LC Van Savage
Why Do We Live Here Again?
Driving down a local highway today a large truck roared past me and splattered a huge mess of brown muck on my windshield and when I tried to wipe it clean with sprayed water and wipers it made a great, streaked mess on the glass. I pulled over to clean it by hand and when I stepped out of my car, my unbooted foot went ankle deep into freezing black gritty water. I sighed, probably cursed, looked into my side-view mirror and asked one more time, “Why do we live here again?? I forget.” And I drove home with one frozen filthy foot aching inside of one frozen, gritty, filthy and formerly favorite shoe.
But once inside my home, warm and safe, I looked outside at the impossible expanse and huge mounds of white and black and brown in our neighborhood, I thought about that endless, whining question, and I once again began to count the reasons why in fact, I do love to live here in Maine, have chosen to live here, never want to leave here and even dreamed of moving here when I was little and hadn’t even yet come to Maine. Is there reincarnation? Do I know? But were it true, I must have lived here sometime in another life because all I ever dreamed of was moving to Maine and living here forever. I got my wish.
Everyone who’s ever lived or visited here has written about why they love Maine, and I really couldn’t possibly expand on their words or write or say them better or with more eloquence. But I can write about how I felt when we moved here back in 1974. I’d waited 36 years for that trip north and for me, it was being reborn.
I well remember my New York birth family carrying on about this move to Maine. When we first told them, they stood still, silent, and finally said amongst lots of other things, “You want to move where? Are you crazy? That’s Siberia, you know.” They warned me that Mainers were cold and unwelcoming, that their accent was so thick no one could possibly understand them, that they had no use for people who wanted to move into their state and “ruin” it for them, that I’d soon regret this crazy foolishness and would head straight back to New York or New Jersey. They’d give me a year, they said. I’d soon hate having given up all the creature comforts there are in NY and NJ and that it really wasn’t a joke that most homes in Maine still had outhouses, that if the people even had TV all you could get on it was weather and tide reports, that women didn’t really do much except make quilts and when the men weren’t lobstering, they were carving sea gulls.
Right. I laughed, waved goodbye and never looked back. OK, I had to go back once in a while, but I never looked back. There’s a difference.
Cold Mainers? My first full day here was full of funny, warm men and women who went out of their ways to talk to us and show us where things were in the town in which we ‘d chosen to live; Brunswick. We felt completely welcome, we were never made to feel as if we were interlopers or outsiders or annoying foreigners. The schools were good, the kids were normal, our sons made friends quickly, so did we, and we began life here easily and happily.
One of our sons made friends with an older woman who had a thick Maine/New England accent and soon he was speaking the patois with her, rather well I thought. The woman was never offended and laughed at his efforts. The Mainers we met were generous, warm people with no particular agendas, we were invited into their homes and all had TV and all the TVs had the usual shows on them and all the homes had indoor plumbing, running water, and it was lovely. It gave me great pleasure to write to the relatives in the “real world” to tell them all this, but they suggested to me that I was making it all up so they wouldn’t worry about us, and when, by the way, were we coming back to civilization? Well let’s see---that was 37 years ago, those folks have since died and hello! We’re still here and we’re going to die here and we’re going to die happy.
I’ve written about the following incident before but it bears repeating here. One day in the late fall of our first year, I was driving our sons somewhere in our big black Chevy Suburban we liked to call our “truck.” It had rained that day and the temps had dropped suddenly. On a steep hill, our truck hit some black ice and it began to slide and spin out of control. There was no stopping it and it went nose down into a deep ditch on the side of the road. The back end was high in the air, the boys were screaming and I calmly screamed back at them to get out of the truck. Now!! I turned off the engine, they got out, and I joined them. We scrambled and clawed our ways back up onto the road and stood there. It was now sleeting and so cold. No one was near. Cell phones hadn’t been invented yet. I looked around but all I saw was dark grey and bare trees and wet leaves and my car with its big butt in the air and its big nose pointed straight down into that huge ditch. We were wet, cold and helpless.
Rather suddenly a large car pulled up the hill. It stopped, and it seemed as if an army of men flowed out of that car, one at a time. Big men, small men, all dressed in bright red plaid jackets and hats. Deer hunters. As my sons and I huddled shivering on that black road, those men scrambled and slid down the bank into the ditch, and I swear to this day, they lifted that Suburban up and pushed it back on the road. No one said a word. It was surreal. It was the Twilight Zone. They never even looked at me. Our truck safely on the road, they stuffed themselves back into their car, I stammered some kind of babbling thanks, asked if I could pay them, tried to find my purse, but they ignored me completely and just simply drove away. I will never, ever forget that day. Would that have happened in NY or NJ? I have no idea. But it doesn’t matter. I was now living in a unique state, full of people who would always save us, a place when named always evokes immediate fascinated responses and questions, a place that has a charm like no other. Maine will always have a mystique, a pull. Maine is a state where a person can see something beautiful every single day of their lives if they have the chance to look for it and even when they don’t. Maine has given me so much. What have I given back? Not nearly enough.
That incident with the black ice and the black Chevy Suburban? That’s one of many, many such kindnesses shown us in our 37 years here, most of them given to us with no thought of our repaying. Cold, rude Mainers? Where are they? I’ve never met any. Not once.
So, black grey brown snow splatting on my windshield? Black grey brown freezing puddles submerging my feet? Bring it on. All of it. We came home in 1974 and we’re staying.
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