When I was asked to give this little speech, I was told just say what Station Maine means to me and what it's done for me. And so I sat down to think about what I was going to say when I thought what hasn't Station Maine done for me and that led to what hasn't Muriel done for me. And if this was going to be a speech about what Muriel has not done for me my speech would be done already.
I first started because Muriel reached out and drew me in. She helped me decide what I wanted to do with my life. Over the years she's been a teacher, guide, life counselor, teacher, friend. She started Station Maine which gave me friends and courage and has made me strong, both mentally and physically, and given me confidence in myself and what I do. But I'm sure if I ever got over confident Muriel would remind me of all the mistakes I've ever made.
Muriel would do anything for anybody. She's even been known to throw her cell phone overboard during a man overboard drill. It was in her life jacket and she forgot, but we can still tease her about it.
She's spent hours in a car with us, driving us to the races all over New England. She's bought us bus, subway, and ferry tickets.
She likes to demonstrate the enormous amount of trust she has in us by placing us in charge of the boat, putting a lot of responsibility in our hands, preparing us for life.
She sets no low standards, only high ones, and with her behind us, pushing us and prodding us but never past our capabilities we can reach them and we do.
But I was asked what Station Maine means to me too. So, what does it mean to me?
To me it means challenges and friendships. It means hard work and fun. It gives us responsibilities and skills. And, to me, it also means gift wrapping books every Saturday for hours. Sleeping on floors in museums in strange places. Having the police barge in on us.
When Muriel says we're going to row around Manhattan, she means ALL the way around.
Having our van towed right before the race with all the stuff we need still inside it. Tire swinging. Catapulting off teeter totters. Throwing cherry bombs at each other (made of crab apples, not firecrackers). Finding out it's not OK to row out to the Statue of Liberty… Homeland Security frowns on it.
Clearing a path for a nice old man, and losing our anchor while we were at it. And the seventeen mile row out to his path.
After our races people who have never met Muriel before coming up to us and ask us if she's sane. Or if she's always that loud. Yes, she's always that loud.
It means that Tuesdays are Devin's fault.
It means when Muriel yodels you come, and you can hear Muriel's yodel up to a mile away.
It means seaweed fights and getting up close and personal with the seals.
Seeing Devin dressed up as a hoola girl, and as Mrs. Santa Claus for the Festival of Lights.
Raccoons eating all our bread, and that lunch is peanut butter licked off spoons. Raccoons hiding our dinner pots in the trees.
It means rowing out to the Lighthouse. And Tristan dancing on hot tar. Layla with her Mohawk.
It means leaving things better than we found them.
It means finding out I can row as well as any boy on my team.
It means making up new verses for our song. And Muriel going with us on the expedition from Liberty to Hope and leading us through two very wet swamps. When Muriel says we're going to rough it, she means really rough.
Muriel there for all the races cheering on not only us, but also the other teams.
Finding my own inner strength. Pulling on my oar til I think I'm gonna puke, then pulling harder because my team needs me.
Learning to obey orders without question, unless the order is abandon ship, in which case you can say port or starboard, sir?!
And I would not have any of these great memories or ideas about what Station Maine means had Muriel not reached out all those times and snagged me.
Whenever Muriel is showing us off to other people she likes to tell them that, you know, you hear on the news all the time that this new generation is lazy and selfish, but I have a group of kids out rowing every day, working hard to succeed in life. And, you know what Muriel?
It's all thanks to you.