Thursday, June 19, 2014

Wilder Musings: The Importance of Memory and Community (or) Why I Love Maine So Much


The four of us piled into the car. Rosie the German Shepherd and I in the back, my mom and dad in the front. It was May of this year but it might as well have been 1989, as the back right seat next to the dog is a position I've occupied my entire life. We sped North, past the familiar road signs in Massachusetts (Topsfield, Georgetown), the New Hampshire State Liquor Stores, and onto the Piscataqua River Bridge. We reached our hands forward towards the windshield as my mother and her brother did as kids, aching to be the first one into our favorite state, yelling out, "Mmmmmmaine!" as we passed the state line sign hanging from the bridge.

It's no secret that I leave a piece of my heart in Maine every time I cross back into New Hampshire, or that I spend as much time up there as I can. Someone asked me the other day, "Why do you love Maine so much?" To which I replied, "Have you been there?" But then I thought about it, and realized that as I get older I understand the why more clearly.

Rockport is home. I've been my happiest there: It's where both sides of my extended family are all together, it's where my parents met, it's where I opened my first paycheck. It's where I first fell in love, where I first felt the rush of watching the land grow smaller and smaller as the wind picked up and I sailed into bigger and bigger swells. My scariest moments happened there: I've almost died multiple times (both from my own staggeringly bad decisions and bad luck on the water), where I first felt the crush of heartache, and where I first felt alone.

But Maine has always been a place I've lived knowing that someday I won't live there. While I went to college there, I knew (if all went well) it would end in four years. I knew summers would end as a little kid. And now, summer weekends end, and I go back to my apartment and job in Boston. Which means that pieces of that place always exist in myth. It's my constant, my escape hatch. It's what I'd dream about through school-years, staring out the window ignoring the math problems on my desk.

It's where all of my old memories are waiting for me in the drawers in my childhood room, where I can go to the grocery store and run into kids (now almost adults) I used to teach how to sail, where the porch I read on never changes. And while a fair amount of my friends from high school and college are still in the area, it's transient; we all come back because we can't stay away, but we all leave eventually, too. The memories are the most permanent part about the place.

There is friendship across age groups; I recently went to a potluck where 19 year-olds and 30 year-olds were all hanging out, and I spend lots of time with my parents' friends and my friends' parents. The social scene is different from that of a city, where there are so many people that most tend to hang out with those their own age. It's a town, where different ages are part of the fabric of the place, where people have known you since you were a baby. The community holds you accountable: You can't be a total dick to a stranger, because that stranger definitely either knows who you are, knows who your parents are, or will end up being at the same dinner you're going to in four hours.

It's also staggeringly beautiful, and that beauty is staggeringly accessible. I can walk to the ocean and to the mountains. I can drive my car three minutes and watch as farmhouses and old gas stations flicker by the windows. There is space, there is beauty, there are memories, and there is comfort from friends and family. Maine is my romantic home.


  1. What a great paean, not only to Maine, but to fading youth and to growing up.

  2. Thoughts on 'fading youth and to growing up" is exactly what I thought when I read this piece. Very nicely done. Thanks for sharing.


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