The Universal Notebook: Betwixt and between Brunswick, Yarmouth

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Come Labor Day it will be one year since we moved from Yarmouth to Brunswick, and I have concluded over the intervening months that we did not move far enough.

I constantly find myself caught betwixt and between the two towns.

I now do my grocery shopping at Hannaford in Brunswick, though it feels a bit cramped and dated after the newly renovated Yarmouth supermarket.

But my church, doctor and dentist are still in Yarmouth. We keep meaning to attend a worship service at First Parish Congregational Church in Brunswick (which I tend to refer to as the Church of the Holy Rotary), but as I am still a deacon at the First Parish Congregational Church in Yarmouth, I feel I owe my diminishing church attendance to Yarmouth.

Both Yarmouth and Brunswick are progressive communities, so I am just as comfortable having folks like Mattie Daughtry, Ralph Tucker and Stan Gerzofsky representing me in Augusta as I was or would be with Dick Woodbury, Janice Cooper and Cathy Breen in Yarmouth.

But being a recent arrival/deserter, I’m not sure whether and where I should take a stand on local issues.

In Brunswick, the Downeaster train barn proposed for downtown seems entirely unnecessary and badly misplaced, but the project has been railroaded through so I guess we’ll just learn to live with it.

In Yarmouth, for no good reason I can imagine, they are toying with the idea of tearing down the bridge that carries Route 1 over Main Street. I guess if you’re looking to create traffic jams, that’s not a bad idea, but the overpass bridge works just fine and is a local landmark, so I guess I’d vote to keep it. If I still had a vote.

I miss my Yarmouth neighbors, but I get to see folks at church and when I stop at Rosemont Market for good baguettes, something hard to come by in Brunswick. Wild Oats has great sweets, but I prefer Rosemont breads.

We have gotten to know our near neighbors in Brunswick, which Carolyn was concerned might be harder to do, as we don’t have kids in the schools and don’t attend the local church. But we already knew plenty of folks in Brunswick and I just learned yesterday that old friends from Yarmouth are buying a house three blocks from here.

Yarmouth (pop. 8,000, 22 square miles) is a suburban bedroom community with great schools and intact village center. Brunswick (pop. 20,000, 54 square miles) is the eighth largest municipality in Maine, larger than most Maine “cities,” but it has the feel of a small town that just happens to have a vibrant downtown, a lot of parks and open space and more than its fair share of good restaurants. Yarmouth has pizza. Brunswick has Japanese, Indian, Vietnamese, Thai, German, Mexican, Irish, you name it.

Brunswick also has a wonderful public library, though I’d call swapping Merrill Memorial in Yarmouth for Curtis Memorial pretty much a wash. Great service, facilities and collections at both.

I do miss the Yarmouth dump (transfer station), which is cheaper and more convenient to use than the Brunswick dump (landfill), but Brunswick does have curbside pickup, so I guess I’ll call public works a draw, too.

Brunswick, of course, also offers all the amenities of Bowdoin College. My father was a senior at Bowdoin in 1949 when I was born, so in a certain sense Brunswick is my hometown. The first place I lived was an apartment in what is now the Elks Lodge on the town green.

I thought living within walking distance of the Bowdoin campus might elevate my cultural life to new heights with lectures, performances, exhibitions and sporting events, but I confess that, other than viewing a couple of art shows at the museum and attending a single hockey game, the college has thus far proved to be mostly a very elegant dog park.

Just about the only thing I don’t really like about living in Brunswick is that I have to cross a busy street every day to fetch the mail from the mailbox. Home delivery stops four or five houses down the street. If I could change one thing, that would be it: home delivery the length of the street.

The betwixt-and-between phenomenon may come into play in a more serious way if and when I ever fail to make it safely back and forth across the street for the mail.

What hospital do I go to now? I was born at Maine Medical Center in Portland. All my medical records are in Portland. But should my bumper sticker read “Take me to Maine Med,” “Take me to Parkview” or “Take me to Mid Coast?”

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Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

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