When I graduated from Brunswick High School in 1971, I couldn’t wait to get out of town. Growing up as the child of an unwed mother in a small town where everyone knew my history, well, I longed for the clean slate and anonymity a big city promised—not to mention the appeal of living where the sidewalks didn’t roll up at 9:00 o’clock.
So I set off for college in Massachusetts and ended up living and working in and around Boston for the next 30 years. I’d visit Maine now and then—I still had family here—but I was always relieved to get back to my real life among the Massholes.
I even married one. Then Hubs got downsized from his corporate job, and we decided it was time for a change of place. We were over the traffic and congestion. The outrageous real estate prices. The crazy-hectic pace of life. The ice and snow. We wanted to have an adventure someplace warm.
So we moved to the Palm Springs area of southern California. We’d been there twice before on vacation. It’ll be fun to live in a desert resort area, we said. Sure, it gets hot—but it’s a dry heat and you don’t have to shovel it. Hubs can play golf 12 months a year. We’ll have a swimming pool. What’s not to like?
Well, we found out.
At first, living in a place with 350 days of sunshine a year was a treat. Bougainvillea bloomed year-round. You needed only summer clothes. Everything moved at a slower, more relaxed pace.
But after a couple of years, the novelty began to wear off. Life moved at a snail’s pace because, dry heat or not, it’s too freakin’ hot to do otherwise when it’s 120 degrees. The earthquakes freaked me out; I was forever straightening pictures on the wall because little tremors would make them go cockeyed. Then we had a couple quakes big enough to knock stuff off shelves and make the pool water slosh over the side. A big ol’ predictable nor’easter didn’t seem so bad after all.
And the people were, well, different. It was all about appearances—what you wore, where you lived, what you drove, who did your implants—and I’m not just talking teeth. Women went to the gym in full makeup, jewelry and designer workout clothes. Plastic surgery was practically mandatory—a friend said she felt as if she needed a facelift to go to the grocery store. Conversations at cocktail parties focused more on celebrity gossip than current events. Everybody was from someplace else; there was little sense of history, or permanence, or connection.
It was so not the real world—at least not one we wanted to live in. So Hubs and I started thinking about where to move next.
In 2005, we flew back east to bury his parents, and we made a trip to Maine to see my father. Driving along the ocean in Harpswell on a sunny August afternoon, it suddenly hit me: I want to come home.
It had taken me 35 years—the last five in la-la land—to truly appreciate what Maine has to offer. A sense of community. Four seasons. A more purposeful way of life based on values, not how much something costs. And, most important, authentic people.
Here, if you see someone whose lips have that bee-stung look, they’re probably a beekeeper—not plumped up with collagen injections.
Here, a nearly 80-year-old woman comes to yoga class wearing sweats and mismatched socks, falls asleep during corpse pose and snores—and so what?
Here, people wear denim, flannel and fleece to an event to raise money for a sick neighbor—without expecting their generosity will get their picture in the newspaper society pages.
Here, people take pride in mowing their own lawns—instead of questioning why an Anglo would stoop to doing manual labor.
Here, you can talk to someone in the grocery line without fear that they’re trying to recruit you into a religious cult or a multi-level marketing scheme.
And so what if the sidewalks still roll up at nine o’clock—at this age, that’s bedtime. Or if, living in a small town, people notice your comings and goings—at this age, there’s a sense of security and comfort in that. Or if people know my family history—at this age, what does it really matter? As Popeye says, I am who I am.
Speaking of family history, after we moved back to Maine, Hubs began looking into the genealogy of his own family. And he discovered that his paternal Scots-Irish ancestors were among the early settlers in Brunswick in the 1700s, and several are buried in the old cemetery on upper Maine Street.
Yes, my Masshole husband has deeper roots in my Maine hometown than I do. And so, it turns out, both of us have come home.
With time and distance
we gain new perspective on
what ‘home’ really means.
What about you? Has Maine always been your home, or did you have to leave to fully appreciate all this state has to offer? Or are you a transplant from away; if so, what drew you to Maine? Please share!