Roof rakes for sale at the hardware store was one of the first new things I noticed when we moved to Bangor two years ago. I asked Dustin, “Why do you suppose someone would rake their roof?” He just shrugged.
Also, when I asked for directions, people usually answered with something like, “Go down to what used to be the old drugstore, then turn left at the Adams’ old house, the one they sold last year. Go a block or so, and you’ll know you’re there when you’re so close to the elementary school that you could throw a football into the playground and hit the seesaw.”
Stephanie, whom I had just met, suggested that we get the kids together for dinner. It was fall and the daylight was getting shorter.
“How about 6:30 at my house?” I said.
Stephanie looked like she would choke. “You realize it will be dark by 3:45, right? How about a 5 supper?”
In Florida, we never ate before 6:30 p.m. Also, we didn’t call it supper.
I fell in love with Maine during those first few months in 2008. Everything — from the way the heater smelled when it first kicked on to the boots people stepped out of on their front porch to the puddle of slush they left behind — was endearing. There wasn’t a day that passed when I didn’t learn something about my new hometown. And just like falling in love, I was keenly aware of Maine’s every nuance.
I learned that the Corner Store on Hammond Street is more than just a place to buy bread, and I was sure to see someone I knew there. I learned that there isn’t just one type of snow, but only one type that makes really good snowmen. In the summer, I learned that when all the windows are open and the neighbors are sitting on their front steps to catch a breeze, everyone can hear you yell at your kids.
Snowblowers firing up early in the morning after a storm, and snowplows passing by and scraping the pavement, were things that woke me from a sound sleep. (“What the heck was that?”) The basement was a novelty — “You mean I can just ask the kids to go play in the basement when they are getting too loud upstairs?” (Stephanie said, “Yes”) — and the abundance of older homes was an endless source of fascination. No two houses had the same blueprint; I actually had to ask, “Where is your bathroom?”
As with all relationships, however, as the years passed, I grew to take things about Maine for granted. Acadia Mountain, while still awesome and spectacular, didn’t take my breath away in quite the same way. Giant snowflakes were no longer cause to get out from under my blankets and rush to the window. I finally owned a roof rake and knew how and when to use it.
The process of falling in love was complete. I had become one with Maine (though still not a “Mainer,” of course). I was no longer on the outside looking in. I was the person giving directions that included not one single mention of “north” or “south.” I had been the person with wide eyes, shaking up a snow globe and watching the snowflakes fall. Then I was the person inside the globe, semiunaware of the uniqueness of my surroundings.
I try to explain Maine and why I love it here to friends I left behind in other states. But it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to separate what is particular to Maine and what is not. Because it all has become “home” to me.
This August, my older brother Van and his wife, Kelly, came to visit. Looking back, I should have noticed the way they stared out the window, taking in things that I now failed to see, as I drove through the city. But few aspects of life in Maine seemed unusual to me anymore.
Then Van said, “There’s another one.” He was pointing out the windshield.
“Another what?” I asked.
“Another house preparing for winter,” he said. “I’ve never seen so many houses getting new roofs at the same time.”
I looked out the windows, first to the left and then to the right. On either side of us, men squatted on roofs and threw down old shingles. Van was right, and it’s another unique aspect of Maine: August is filled with the sound of hammers as roofers hurry to make repairs before winter. It seemed so natural to me now, as commonplace as drying mittens on the floor next to the heater or the sound of icicles falling from the eaves and crashing on the back porch.
That’s when I realized that Maine had truly become my home. But I wonder, why did it take me so long to get here?
Maine author and columnist Sarah Smiley’s writing is syndicated weekly to publications across the country. She and her husband, Dustin, live with their three sons in Bangor. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.