I grew up in the Hudson Valley of New York. Poughkeepsie, specifically. Before Poughkeepsie was a commercialized mega strip-mall, it was a semi-rural, smallish town in upstate NY. My neighborhood was the former home
of a dairy farm, with it’s farmhouse and barns, turned mid-century housing development. During my teens, I wanted out. I couldn’t wait to escape from such a small, oppressive place. As a teenager, with friends, we’d hop on the Metro-North train and head to NYC where we would spend the day browsing the shops in Greenwich Village. After passing my driving test, I’d drive up to Woodstock on weekends where all of the stores sold tie dye and smelled of pachouli. But it wasn’t the escape that I longed for.
For college, I wanted to be anywhere but there. Boston, New York, San Francisco were all acceptable choices compared to a destiny of living forever in a small cow-town.
For a time, I found a tribe that worked for me during my years in Boston. My college peeps brought me out of my cocoon. Being an only child of ‘mature’ and ‘introverted’ parents, it’s sometimes hard to socialize. I need my own space. I need lots and lots of my own space. My Boston friends dragged me out – student government, sailing on the Charles, smoky musical venues in Allston – but if you remember the truth about being young – your own self is not quite good enough and there just wasn’t enough of me in the balance.
Fast forward a half dozen or so years. Now married, my husband wanted to live by the ocean so we basically tossed a dart at the map and it landed in Chatham, Massachusetts. A beautiful, mostly upper class seaside village of grey shingled houses and beach roses. Simply picture perfect. Eighteen years of living there but, sadly, no sign of my tribe. People are polite and well mannered but you can never get too close. It’s the difference between air kisses and bear hugs. And it had been a long time since I’ve had a bear hug.
So, I headed up to Maine. I wasn’t sure of where in Maine I was going to land, so I started exploring the coast northward. First a tiny bit of disappointment – so much of the southern coast seemed more like Massachusetts north than the Maine I remembered from childhood vacations so I kept going. Bar Harbor held possibilities. But then came Jonesport and Machiasport and Roque Bluffs and Eastport. I walked into a gas station and was greeting like I was an old friend. The checker at the grocery store and I chatted like we had known each other for years. I called to order lobsters for dinner and spent 30 minutes discussing life and hopes and dreams (and another hour of conversation when I picked them up). Suddenly I didn’t have to try to fit in to someone else’s perfect world. I could be me – mostly an introvert, occasionally chatty, always socially awkward – and I still fit in. If you haven’t had the opportunity to fit in yet (and it’s taken me almost 50 years), I can’t tell you how wonderful it is. This is my place and this is my tribe. Perhaps it won’t be my tribe forever and that’s okay. People change; our needs change as we live our lives. But for now, I’ve finally gotten my long awaited bear hug.