There are many different ways for families to express their love for one another. When it came to my grandmother, it took a very specific form. In the many letters she wrote to me over the years, and there were a lot, she’d always sign off with “143” which stands for “I love you.”
Mammy, as we called her, was an amazing woman and as strong matriarchs often do, she made her opinions known about everything in all of our lives, whether welcomed or not. She passed away a few years ago, but the story I’m going to tell makes me believe that she still can control things from where she is now.
I spent a lot of my childhood summers going to Round Pond, ME to visit Mammy. She lived in Scituate, MA during the winters, but spent the warmer months up north in her small fishing village on the Maine sea coast. She loved that little town. She had been going there all her life and had wonderful memories that she carried on by sharing them with us.
The movie “Message In A Bottle” starring Kevin Costner was filmed not too far from Round Pond. I remember her talking about all the famous people around and how exciting it was that Round Pond was being placed on the map in Hollywood. We watched that movie together and she said afterwards, how fun it would be to send a message in a bottle. My typical answer to her was “Yeah sure, Mam, I’ll get to it”. Years later, when I had children of my own, she still would say, “Do the bottle thing with the kids.” My answer was always the same…brushing it off.
One November day, Mammy left us for a better place. It was one of the saddest days of my life. I was so heart broken. I so badly wanted my children to get to know her like I had. She was cremated. We all went to Round Pond to celebrate her life and spread her ashes in the ocean so she would be there forever. It was actually a beautiful moment watching the sea carry her away.
Almost a year later, as the anniversary of her death approached, my husband had a great idea. “Let’s go to Round Pond and throw some flowers where we put her ashes”, he said. After consuming a bottle of wine, I had a better idea. I exclaimed, “Let’s send a message in a bottle!” So my children drew pictures for “Big Mammy” as they called her (my mother now having assumed the title “Mammy” as their grandmother), and I wrote the letter. We sealed it up with hot wax and waited until the next day to drive to Round Pond. I remember thinking that it would never be found, particularly considering the extremely rocky coasts of Maine. I figured it would probably get smashed against the rocks, but the kids were so excited to do it anyway. It was a great moment watching the kids throw the flowers and my husband toss the bottle to sea.
So, now we have come to my favorite part. Five days later on November 9, the one year anniversary of Mammy’s death, I had a message on my answering machine back in Massachusetts. It was from a man in Scituate. He was calling to let me know he found my bottle (we had included our phone number in the message). I was shaking listening to him speak. He told me the time, tide, and exact location of where he found it. He left his number for me to call him back. As I dialed the number I had to stop and listen again. The number he gave me was just about exactly Mammy’s phone number. The only digit off was in the exchange. This was getting too weird.
I drove to Scituate to retrieve the bottle. His wife met me outside their home which is between Minot Light and Scituate Light. We couldn’t stop talking about how amazing this story was. As I turned to get in the car, we hugged and she said to me, “My nephew died on November 9th too.”