Dwight Gagnon “First Frost”

Fall 2021

This story appeared in the 2021 fall issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener in response to the theme “first frost.”

The family homestead in Benton, Maine. Photo courtesy of Dwight Gagnon

In the fall of 1969, I was 14 and my family had moved to my great-grandfather’s abandoned homestead in Benton, Maine. It was supposed to be temporary. My family had come here after my father quit a job that was requiring him to move from Boston to New York City. He worked one last year, on Madison Ave., as an accountant for a failing company whose office was next to MAD Magazine.

The move to Maine was sort of like that saying from Robert Frost: “Home is where, when you go there, they gotta take you in.” This was the best thing I could have imagined happening. The homestead is where I truly wanted to be. My great-grandfather’s house was crooked, drafty and quite rundown. I shared a tiny room with my brother. One morning that September, at first frost, my mom pulled out a package and gave it to me saying, “This was something I was saving for your birthday, but I think you need this today.” The gift was a warm wool jacket.

That first winter exceeded expectations of how hard a Maine winter could be. My room had no heat. When the wind blew, the house creaked and shifted. The window shades flapped in the gusts. I had a fish tank in my bedroom. It froze, fish and all, and broke. My grandmother, who owned the old homestead, offered for us to buy it. I lived there for nine years, and my folks for 20. When my mom died in the fall of 2018, I played a fiddle tune called “Cold Frosty Morning” at her service. There, I told the story of the gift of the wool jacket and that cold frosty morning, long, long ago.

Dwight Gagnon

Benton Falls, Maine

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