This is a question that I get a lot these days as my son gets closer to 18. See, when we moved to Maine seven years ago, I figured I would do my time in Maine and when he turned 18, I would head back to Chicago my beloved hometown. Only problem is that life got in the way, it started off with the untimely and unexpected death of my mother and grandmother, the birth of my daughter as well as the purchase of our first home. When we bought the house it was during the real estate boom and we figured we would stay here 5 years or so…well this week marks 5 years that we have been in this house.
The truth is that I don’t know if and when I will leave Maine. Yeah, Maine can be a hard place to live as a Black person from one of the larger urban areas that many folks of color live (NYC, Philly, LA, Chicago, etc)…I mean Chicago the city has 3 million people in the city alone compared to the 1.5 million folks that live in the whole damn state of Maine.
So in the early days here I was in constant culture shock…then there is the practical stuff, like getting your hair done. Southern Maine has a whopping 2 hair salons that do Black hair and one of em is so bad that most Black folks her either travel to Boston, go natural or do their own hair. Which brings up another tidbit about living in the whitest state in the nation, even finding hair products to do your own hair can be hard especially if you want products geared towards Black hair. We have Sally’s Beauty Supply here but poor Sally’s Black section is real small…its a good thing I use natural products and have a fondness for Aveda products or else I would be shit out of luck.
Want to buy a lipstick and you aren’t white? Up until a few years ago, a trip to the makeup counter at Macy’s didn’t net a Black woman too much but we do now have a MAC counter so that helps a lot. A sista got tired of ordering online or heading to Boston for a damn tube of lipstick.
Making a nice soul food meal with collard greens? You can find collards here but they aren’t cheap, even at the farmers market in season I pay over $2 a pound for greens and you know you need a fair amount to make a pot. So I do string beans instead of greens most of the time and forget finding smoked turkey parts out here, its a good thing I still eat pork or else I would be really shit out of luck for indulging in my occasional nostalgia for southern food.
Yeah, people do still look at me like why the hell am I here especially when I am in an area that I don’t live in…or like this past weekend when I decided to eat at an establishment that looked like they had never seen a person of color step foot.
So you might wonder, why the hell aren’t you leaving anytime soon? In a nutshell, Maine has become home, Chicago will always be my hometown but Maine is my home. I have met some incredible folks here, the week after I came home from burying my mother, the Spousal Unit and I were out eating at a local eatery. The owner asked where I had been and I explained, well when I asked for the check he told me it was on the house, it was his way of offering condolences.
I could go on with random acts of kindness that I have only encountered in Maine, acts that are so powerful that it makes the occasional idiots less of an idiot. The physical beauty in Maine is amazing, its been 7 years and the ocean still mesmerizes me and the fact that its only a 10-15 min drive to the ocean is great.
The fact that small businesses here still use the honor system is also sweet, this weekend we picked strawberries at a local farm and the farmers were at lunch but rather than close the farm down they had a box sitting on a table so when you were ready to pay, you weighed your goods and put the cash in the box. Now being a big city girl, that tickles me pink…lets be honest, that would not fly back in Chi-town. Hell folks would either steal the cash or at the very least drive off without paying for the goodies. Or as my son likes to joke, the homeless folks would be in the fields eating up the food.
Its things though like this that really make me like Maine, in many ways its a simpler place and at this stage in life I enjoy a simpler life though I do wish I had more folks of color here especially since my best Black girlfriend here in Maine decided it was a wrap after 10 years and relocated to CT.
Plus there is the practical issue that should I leave Maine, where do I go? Going back home doesn’t make much sense since I don’t have a job or home to go back to. Hell, both my brother and father live in bachelor style apartments so they couldn’t even put us up while we get settled. Then there is that pesky issue that while the Spousal Unit is self-employed it costs more to live in Chicago and I can’t take my job with me, of course the fact that I now have a house for life provided I pay the taxes and insurance are all good reasons to stay a while.
No, I am in no rush to head back but I would like to see my financial situation get to the point that we can visit more often. So guess I won’t be leaving anytime soon.