I spent the last week in Maine with Mike, my mom, my Aunt, my cousin Suzy, and her adorable daughter Abby. We also had a few visits from my brother, my sister-in-law, and my niece Sophie (one of the two cutest flower girls ever).
I have visited Maine every year of my life but one, when I took a trip with two of my sorority sisters to L.A. instead (and we spent 80% of the time looking at different locations featured on the original Beverly Hills 90210).
The trip was a little bit of an adventure because there were two contractors there tearing out and rebuilding a hallway and the one and only bathroom in our house. They arrived before 8:30 a.m. every day and worked away to country music in the morning and classic rock in the afternoon. Our toilet was sitting out in the yard, along with a trailer full of tools, and their big, silver pick up truck. We had to use an outhouse, and there was no shower, so we had to bathe in the lake. The TV only gets three channels, and oh, and did I mention the bugs? Mosquitos, deer flies, horse flies, oh my!
I understand that for the majority of people who do not live in third-world countries this sounds more like hell than a relaxing vacation. The truth is, I loved every minute of it. The weather was beautiful (80s and sunny every single day) and we spent the majority of our time swimming in the lake, relaxing on the dock, reading, taking naps, eating yummy food, and playing cards. My brother and sister-in-law got stand up paddle boards, so I got to paddle around a lot, which was such a cool (and quiet) way to explore. We saw loons, hawks, a rooster, fish, and frogs. Mike ate his bodyweight in lobster and I loaded up on all of the Hood Red Sox ice cream flavors... Fenway Fudge, Green Monster Mint, and Peanut Butter Nation.
We spent a day walking around Portland, poking in and out of shops and bakeries and eating lunch at a cool outdoor restaurant. The breeze coming off the ocean was a perfect complement to the warm, sunny weather and it was so nice to be able to explore a new city without a deadline or agenda.
I think Clyde had the most fun of all. Free of his electric fence, he spent his time exploring the woods and learning to swim in the lake. By the end of the week he was charging right in and chasing fish. He also (unfortunately) found our compost pit and feasted on Mike's leftover lobster. That meant that the entire 8 1/2 hour car ride home, Mike and I had to deal with Clyde's lobster breath.
I can't exactly explain why Maine means so much to me. For one thing, I like being able to spend time with family without the distractions of work, errands, or cable TV. There isn't a whole lot to do but relax and spend time with each other. We play Pictionary and my mom cheats. We sit on the screen porch with glasses of wine or coffee and listen to the breeze slip through the trees. We laugh at the antics of the little ones. There is no need to rush, no need to go out and spend lots of money, no reason to eat fancy dinners, no push to go out to bars every night.
I also love the small-town lifestyle there. People take the time to stop and talk to each other. They look you in the eye instead of rushing off to do something else. They don't drive luxury cars or shop at trendy organic grocery stores. I feel totally free to walk around without make up, just wearing shorts and a t-shirt and sunblock.
When we left, I cried. Yes, I am a 30-year-old woman and I cried. I want to go back. I want to feel my shoulders relax again. I want to smile for no reason. I want to feel that blanket of contentment come over me and pull it up to my chin. But I'm no dummy. I know that I can't live my life on vacation. Instead, I have to find a way to make my life at home in Pennsylvania feel more like my life at home in Maine. I'm not sure quite how to make that happen, but I'm working on it.