taken quite literally because there were branches tastefully placed inside to make us feel as if we were up in the pines. My mother referred to it as the Twig Inn. The rustic features contrasted against the luxury of the rooms and the common areas. The grounds of the resort included two pools, bikes that were free to use, trails, and gardens.

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Nubble Light.
Nubble Light.Christopher Muther/Globe Staff

To stay socially distant, we ordered a meal from Earth that was set up on a table outside, in front of our lodge, I mean treehouse. We spent our days driving along Route 1 and stopping at attractions that we’ve frequented at various points over the years. We popped into the Goldenrod in York Beach and watched the salt water taffy getting pulled in the window. We gazed at the waves crashing at Nubble Light, and sat in the Adirondack chairs at Ogunuquit Beach and watched the action. Another day we headed north to Cape Elizabeth for a brief stroll at Two Lights State Park and lemonade at the Lobster Shack at Two Lights.

Surfside Bowling in York Beach, Maine.
Surfside Bowling in York Beach, Maine.Christopher Muther/Globe Staff

It was a kick of sentimentality that was much needed. What better way to stick it to 2020 than to have a few days where you don’t watch the news and instead enjoy yourself? I knew the trip was a success when my mother got misty-eyed and overwhelmed by nostalgia.

“No, it wasn’t that,” she protested. “I think someone was chopping onions in the car.”

The nostalgia continued as we played cards every night, something we used to do nightly in Maine when I was a teenager. I suspected that my father was still cheating, just as he did years ago. Those long forgotten traditions were like a reassuring hug.

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But man cannot live on old traditions alone. After years of going to Southern Maine, we actually discovered a new beach. Technically the beach isn’t new, but we had never been to Goose Rocks Beach. So one morning, before the crowds descended, we put on our masks, plunked in the sand, and watched the seabirds. I wouldn’t mind repeating it all next year. Except for the part about having to wear masks on the beach, and perhaps the part about my dad cheating at cards.


Christopher Muther can be reached at christopher.muther@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther.