When I was a kid, I lived in southern Maine. That was the longest 12 years of my life in the best way possible. It was my whole life it seemed, because that's all I could remember. My earliest memories were from our house in Tennants Harbor before we moved when I was 5. And up until I was 12, I had the privilege of going down to Cape Elizabeth and sitting on the rocks in the sun and closing my eyes so all I could hear was the waves crashing on the rocks and the seagulls crying, and all I could feel was the warmth of the sun in contrast to the coolness of the wind. I could smell the salty fishy smell of the water and the seafood cooking in the Lobster Shack nearby. When I opened my eyes, I could see the seaweed swaying and dancing in the waves as they came in. My grandma would call me from my reverie to let me know it was time to go get lunch. I'm a foodie, always have been. If I can't taste it, what's the point? I'd get up, brush the little red mites off my legs and hop from rock to rock to meet my family in the line to go inside. Once inside, it was loud. The hum of the fans droned beneath the boisterous conversation of the people inside. The cooks in the back shouted instructions to each other and the grownups asked their children what they were going to have. After we ordered, we went to a window seat. Sometimes we were lucky enough to get the one that looked out directly over the water. I almost always got fish and chips. I don't think we ever ordered lobster. I've only had a lobster roll twice in my life. Once at the Lobster Shack, the other at Linda Bean's Maine Kitchen. The Lobster Shack was just lobster meat with lemon and a dollop of mayonnaise on top and I didn't like that very much. The one at the Maine Kitchen was much better. I can tell a lot of thought went into that recipe.
It wasn't often that we went down to the coast. More often than not, I was at home in Westbrook. Dad worked for MaineLink (an old company operating under Time Warner), my grandparents both worked extensively for the Christian Coalition of Maine (I would be more than happy to answer any questions you have about this) before they started doing Prepaid Legal, and my mom stayed at home. She would take me out for walks to the library and the park and sometimes dad gave her some money and we went down to Michael's Deli for a big slice of pizza and a couple cans of soda. The library was my favorite to go to. They still had the physical card catalog system in place and my mom would spend a lot of time going through them looking for her books. Mom had a lot of knowledge about the card catalog and it's really too bad that most of her knowledge is obsolete now because she could have a decent career right now even in her current state. I know that's what she wants. That's what she always wanted. But I digress. It was a beautiful library. When I went back years later to relive memories, I was rather disappointed. They took out the catalog system and replaced it with computers. The shelves were replaced and it smelled different. But when I was a kid, everything seemed to work together seamlessly to create a magical atmosphere for learning and discovery at any age.
^Just to give you an idea of how utterly magical this library was.^
As an older kid, my life became a little more complicated, as it often does. Talk of moving to Ohio became a thing. Dad had found his place in the world of corrections and found he could make way more in Ohio as a correctional officer than in Maine, so it was official: we were moving to Maine. How unfortunate it was, then, that I had found my best friend a year before we moved. Her name was Mikayla and she was every bit as weird as I was. We were both obsessed with Kenny Chesney and we made up our own fake business and go up to other kids at recess with a straight face and ask them to enter into the "bungie-box sweepstakes". We couldn't keep a straight face however, and would run off wheezing laughing. It was good times. We saw each other one last time before I moved and it wasn't spent crying, it was spent how we always spent our time together: laughing, joking around, acting absolutely stupid. It was fun. She gave me her email address, but I didn't have one. I asked dad if I could have one, but he said I could just use his. I didn't much feel like using his for our private conversations that I was pretty sure he'd misread, so ultimately, we fell out of contact. We wrote letters, but they were few and far between, and I think we both went our separate ways because of that.
After the excitement of moving to a new state wore off, I fell into depression. I was sick all the time and my skin was dry and cracking on my hands. I missed Maine. Winters there were different. Here it was cold and gross without the benefit of having proper snow days. Here, it didn't snow enough to make a snow fort. The air was dryer. It smelled different. I still liked Ohio but I knew that I had lost something important. I didn't feel like I was at home. Granted, when we moved to Ohio, mom was in the middle of her chemo and dad was working overtime all the time to make ends meet. I liked that he was gone all the time, but our duplex was in chaos. I was tasked with picking up mom's slack, which ended up being almost everything and overwhelmed me. I had housework on top of childcare (a baby and a toddler) on top of my homework, and you already know that they give out way too much homework these days. Most days, I just didn't sleep. I would finally get done with my homework around 4am and have to wind my brain down just enough to get an hour or two of sleep before I had to be up for school the next day. I wish I could say that it all paid off, that at least the house was clean and that the children were properly taken care of. But the house was filthy and smelled of cockroaches, the middle kid was sick all the time, and my grades plummeted. My executive dysfunction was born around this time. I barely knew how to clean my own room, let alone a whole house. I got yelled at and sometimes I would get the belt, and then I would have to hear dad yell at mom for not doing her part. But chemo made her tired, and dad saw it as laziness. She did try, she really did.
I'm aware now as I type this out that such a contrast of quality of life definitely impacts my perspective and deepens the pinkish hue of my rose-colored glasses. But I truly feel like moving here was a mistake. Dad is deep into his high-functioning depression. I still feel like I'm in limbo and I have almost no ties here, no real friends at all outside of my fiancee. Everyone in my family is trekking their way back to New England. My brothers have no recollection of Maine and are through-and-through Ohioans, but they may make their way back to Maine as everyone else goes back home. My aunt, who is like a second mother to me, is moving to NH in the summer to be with her grandbabies. My fiancee wants out of this state and his family is moving away as well. My only happiness about moving here is that I found him. But now that I have him and have talked with him about our future, I like to think that my only purpose in moving here was to "rescue" him and push him to a better place. We've been outside of Columbus together, and we loved Cincinnati, but we both knew we wanted to get out of Ohio. My mom does not want to leave Ohio, this is her home state. She hated Maine. I will feel bad for leaving her here or for dragging her out closer to her family but further away from her home, but I can't tie myself down any longer out of guilt. I have to go home. I feel like the selkie woman who lost her sealskin and her youth because she was away for so long. It would have killed her if she had not gone back. It may not kill me if I don't go back to Maine, but I've been wanting to die for a while now, and now that I can see my home on the horizon, I finally feel the motivation to become a better version of myself.