May Brooks, my sweet paternal grandmother would be 101 years old today. I miss her every day. She was a large presence in my life and really shaped who I am. She is a big part of the reason why we chose to steward the property here at French’s Point. She made this place magical for her children and grandchildren. Caring for and sharing French’s Point is a way to honor the legacy that she and my grandfather Bill started for our family.
May was born and grew up in Augusta, Maine. She was born the youngest of 5 children. Her father was a deacon of a Baptist Church and she was the granddaughter of the Civil War General Benjamin Foster Harris of the 6th Maine Infantry. She married my grandfather Willard Nash “Bill” Brooks and they settled in Winslow, Maine, and had three children, two boys and a girl. She was active as a Sunday school teacher, Den Mother, Girl Scout Leader. She was involved in the Winslow High School Band Parents Organization, and the PTA. She chaperoned trips and events for the schools and clubs. She manned the food and ticket booths at high school sporting events. She was a much-beloved secretary at the Winslow High School for more than 30 years.
In the summertime each year, May would pack up her children, ride to Sandy Point to our family cottage just down the road from French’s Point, where she would spend the weeks of school break sunbathing, digging for clams, fishing in her tiny tin boat, picking wild blueberries and walking the beach looking for skipping stones and lucky rocks. She was oftentimes the first one in our family to brave the water each year for an invigorating swim. When my cousins, siblings and I arrived on scene, we spent our summers in the same way, often in my grandmother’s care. All of our holidays were spent in her home around her table with my cousins, aunts and uncles. Family was the most important thing to May, and that was evident in everything she did. Our best family moments were spent here together at French’s Point. My best and most vivid childhood memories are filled with this beautiful soul. She loved this magical place because it was about family.
May was an outstanding home cook with her thanksgiving turkey, Christmas roast, apple and rhubarb pies, deviled eggs, BLT sandwiches, homemade french fries, and donuts. She had a sharp wit and big, beautiful smile that could turn your day around in a heartbeat. I inherited my stubborn streak from May. I also have her strong sense of empathy and her desire to love family by feeding them well. I never left my Nana’s house without some sort of treat in my hands.
My grandfather Bill passed at a young age, before I was born and my grandmother never remarried. My sweet father was devoted to his mother. He tenderly cared for her and doted on her (even when she didn’t want him to). My dad also inherited his determination and perseverance from his mom, and though they did not always agree, they loved each other fiercely. Witnessing their love for one another was such a gift. It is truly one of the most beautiful things about my father.
May met my husband Fred a few years before she passed. For this I am grateful. Knowing her has helped him understand me. She gave me the diamond ring my husband used to propose and it never leaves my finger. When we married in 2008, my grandmother was my Matron of Honor and made her way proudly down the promenade to join us at the gazebo to celebrate on that beautiful February afternoon. I could not think of a better soul to be by my side that day. My oldest daughter Bailey May, met her Great Grandmother and namesake before she passed. My other kiddos did not have this blessing. But we keep her alive in the stories we tell them and the family traditions we carry on in her honor. I feel closest to May when I am here at French’s Point, cooking for my family or playing on the beach with my babes. She is only ever a breath away.
Thank you Uncle Jim, for taking good care of our family photos. It was wonderful to walk back through these beautiful memories.