KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine (AP) _ President-elect George Bush and his wife Barbara are spending a quiet Thanksgiving here at their family vacation retreat after the vice president sought to reassure residents of this oceanside community that their lives won't be disrupted by his presidency.

''Barbara and I want to continue to be good neighbors,'' Bush told several thousand townspeople on Wednesday at a rally on the village green.

He apologized if his presence, and the increased security it entailed, would tie up traffic in town and make lives for residents more difficult because ''I want to come here a lot'' as president, just as he has been doing all his life.

''I mean it when I say I don't want to complicate your lives,'' Bush said.

Today the Bushes were to have a private turkey dinner with just two invited guests, two longtime trusted employes - Don Rhodes, who works for Bush in his Senate vice presidential office, and housekeeper Paola Rendon.

The dinner will be a break from past Thanksgivings for the Bushes, when many of their five children and ten grandchildren have been present.

But Bush aide Stephen Hart said the Bushes were ''looking forward to a private time'' this year, and that other members of the Bush family all had made separate plans.

The Bushes, with their spaniel ''Millie'' in tow, flew here on Wednesday from Washington after Bush announced that retired Air Force Gen. Brent Scowcroft would serve as his national security adviser. Scowcroft held the same job in the Ford administration, when Bush headed the CIA. It was Bush's sixth top-level selection.

Praising Scowcroft and other members of his emerging Cabinet, Bush told the rally here, ''We've hit the ground running. We're putting together a good team.'

About half the permanent population of this seacoast town responded to invitations from the Bushes to attend the festivities. It was his first time back here since before the Republican convention last August.

After flying on Air Force Two to Pease Air Force Base in nearby Portsmouth, N.H., Bush and his entourage finished the trip by helicopter - for the first time - landing on the grounds of St. Ann's Episcopal Church here, where Bush had first worshiped as a boy on summer Sundays with his family.

''I'm wondering what my old man would say if he could see his little boy now,'' Bush said, referring to his late father, Sen. Prescott Bush, R-Conn. The vice president recalled he had been coming to the family vacation home in every one of his 64 years except one - during World War II.

He repeated a campaign pledge to permit lobstermen to continue working their traps in the cove alongside his house, despite security concerns of the Secret Service.

And he vowed to drive his speedboat slowly in the river that runs through town and promised to ''try not to hold up traffic.''

''And if we do, let me ask you as neighbors to signify your displeasure in some other way than those very active hand gestures I spot from time to time as we go through town,'' he joked.

''I want Kennebunkport to retain its magic,'' Bush said.

Meanwhile, efforts by aides to Bush and defeated rival Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis to schedule a meeting between the two for this weekend fell through on Wednesday because of scheduling difficulties, according to Bush sources who insisted upon anonymity.

However, such a session is likely to occur in the near future, the sources said.

In announcing his appointment of Scowcroft, Bush said the retired general, ''has made and will continue to make important contributions to the design of U.S. foreign policy.'' He praised President Reagan's current national security adviser, Colin Powell, for ''an outstanding performance.''

Bush said he would count on Scowcroft, 63, ''to coordinate the development of my national security policy.''

Bush also he still hasn't made up his mind on the choice of a defense secretary, and said he was sorry if the delay created some discomfit for the man most widely speculated to be in line for the job, former Senate Armed Services Chairman John Tower, R-Texas.

''I understand the insatiable curiosity about who's going to be staffing this administration. I understand it. But I'm less tense about it than I used to be,'' Bush said.