"to this day, I'm much closer to the people that I know from North Haven than I am to most of the people that I grew up with in my 'Real Life.'"
My name's Anna Worrall. I'm 31. I have been coming to North Haven my entire life, every summer, like my dad before me and his parents were the ones who bought a summer residence on North Haven in the late 60s. My grandmother grew up going to Dark Harbor. My grandfather was in Vinalhaven and then they settled on North Haven.
There’s great comfort in the sameness of the island and knowing that it will be mostly the way you left it every time you come back and those same people, you'll see them again. I think, life is strange and twisting and knowing that that's such a constant bedrock is really comforting.
I grew up outside Philadelphia, Philadelphia suburbs. Well, actually, the first couple of years of my life we lived in Florida and we would drive every summer from Florida to Maine. And my dad was a teacher so we had the luxury of being on North Haven for most of the summer and we had the summer off, basically, which was amazing. So, we would sort of pick up and move our entire household from Florida.
Always looked forward to it 100% and I didn't know anything else. There was no other place to live in the summer, in my mind. Like, of course, we wouldn't stay at home. We had to go to the yellow house in Maine. And it was, like I said, I mean, we picked up our whole household and packed the car to the brim and it was just what we did.
I remember, I didn't do this much, but when I was probably 13 or so I brought a friend from Philadelphia with me. And that was sort of the first outside person that I brought to the island and I remember her reaction being very much, sort of, whoa, what is this place? And then–and I remember sort of thinking–sort of seeing it through new eyes like, wow what is this place, actually? That's true. It's this completely remarkable, like nowhere else, especially not, you know, suburban kids from Philadelphia. I mean, I guess she had probably gone to summer camp, maybe, but she didn't have anything like North Haven. And when I brought her, I think it kind of started to sink in.
And then the older I got the more I realized how completely lucky and fortunate it was that we got to do such an amazing thing. And then, the older you get you also become more conscious of the fact of just how removed it is, how special it is, how hard it really is to get there. And it just becomes this thing that I looked forward to all year round. I mean, it was torture to leave and such a joy to come every year. And, I don't know, it was just the best and I still feel like that. I mean this–it's funny that it's– what is it, mid-April? It's been in the last month I've been jonesing for my fix.
And, obviously, I don't get to do what I used to do when I was a kid, anymore. I have to go to work, I guess. But it's totally like, I'm ready to feel that feeling of getting on the ferry, getting off the ferry, and just the whole world kind of closes. There's like a weird door across the bay or something to the rest of the universe when I'm there.
Leta So, how did North Haven compare to your hometown?
Anna Oh, totally different. I grew up in the suburbs, so you drive everywhere. There wasn't a sort of center of town, where I'm from, where you would kind of walk around even. It was nice, it was lovely. I had a great childhood, but the older I got the more we were sort of increasingly just in driving distance to things. So, North Haven, to be able to just have the freedom to run around, to go to anybody's house that you could kind of walk or run or bike to, felt like such a liberation, which is funny for a such a smaller place. But the freedom was just unprecedented.
The biggest thing for me about North Haven and how it compares to my hometown is that, to this day, I'm much closer to the people that I know from North Haven than I am to most of the people that I grew up with, in my quote unquote real life. Which I think really is a testament to the power of the place because it's the place that you go back every single year, so you forge these bonds and that's what really sets it apart.
Yeah, and my parents’ friends, they're all my sort of second parents, is how I feel. And then my childhood friends most of them still come back. And I love and adore them and try to see them during the year.
Like Ashley who I mentioned earlier we were born 13 days apart. Our dads grew up going to North Haven together and their parents grew up going to Maine and North Haven, ultimately, together. So, there's this weird generational friendship thing that happens too, which is so special, and we spent every summer of our lives there together. We actually do live in the same city now, but we never lived in the same place until we were twenty-five or so. And I consider her my absolute best friend and it's all because of North Haven, you know?
During my working years, when I was a teenager and in my early 20s, that was definitely like a, oh, OK, this is not just vacation land here. People, I mean, are actually working really hard, as you know, and especially during the summer when the population triples and there's so much more to do.
My first job ever was scooping ice cream at The Landing and that was great. And I worked there for a couple of summers. I worked at Calderwood Hall when it was a gift store for Herby. And where else have I worked? I worked at the store, the North Haven Grocery. I was a sailing instructor briefly. I was the dock master, which was the best job I've ever had in my life, where I sat on the dock and helped people tie up their boats and mostly read books. Amazing. I've babysat a ton. I worked at the new Waterman's Community Center for School of Fish, I did like the little preschool vibes one summer.
Just to see how these sort of small island businesses run and sustain and what the challenges are and I always found that to be really interesting. Something like running a gift shop that's seasonal or burgers and ice cream that's seasonal. You have to really kill yourself to make that money in four months and it's really, really hard. And, you know, there were beautiful days where I would be stuck scooping ice cream where you're sort of like, oh god why? But it was worth it as a means to an end to just to get to kind of be there.
And I think, it definitely gave me the opportunity to interface with a lot of people that I wouldn't maybe have met otherwise and to sort of get a feel for–to meet more people, which is always sort of a fun thing on North Haven you kind of think you know everybody but you really don't.
So, yeah, you definitely are just more opened up because before I mean my parents had their sort of friend group and I had my little friend group and those were the people that you hang out with. And I think working and really becoming more of the fabric of the community, even as a summer resident, gets you to be just that. You really just–you get to know way more people.
I'm very aware of the fact that I'm summer person. I will always be a summer person. My sister, even if she lives on North Haven for the rest of her life, will always be from away. She'll be a summer person at heart. I get that these are labels that are prescribed and they're valid. I don’t know, I think some people treat the idea of summer people with maybe a little bit of disdain or, I don't know, and I think some summer people are guilty of treating the year-round community with some version of disdain and there's a really unfortunate undercurrent that I think is there a little bit if you look for it in the right people.
But it's not something that I try to really focus on. I don’t know. Like I’ve said, I mean, I feel like it's my home. I'm very conscious of the fact that it's actually the homes of many other people before it's only my home. And I try to be really respectful of that and not give any reason to ascribe other meanings to summer people other than the fact that we're just there in the summer.
The year-round population, they do a lot of jobs that are sort of in service of summer people whether it's their comfort, or their literal houses that they live in, or maintaining boats or whatever it is. That's a dynamic that's definitely there and it's sort of a strange balance, I think, or can be a strange balance, socially. When it's sort of like, well I guess, like, technically, you know, maybe, I work for you or you work for me or whatever it is. There’s, like I said, I think there's maybe a little bit of an undercurrent about that there.
I remember an incident from when I was a teenager. I was probably like 14 and I remember hearing that someone had said about me that I was like, “a rich bitch.” And I remember being horrified by that. Because the person who said it was in the year-round community, we weren't good friends but I knew her and had known her. And I immediately went to: what have I done to give off that image? Like, yikes. Should I–what should I adjust and what does that mean? Or is this just a sort of thing that she's going to ascribe to people who are from away? I remember feeling uncomfortable and like, oh god, all right, like, I need to really double down on the respect and just trying to make sure that I've done everything I can to give off the image of who I am that I want, which is that I know that I'm lucky to be part of this community. Thank you for welcoming me. I don't take that for granted. But that's a memory that like definitely sticks because it's one of the only times that I've ever felt truly other, I guess.
Photos courtesy of the Worrall family