Dear Bath,

Eighteen years ago, God blessed my husband, Dana, and I with our first home, a snug white New Englander abutting hundreds of acres of towering pine trees along your busy High Street. We brought our 9-month-old son, Judah, our long-haired black-and-white cat, Achilles – named for the black spots on his heels – a U-Haul of second-hand furniture and our dreams.

We were 25-years-old, both of us, and it was the only house we could afford – a miracle made possible by the Bath Housing Authority and the generosity of Bath Iron Works. We had been praying for a home – and a way for me to make a living as a writer while raising our children – and God provided it through you.

I’m a farm girl at heart, born and brought up in the hay fields of Oregon, but you won my heart with your quaint brick-lined streets, friendly shopkeepers, cozy cafes, outstanding library, and scenic tidal river. Best of all, we could get to all those places by foot.

As our family grew, our home grew too, thanks to Dana’s hard work and the help of kindly friends. When we adopted our daughter Ruth from a children’s home in Uganda, you rallied around us with donations. And when we lost her unexpectedly to complications from cerebral palsy, you flooded our church and mailbox and home with your presence and prayers and condolences.

We marched in your parades – as storybook characters with the Patten Free Library for the Fourth of July and as Mary and Joseph and Co. at Christmas. We worshiped in your churches. And, thanks to the prodding of some dear neighbors, I even served a term on your hard-working City Council.

And so it is with abundant appreciation and a heavy heart that I and my family find ourselves preparing to cross the bridge over the banks of the Kennebec River next week to head up river to a small house on a four-acre spread closer to Dana’s work and family. It will be sweet to be close to those we love. And it will be delightful to dig in the soil and plant tomatoes, kale, and cucumbers – in that order – come spring.

But we will miss you! We will miss walking your wooded trails and ice-skating under the lights at Goddard Pond and staying warm and active all winter at your YMCA. We will miss dropping in for coffee and Christmas treats at neighbors’, finishing a long week with pie at The Galley or picking up a dozen of the best doughnuts at Frosty’s.

And we will miss the convenience of driving to Shaw’s or Brackett’s at 6 in the morning when we have forgotten to buy dog food or a gallon of milk – again. Being in the country, we may just have to buy a cow and hunt our dog food. I will certainly make pie and doughnuts.

But we will be back to visit. Often. I look forward to continuing to write this column under the whispering birch trees and the light of a full country moon in the dark of an early morning. In the meantime, we leave you with a blessing. 

“May the Lord bless you and keep you — and your dedicated city leaders, firefighters, EMT’s, police and volunteers. May the Lord make his face shine upon you — and your hardworking shipbuilders, noble Navy men and women and engineers. And give you peace.” Not just for the season, but for always.


The Merrills