As you drive north on I-95 heading up from Boston’s Logan airport (there are not a lot of non-stop flights into Portland), you start to notice the scenery changing. More trees, less cars, fewer buildings…and a subtle serenity begins to slowly take over. Regardless of the temperature outside, I always like to roll the windows down and take a big, deep breath of fresh air. And then the sign – Maine The Way Life Should Be. I’m instantly relaxed as my blood pressure drops and I get that feeling that’s difficult to describe. It’s not just home, it’s a way of life.
Growing up in Maine is something that made me who I am today. I often tell people about what it was like and they look at me like I must be fabricating a story. We left our doors and windows unlocked, I never saw theft or crime, there weren’t problems with drugs or the stereotypical urban life stories I hear from my other friends. Instead, we grew up cycling, camping, hiking, playing hockey, and generally enjoying the outdoors. We didn’t care what kind of clothes kids wore, what kind of car you drove, or how fancy your home was. It just didn’t matter.
Maine is also where I learned the value of hard work. Growing up in New England and enduring the cold winters was not something we ever thought about – it was just a fact of life. That meant chopping wood all summer to fuel the wood stove in the winter. It also meant gardening, learning how to can fruits and vegetables for the winter months, and running out the door on “snow days’ to earn money shoveling driveways and walkways. As a young age, the entrepreneurial spirit just came naturally as my buddy Patrick and I gradually took over other boy’s newspaper delivery routes. We found a way to attach baskets to the front, back and sides of our ten speed bikes, and carry twice as many papers as the other kids.
There is a noticeable friendliness many out-of-staters notice the first time they visit Maine. People still look you in the eye, say hello, and offer a firm handshake. There are a few other traditions such as honking the car horn when you pass friends and neighbors on the road. There’s also the “nod” when driving and passing a friend in an oncoming car. I can only describe it by saying this; the forefinger ONLY lifts from the right hand on the steering wheel WHILE AT THE SAME TIME the driver lifts his head slightly and opens his mouth as if taking in a breath. You have to see it to know what I mean.
Last but not least the food. Especially the seafood. I never realized how lucky we were growing up with such an abundance of fresh, cold water fish. Everyone knows about the lobster, but the mussels, scallops, haddock, cod and bluefish are just a few of the tasty plates you can find at any local spot.
I spent most of my youth looking forward to the day when I would be old enough to leave Maine and see the world. Nowadays, I spend most of my time thinking about when I can get back there to retire, or semi-retire, and enjoy life the way it truly should be.