the way we were.Earlier this summer, I learned that I got accepted to the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference at Middlebury College in Vermont. When I learned of this wonderful opportunity, I decided I would make a vacation of it and take an extra week before the conference to hang out in Maine.
My Ex also happened to be taking some vacation time in our old home state, so we decided to do all of the things that reminded me of my childhood summers in Maine. We would go to the restaurant where I got my first summer job and eat maple doughnuts. We would make out in his mom's car on a dirt road while watching the meteor shower. Pick blueberries. Walk in the woods. Take naps.
The other day, while eating fried dough at Palace Playland in Old Orchard Beach I remarked, "Wow. We actually did it. We've done all the things I wanted."
The Ex said, "Why are you surprised about that?"
I thought, "Well, because my memories of childhood are idealized. I know I didn't actually enjoy all these things. At least, not completely."
I never actually had steamers and Geary's Pale Ale on the pier or went running with my boyfriend along the shore of Ogunquit Beach. I never pleasantly strolled the shops in Perkins Cove and ate fresh lobster rolls and sweet corn at a clam shack. Even the fun I did manage to have is distantly unremarkable, as anyone with a predominantly sad childhood knows.
Returning back to our hometown dredges up countless insecurites for me. It's a world of car people and I am a girl with her own cabbie. Maine is khakis and sweatshirts. I packed miniskirts and backless shirts.
It's especially uncomfortable when the Ex and I make appearances together. He is the Prodigal Son Returning Home. I am the exotic girl that wore too much lipstick and flirted with everyone. People fawn over him and his rugged Maine charm. Everyone is polite and nice to me, but I always get the sense that I am just something they have to accept in order to enjoy his infrequent visits. They look at me like the horrible dark girl that took him away and never even had the decency to bear him some rugrats.
Perhaps I have finally grown up a bit, but none of this bothered me this time around. Not the nagging, joyless nostalgia or the lingering, judgmental stares. None of it. Because I know that I get to go back to a world full of dirt and passion and abundance and grace. A world where it's always appropriate to be in heels and glitter.
For once, I can relax and enjoy this place. I can reconcile my daydreams of a happy past with the reality of a satisfying today because it's finally mine to make of as I wish. And, ultimately, to leave, when I am ready.
Welcome to Maine, I think as we hurtle along dark backroads in a red pickup truck, the way life might have been, but thankfully, is not. At least for now.